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Dear CR,

I do agree - there seems to be unity in the speaker's response to 
his/her everyday
("in spite of the apparently differing identities he/she puts on").

However, I would not agree that the response is unambigously deprecating.
I think that the speaker is already BEYOND such a superficial 
evaluation, or if you like,
beyond the frustration of a romantic idealist. 
                                   

The speaker is deep within the sordid. He/she is of the sordid 
"constituted"...

Yes, he/she smells the obnoxious effluvia of the passageways at six.
Yes, he/she did see and does hear the "muddy feet".
Yes, he/she did hear"the sparrows in the gutters", and did have
a vision of some kind (which is incomprehensible for the street);
Yes, his/her soul is at the same time "stretched tight across the skies"
(his/her idealistic longings), AND trampled by "insistent feet",
AND it is "the conscience" of a repulsive street, AND "impatient to assume
the world" (impatient to create the ideal).

BUT, at the same time, no matter how repulsive the street seems to him/her,
he/she is there and within;
 one among many "raising dingy shades";
"sitting along the bed's edge", yellow-soled, dirty-handed;

All in all,  he/she is by no means a frustrated idealist.

The worlds of both an idealist and of the sordid street
"revolve [within him/her] like ancient women / Gathering fuela in vacant 
lots."
These "worlds" are merely "constructions", merely "points of view",
which can be laughed at  for their  pretensions to exclusivity.

[the very laugh which reminds me of Mozart in Hesse's /Steppenwolf]/
//
Therefore, I do not agree that the speaker deprecates the obnoxious 
aspects of
his/her existence. I would rather think that, all in all, what he/she 
does is
- he/she is contemplatively prestent to the world.
Which is an attitude far from an aesthetic/idealistic/romantic prejudice.

I imagine that this is what Eliot has in mind writing in his essay on 
Dante: 
'The contemplation of the horrid or sordid or disgusting, by an artist,
is the necessary and negative aspect of the impulse toward the pursuit 
of beauty.
[...] The negative is the more importunate.'

There is no gainsaying that the dichotomy between the ideal and the real
is the central dichotomy which informed TSE's thought and sensitivity.
I agree with Harriet Davidson, that TSE in both his poetry and thought was
trying to resolve dichotomies of various kinds, by "hermeneutic [...]
circular grounding of seeming opposites in each other".

--- Looking forward to you response.
Marcin




 

> Thanks, Marcin, for this engaging discussion on 'Preludes".
>  
> I'm afraid I do not find any evidence in the poem that could
> substantiate your following remark:
>  
> // 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. //
>  
> The narrator does assume different (not differing)
> identities -- from "The grimy* *scraps / Of withered leaves
> about _your_ feet", in Prelude I,  to the impersonal 
> "_One_ thinks of all the hands..." in Prelude II,  to
> " _You_ had such a vision of the street..." in Prelude III.
> Prelude IV makes a departure in that it begins with
> " _His_ soul stretched tight across the skies..."  but
> concludes with "_I_ am moved by fancies..." as well
> as "Wipe _your_ hand across your mouth, and laugh..."
>  
> Marcin, I take note of the _deprecating_ note in each of the
> Preludes irrespective of the identity the speaker assumes.
> And I find no evidence of his/her _sympathy_ with the social
> scene he/she depicts. In Prelude I, there are adjectives like
> "burnt-out", "smoky", "grimy", "withered", "vacant",
> and "broken". The speaker's impatience with this mundane
> reality is signified in the image of a lonely cab horse that
> "steams and stamps". It is disillusionment such as this
> that is ancillary to the metaphoric "lighting of the lamps".
>  
> The note of deprecation continues in Prelude II that
> depicts the other "masquarades" of time with qualifying
> adjectives like "stale", "muddy" and "dingy".
>  
> In Preludes III, in the "thousand sordid images of which
> your soul was constituted", the qualifier "sordid"
> underscores the speaker's sense of disgust with
> his/her existence -- the image of "sparrows in the
> gutters" does not merely describe the scene. These
> images induce in the speaker "a vision of the street..."
>  
> Preludes IV tells us of the impact of this sordid reality
> on the soul of the speaker --- "His soul stretched tight
> across the skies" vis-a-vis the "conscience of a
>  _blackened_ street..."
>  
> The lines "I am moved by _fancies_ that are curled /
> Around these images, and cling" hardly indicate any
> sympathy for them. For, these only engender "The
> notion of some infinitely gentle / Infinitely suffering
> thing."  This "infinitely gentle" being obviously owes
> his/her infinite suffering to the impact of this dismal 
> social scene on his/her psyche.
>  
> Finally, the speaker laughs away the emotion in the
> manner of Laforgue, not  without the parting comment
> about the timeless nature of the world's futile and
> debasing engagements.
>  
> I, therefore, find a note of unity in the speaker's response
> to his/her sordid and dreary existence, in spite of the
> apparently differing identities he/she puts on.
>  
> Incidentally, those who are familiar with the chronology
> of the Preludes' composition, know that Preludes I & II
> were written in October 1910, Preludes III (begun in
> Paris, 1910; completed in July 1911 ), and Preludes
> IV (Cambridge, Mass., 1911).
>  
> In bringing them together as one poem, the poet seems
> to have deliberately chosen to retain differing pronouns
> -- it would lend a wider validity to the experience of
> continued disillusionment with the sordid reality
> of the social scene.
>  
> I'm not sure if my arguments hold. But they're there :)
>  
> Regards.
>  
> ~ CR
>
>
>
>
>      
>
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