In the light of your remarks, this is just to have a
tentative, explorative look at the creative relationship
between artist's biography and his artistic creation.
As an instance of Eliot's poetic genius, mark the following
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
The lines may have had to do with a personal history
of Marie which she might have shared with Eliot,
but what seems to have interested the poet was,
the weighty implications of these lines in the overall
thematic context of TWL -- the breeding of "lilacs"
and the quest for "Shantih".
In his Introduction to A Student's Guide to the Selected
Poems of TS Eliot, BC Southam draws our attention to
Eliot's "habits of mind". If the poet came upon a name
(Prufrock, for instance), or a passage (from Dante's, for
instance, that forms the epigraph of 'Prufrock'), or a piece
of conversation (such as Marie's with Eliot), or a word/
phrase/line (in Henry Adams' autobiography, for instance)
-- and if it struck the poet with the intensity of a revelation,
it haunted him till he relieved himself of it by making an
apt use of it in his poetry. Such indeed is the origin of
some of what Eliot called "the haunting phrases"
of his life.
Now such a borrowing might carry with it some of its original
reverberations, but most often, the poet gave it a new life
in a new context. Such for instance is the phrase "the works
and days of hands" (in 'Prufrock') TSE borrowed from an
early Greek epic poet Hesiod. TWL is a collocation -- a
patterned collocation, if you like -- of such borrowings.
And the poet always had this propensity to gaze at
"the precipice beneath the prattle"
(to borrow from somewhere else).
The incidents and situations in the poet's own life,
I deduce, played a similar role in his poetry -- from
personal to impersonal -- though none can deny
the reader the added pleasure of having a peak,
at times, into an intriguing, and at times rather
mysterious, origin. At least not after all that has
been brought to light of the poet's personal history.
Diana, you wrote, "Eliot submerged biographical details
in his poems, possibly unconsciously, it seems. He hid his
own experience in his characters, as writers will do."
I think TSE did so, deliberately, to make them metaphors
in a larger frame. As such I tend to appreciate your point
about the possibility it might provide to the reader/critic
for a study of the creative process of transmuting personal
facts into artifacts.
Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> wrote:Eliot submerged biographical details in his poems, possibly unconsciously, it seems. He hid his own experience in his characters, as writers will do. Ferretting them out on the basis of evidence illuminates his creative process. Some speculation is valid in interpretation, however, as definitive evidence in all cases cannot be found. As Russell himself advised, one sometimes must proceed "on the basis of probablility."