Dear Marcin and CR: Pertinent to this discussion I think is the distinction Coleridge makes in his Biographia Literaria between imagination and fancy. This essay is known to all students of English literature, and I can only assume that Eliot knew it.
"Fancy," in Coleridge's eyes was employed for tasks that were "passive" and "mechanical", the accumulation of fact and documentation of what is seen. "Always the ape," Fancy, Coleridge argued, was "too often the adulterator and counterfeiter of memory." The Imagination on the other hand was "vital" and transformative, "a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation." For Coleridge, it was the Imagination that was responsible for acts that were truly creative and inventive and, in turn, that identified true instances of fine or noble art."
From: marcin ostrouch <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: "That Thou Art" and TWL
Date: Thu, 7 Sep 2006 23:17:09 +0200
Dear Diana and CR,
I do thank you for taking up the "tat vam asi" issue, and am looking forward to further discussion.
In the mean time, could you please consider the following interpretation of the "infinitely" notorious "fancies":
To me these "fancies"are the narrator's "reflections" born of his observationsof the social scene. And it is these fancies that constitutethe essence ("tat") of his observation. In the lines quotedabove from 'Preludes', aren't "fancies" subsumed in "Thenotion" -- the notion of some infinitely gentle, infinitelysuffering thing???
I do not see why we should distinguish whose fancies are those "curled around these images". Taking into account the shifting identity of the speaker througout the poem, the "fancies" in the fourth Prelude seem to be as much his/her as anybody else's inhabiting the "passageways" (dwelling there either implicitly or explicitly).
I am also not quite sure whether it is necessary to decide on what the "fancies" really are. For the reason, that whatever they are, they are ideas. Therefore, I would go with Diana in "relegating them to the realm of ego", or if you like, of maya. Thus being "moved" by the "fancies", in itself, would be symptomatic of sympathy on the part of the speaker. He/she seems to sympathise with the "hands", the "feet", the "eyes" with all the synecdochically mutilated inhabitants of his/her world. Indeed, he/she is one of them, and as such has curled his/her own "fancies" around "these images". But simultaneously, while aware of the synchronic multitude of solipsisms (see Prelude III), he/she realises the fragmentation endemic in dualistic thinking. Perhaps it might be of some interest to cross-refere this with TSE dissertation's "refrain": "all we have are points of view". Having said this, I would imagine that the "infinitely gentle / Infinitely suffering" is the ONE.
Looking forward to your response,
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CR wrote:I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.Hi Diana,By broaching on the Sanskrit epigram "tat tvam asi", youraise a controversial aspect of interpreting Eliot's poetry,especially 'Prufrock and Other Observations'.From what little I have gathered from a site at Google,the maxim literally means "That thou art".In transcendental Indian philosophy, one interpretationis: "That" (universal spirit) thou art. It simply meansthat the universal spirit manifests itself in the individualspirit.But the maxim could also mean (and this could berelevant to the interpretation of Eliot's poetry):"That" (the world of objective reality createdby a poet) is what the poet is. Some critics haveindeed applied to Eliot's poetry this philosophyof subject-object correspondence propounded byFH Bradley (who undeniably was a major shapinginfluence on Eliot).Thus, for instance, taking their lead from thisnotion, they tend literally to equate Prufrock withthe objects of his perception so that, as Hugh Kennerwould have it, the "streets, the yellow fog, the drains,the coffee spoons are Prufrock", the "evenings,mornings, afternoons" are Prufrock, as much as"the voice which says, 'I have known them all already,known them all".To me, this approach is untenable since Bradleyhimself discounted solipsistic interpretations ofimmediate experience: "It would not follow", hesaid, "that all the world is merely a state of myself."In point of fact, the objects and situations appearto Prufrock's highly perceptive mind as symbolswhich illumine for him the underlying reality of thesocial scene.I guess it holds good for much of his other"Observations".As for your placing "tat tvam asi" in contradistinctionto the narrator's "fancies that are curled / Aroundthese images", you seem to suggest that the"tat" (that) -- the essence -- is far removed fromthe "fancies".I wouldn't go with you here. To me these "fancies"are the narrator's "reflections" born of his observationsof the social scene. And it is these fancies that constitutethe essence ("tat") of his observation. In the lines quotedabove from 'Preludes', aren't "fancies" subsumed in "Thenotion" -- the notion of some infinitely gentle, infinitelysuffering thing???Best regards.~ CR