The resonant interval rides again
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From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">cr mittal
To: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]
Sent: Thursday, September 21, 2006 11:27 AM
Subject: Re: Eliot, India and Untranslated Language

Thanks, Diana, for quoting very insightful excerpts from
Cleo McNelly Kearns.
Interestingly, when Eliot's attention was drawn to the
mantric quality of the Vedas, he remarked he wished
poetry were mantras again. (ref. Anand, Mulk Raj :
'Conversations in Bloomsbury', Delhi: Oxford University
Press, 1995)  It is in this context that Kearns' following
statement acquires a special significance:
"Eliot translated these dimensions of mantra-shakti, or
mantra power, to the language of poetry, where meaning
was also, for him, communicated through sound or effect,
which depended on quite subtle arrangements of rhythm,
breath, and sound (what he called 'the auditory imagination.)"
To me, in Eliot's poetry, especially, this mantric quality is
discernible not only in the rhythmic effects of verse but also
in its revelatory aspect. To quote Baudelaire, "In certain
almost supernatural states of the soul, the depth of life is
revealed in ordinary everyday happenings. The ordinary
life then becomes the symbol so that the images from the
external world correspond to the poet's own inner life,
loaded with deep spiritual meanings." I find this revelatory
aspect suffusing Eliot's poetry to an extent that nothing else
seems to matter. I find it there from first to last, especially
in the poetry that Eliot chose to get published in his lifetime.
As to why Eliot chose to retain expressions from other
languages in his poetry as such and not their English
translations, it's a moot question, a matter for just
speculation. One reason could be the mantric quality
inherent in the sounds and rhythms of the originals,
which might not always be amenable to the same
condensed version in English. For another, it
conspicuously draws attention to the insights drawn
upon variegated sources in the Indo-European
I must thank you again, Diana, for drawing our
attention to this fascinating subject.
~ CR

Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
In T.S. Eliot and Indic Traditions: A Study in Poetry and Belief, Cleo McNelly Kearns describes Eliot's study of the Vedas under Charles Lanman at Harvard, and notes his special interest in the Rig and Sama Vedas in which "the aid of the gods was often invoked by means of mantras for the purpose, among other things, of averting drought...mantras correctly uttered or sung became part of the liturgy of sacrifice which gave them additional authority...and a mantra's efficacy was not dependent on its meaning but rather on the subjective effect of the exacting mental discipline involved in its correct utterance, and the accompanying mode of breathing."
Kearns goes on: "Eliot translated these dimension of mantra-shakti, or mantra power, to the language of poetry, where meaning was also, for him, communicated through sound or effect, which depended on quite subtle arrangments of rhythm, breath, and sound (what he called 'the auditory imagination.)
"...So directly did Eliot wish to incorporate these auditory aspects of mantra into his work that he employed at the end of The Waste Land the mantric forumula "Shantih, shantih, shantih...." Kearns notes that Eliot omitted the Om that traditionally precedes this mantra.
I found this pertinent to our discussion of why Eliot did not translate languages in his poetry, but presented them in the original languages.

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