Carrol, hope you can read this -- apologies to others for the large font. Your citations from Kharms as well as your comments about spirituality in Eliot's work before his conversion jibe with an interpretation in T.S. Eliot's Negative Way, by Eloise Knapp Hay. On p.49 she writes:
"It seems that only since Eliot's death is it possible to read his life forward--understanding The Waste Land as it was written, without being deflected by our knowledge of the writer's last years. Before Eliot's death the tendency was to read the poem proleptically--as if reflecting the poems of the later period. This is how Cleanth Brooks, writing the first fully elucidative essay on TWL, read it, stressing the Grail legends, the longing for new life, rather than the purely negative aspects of the theme...to read Eliot's development backwards (was) an irresistible temptation when the pattern in his life was so little known...It was also irresistible, in a culture still nominally Christian, to hope that TWL was about a world in which God was not dead. But the poem was not about such a world."
From: Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Eliot's early verse not very spiritual
Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2006 15:53:55 -0500
It seems to me that much recent list discussion of Eliot has erred
greatly through considering his early poems through the lens provide by
his late Christian work. I suggest the following two pieces better catch
the general context in which so much early-20th century work flourished.
Certainly Eliot's Preludes have more in common with Kharms than with any
From Prufrock through TWL Eliot presents with a world without a center
filled with personae without centers. That perspective _may_ be part of
what later led him to fall into the arms of Christian superstition, but
that had not happened yet when he wrote the early poems.
Daniil Kharms? Early 20th Century Russian surrealist, jailed in
Stalingrad during the preparation for the
coming invasion for being depressing, died in prison.
Blue notebook no. 2
Once there was a redheaded man without eyes and without ears. He had no
hair either, so that he was a redhead was just something they said.
He could not speak, for he had no mouth. He had no nose either.
He didn't even have arms or legs. He had no stomach either, and he had
no back, and he had no spine, and no intestines of any kind. He didn't
have anything at all. So it is hard to understand whom we are really
So it is probably best not to talk about him any more.
An amazing thing happened to me today, I suddenly forgot what comes
first - 7 or 8.
I went to my neigbors and asked them about their opinion on this matter.
Great was their and my amazement, when they suddenly discovered, that
they couldn't recall the counting order. They remembered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
and 6, but forgot what comes next.
We all went to a commercial grocery store, the one that's on the corner
of Znamenskaya and Basseinaya streets to consult a cashier on our
predicament. The cashier gave us a sad smile, took a small hammer out of
her mouth, and moving her nose slightly back and forth, she said:
- In my opinion, a seven comes after an eight, only if an eight comes
after a seven.
We thanked the cashier and ran cheerfully out of the store. But there,
thinking carefully about cashier's words, we got sad again because her
words were void of any meaning.
What were we supposed to do? We went to the Summer Garden and started
counting trees. But reaching a six in count, we stopped and started
arguing: In the opinion of some, a 7 went next; but in opinion of others
an 8 did.
We were arguing for a long time, when by some sheer luck, a child fell
off a bench and broke both of his jaws. That distracted us from our
And then we all went home.