I should have credited Nancy Gish with associating the "heart of light" in the hyacinth garden section of TWL with Kurtz' fiancee in Heart of Darkness. I wish I had thought of it, but it is one of the gems in her student's companion to The Waste Land! Diana
Carrol, with regard to Eliot and misogyny, a tempering, uncharacteristic note is struck by his narrator's self-analysis of his feelings towards women in the lines about the hyacinth girl. He says "I could not speak, and my eyes failed. I was neither living nor dead, and I knew nothing, Looking into the heart of light, the silence." Here the narrator beholds the Hyacinth Girl with her arms full of flowers, her hair wet, and associates her with "the heart of light."
Perhaps the phrase alludes to Marlow's description of Kurtz' fiance in Heart of Darkness as having a light emanating from her forehead when he meets her in a dark room, at a point in the novel when he is overwhelmed by the evil atmosphere. She represents everything positive: faith, goodness, civilization. That Conrad's story was important to Eliot is well-known. He used the phrase "Mistah Kurtz--he dead" as an epigraph for The Hollow Men at one point.
The hyacinth garden marks a rare if not singular moment when one of Eliot's narrators acknowledges a woman as bringing something positive to experience on which he is unable to act. (Whether the girl is based on Eliot's first love Emily Hale is a matter for speculation!)
Interesting too is the phrase "I knew nothing" that becomes an echo later in the poem when the narrator is asked "Do you know nothing?" by the woman whose nerves are bad, and he says "I think we are in rat's alley." The light from the latter woman's hair stands out in points in a weird occult manner. I'm not sure what to make of the two women and the narrator's opposite reactions to them, in terms of the poem's unity. Perhaps someone has an opinion on it.
From: Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Identity of the speaker in 'Preludes'
Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2006 10:37:41 -0500
Diana Manister wrote:
> Why a poet
> would create such narrators if in fact he did not share these feelings
> is a question I cannot answer. Diana
Here is where those who regard biography as important (in some way)
could part company over its importance.
a) Biography is important because it aids in construing the poem
b) Biography is important because it aids in understanding the poet.
My personal perspective is the first of these. I could not care less
what Eliot the personally thought, felt, etc. He's dead. He can neither
help nor harm anyone, and if you believe in vengeance or rewards he is
beyond being aided or harmed. But it happens in the case of The Waste
Land (and earlier poems) that knowing something about his biography
underlines (or in some case reveals) meanings or emphases that we would
not have noticed (or not have given as much emphssis) lacking
biographical information. And the poem is still with us. One bit of
biography was of course more or less forced on us with the publication
of the facsimile == Pound's use of "photog" to gloss the game of chess
dialogue. So ignoring biography there would be in the same realm as
trying to obey the order to stand in the corner and _not_ think of