Dear Rick, interesting reply. I am familiar with the facsmilie manuscript of TWL and the allusions to Dante, etc. What do you make of belladonna also being the name for a deadly drug, as well as The Lady of the Rocks? He married as a way to drug himself, he thought he was finding a source of water in the desert, but the marriage is killing him?
Under the poem, acting as an emotional pressure and a unifying force, is something unstated, or obliquely alluded to. Whatever it is accounts for the flattened affect of the speaker. Something traumatic has depressed him and he does not tell us what it is exactly. Perhaps the narrator does not know. Perhaps the hints dropped here and there are clues he is finding and adding up himself, to find his way out of his depression, in the manner of a knight finding his own way to the grail.
Probably if there were some one answer it would have been found by now. There will always be an element of speculation in the interpretation of TWL. I am satisfied that Eliot was emotionally devastated by the loss of his dear friend Jean Verdenal in the Great War and also by his inability to commit to his first love Emily Hale. The Hyacinth Girl may be "a familiar compound ghost" composed of these two figures with whom he enjoyed emotionally intimacy. Recall that Eliot described a friend of his who approached him with a branch of flowering lilac in a park, often identified by commentators as Verdenal.
It would be reductive to ascribe all meaning in the poem to these two great absences in Eliot's life (although he maintained a relationship at a distance with Hale all of his life), but they are at least part of the off-stage events hinted at, and perhaps part of the cause of the emotional collapse he suffered during the composition of the poem. The narrator is not Eliot. I believe he would never want to expose his personal life in his work. But he was working out of his own life. What other raw material would he have to which he could apply his intellect and music? Diana
.From: Rickard A Parker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Belladonna and the hyacinth girl
Date: Thu, 7 Sep 2006 07:08:14 -0400
Diana Manister wrote:
> 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.
Diana, I'll comment on this.
The "hyacinth girl" (aka Phlebas, bear with me a bit) has died and the
speaker has married Belladonna as a way of moving on. In the draft:
"I think we FIRST MET in rats' alley". Also in support of this is "Is
the wind in that door still?" Eliot's note to line 118 refers to a
scene in a play where a dying man is stabbed and then thought killed
but is ironically really brought to life by the stabbing by its having
lanced an earlier wound and causing an infection to be discharged. As
I interpret this allusion the marriage to Belladonna, which closely
followed the hyacinth girl's death, was supposed to kill the
hyacinthine memories. However, the trials of the unfortunate marriage
brought the memory of the Hyacinth garden back to life, even with its
own painful associations.
In addition to the similarities that you pointed out between Part I's
I knew nothing,
and Part II's
Do / You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember / Nothing?'
Eliot has placed a note to line 126 connecting the rememberance to
the Hyacinth garden:
Part I, line 37
--Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
and to Phlebas:
Part I, line 48
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
In the draft of TWL is a more direct association to the hyacinth garden
as Eliot had written:
the hyacinth garden. Those are pearls that were his eyes, yes!
finally choosing to note this final version of the lines:
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
Elaborating a bit more from the draft. In the draft:
'What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?'
Away the little light dead people.
In the final version:
'What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?'
Nothing again nothing.
Valerie Eliot's note to the draft for "Carrying / Away the little
light dead people" indicates that this is an allusion to Paulo and
Francesca and then VE writes SOMETHING like "There is no greater woe
than in misery to remember the happy time."
I'll finish with a bit that I wrote for my website:
In the draft of The Waste Land, after the words "What is the wind
doing?", Eliot had written "Carrying / away the little light dead
people" (see draft.) Considering those words, along with this
line's mentioning of the wind, this line has been seen as an allusion
to Dante's Inferno, Canto V, where the second circle of Hell holds
the shades of some of the characters that Eliot alludes to (Cleopatra,
Tristan, Dido.) It is likely that Eliot was alluding to two other
occupants though, Paolo and Francesca.
Dante's rendition of the love story of Paolo and Francesca has
affected many over the eight centuries since it was written (Eliot
mentioned it in his essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent" and
gave it special attention in his 1929 essay "Dante.") Paolo was the
married brother of Francesca's husband. They spent much time together
and in Francesca's words:
"We were reading one day, for delight, of Lancelot, how love
constrained him. We were alone and without any suspicion. Many
times that reading made us lift our eyes, and took the color from
our faces, but only one point was that which overcame us. When we
read of the longed-for smile being kissed by such a lover, this
one, who never from me shall be divided, kissed my mouth all
trembling. Galahaut was the book, and he who wrote it. That day we
read in it no farther."
The lovers were killed and they were comdemed to Hell in the circle of
the lustful for their adultery. There their souls are to be blown about
each other for eternity. The point of the allusion is likely, as
Francesca said to Dante, "There is no greater woe than in misery to
remember the happy time."
As for the wind, the Norton prose translation of Dante's description
of this circle is:
... a place mute of all light, that bellows as the sea does in a
tempest, if it be combated by opposing winds. The infernal
hurricane that never rests carries along the spirits in its rapine;
whirling and smiting it molests them. When they arrive before its
rushing blast, here are shrieks, and bewailing, and lamenting; here
they blaspheme the power divine. I understood that to such torment
are condemned the carnal sinners who subject reason to appetite.
And as their wings bear along the starlings in the cold season in a
troop large and full, so that blast the evil spirits; hither,
thither, down, up it carries them; no hope ever comforts them, not
of repose, but even of less pain.