Dear CR: Kearns observes that "Lanman's Sansrit Reader, the textbook Eliot had used at Harvard, included several passages from the Rig Veda related to Indra's freeing of the waters...the song itself is compared to the waters Indra has released. The Vedic invocations, however, can be instituted effectively on ly singer-priests who have undergone appropriate ritual purifications. "

"Some of these are described in the Sama Veda, which lays down the austerities such priests must practice in order to invoke, through sympathetic magic and onomatopoeia, the water-releasing power of Indra...By a metaphorical extension suggested in the Vedas and, of course directly within classical and romantic poetic traditions in the West, Eliot took this theory of priestly speech or song as an alanlogue for the understanding of the role and function of poets and poetry. The modern poet, like the priest of Indra, is responsible for the invocations that will initiate and foster the social and spiritual life of the community, and like the priest he must undergo trials and purifications...Eliot performs that release through the power of sound, a power the "dreadful and dangerous potency" of which he was well aware."

"The Vedas and the Upanishads, like many Western sources, suggested to Eliot that breath, sound and silence were at the heart of language, languge designed, as he thought the language of poetry must be, not to express the poet's sensibility but to have certain highly predictable and powerful effects on the individual, social and natural worlds."
 
Your statement below is in complete accord with Kearns' observations:
 
"As to why Eliot chose to retain expressions from other
languages in his poetry as such and not their English
translations, it's a moot question, a matter for just
speculation. One reason could be the mantric quality
inherent in the sounds and rhythms of the originals,
which might not always be amenable to the same
condensed version in English."
 
Note that Kearns' observations include drought, water, and purification, as well as the physical power of sound, all themes in TWL and other of Eliot's poems. Eliot's beliefs about the effects of sound would not conflict with Christian rites, which employ incantation in the same manner. Certainly the Roman mass in Latin was almost entirely incantatory in modern times, since the congregation did not understand the language. (It lost much of this magic when Latin mass was discontinued.)Was the High Anglican service in English in Eliot's day?  Lancelot Andrewes' texts operate powerfully on the level of pure sound. The more I think and learn about Eliot the more I am awed by his genius! Diana
.
Thanks, Diana, for quoting very insightful excerpts from
  
Cleo McNelly Kearns.
  
 
  
Interestingly, when Eliot's attention was drawn to the
  
mantric quality of the Vedas, he remarked he wished
  
poetry were mantras again. (ref. Anand, Mulk Raj :
  
'Conversations in Bloomsbury', Delhi: Oxford University
  
Press, 1995)  It is in this context that Kearns' following
  
statement acquires a special significance:
  
 
  
"Eliot translated these dimensions of mantra-shakti, or
  
mantra power, to the language of poetry, where meaning
  
was also, for him, communicated through sound or effect,
  
which depended on quite subtle arrangements of rhythm,
  
breath, and sound (what he called 'the auditory imagination.)"
  
 
  
To me, in Eliot's poetry, especially, this mantric quality is
discernible not only in the rhythmic effects of verse but also
  
in its revelatory aspect. To quote Baudelaire, "In certain
  
almost supernatural states of the soul, the depth of life is
  
revealed in ordinary everyday happenings. The ordinary
  
life then becomes the symbol so that the images from the
  
external world correspond to the poet's own inner life,
  
loaded with deep spiritual meanings." I find this revelatory
  
aspect suffusing Eliot's poetry to an extent that nothing else
  
seems to matter. I find it there from first to last, especially
  
in the poetry that Eliot chose to get published in his lifetime.
  
 
  
As to why Eliot chose to retain expressions from other
  
languages in his poetry as such and not their English
  
translations, it's a moot question, a matter for just
  
speculation.
One reason could be the mantric quality
  
inherent in the sounds and rhythms of the originals,
  
which might not always be amenable to the same
  
condensed version in English. For another, it
  
conspicuously draws attention to the insights drawn
  
upon variegated sources in the Indo-European
  
"tradition".
  
 
  
I must thank you again, Diana, for drawing our
  
attention to this fascinating subject.
  
 
  
Regards.
  
 
  
~ CR
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
 
  


Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> wrote:  
  
  
In T.S. Eliot and Indic Traditions: A Study in Poetry and Belief, Cleo McNelly Kearns describes Eliot's
study of the Vedas under Charles Lanman at Harvard, and notes his special interest in the Rig and Sama Vedas in which "the aid of the gods was often invoked by means of mantras for the purpose, among other things, of averting drought...mantras correctly uttered or sung became part of the liturgy of sacrifice which gave them additional authority...and a mantra's efficacy was not dependent on its meaning but rather on the subjective effect of the exacting mental discipline involved in its correct utterance, and the accompanying mode of breathing."
  
Kearns goes on: "Eliot translated these dimension of mantra-shakti, or mantra power, to the language of poetry, where meaning was also, for him, communicated through sound or effect, which depended on quite subtle arrangments of rhythm, breath, and sound (what he called 'the auditory imagination.)
  
"...So directly did Eliot wish to incorporate these auditory aspects of mantra into his work that he employed at
the end of The Waste Land the mantric forumula "Shantih, shantih, shantih...." Kearns notes that Eliot omitted the Om that traditionally precedes this mantra.
  
I found this pertinent to our discussion of why Eliot did not translate languages in his poetry, but presented them in the original languages.
  
Diana


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