Thanks Nancy for pointing out the personal aspect of TSE's work. Some interpreters treat a text as if it were not written by a human being with all the usual desires and regrets. Eliot's biography is his raw material -- he is writing about living, after all, doesn't it figure that he knows his own best? -- but he is never so specific that readers cannot identify with his narrators. Diana
From: Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Of "awful daring"
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2007 16:56:59 -0400
I agree with this, Brian. And if Eliot's own claims about the personal
becoming universal in the act of creation are acknowledged, both are
present. In his essay on Yeats, he is very clear about the importance
of the personal, in contrast to the early focus on impersonality. And
it is no longer possible to deny that autobiographical material is all
through his poetry. The question, I think, is whether one could read
the work without knowing that, and one can. But then one gets different
levels of meaning. It matters, for example, in reading Milton's late
poems to know that he really was blind. The poignance of Beethoven's
9th is profoundly intensified by knowing he was totally deaf when he
wrote it. Similarly, Eliot's early poems of yearning are intensified by
knowing that at 26 he was still a virgin and very unhappy over it, as he
wrote to Aiken.
The line you quote makes this very valid to read as personal, yet that
does not deny that we all have those moments.
>>> "O'Sullivan, Brian P" <[log in to unmask]> 06/14/07 3:56 PM >>>
>But the situation is different with the awful daring lines. They
>immediately follow the first speaking of the thunder, and _in_ the
>they are as I suggested earlier an abstract proposition about human
But doesn't the begining of "the awful daring lines"--
"My friend, blood shaking my heart"--
sound very concrete and personal, suggesting that these lines are not
offering ***only*** an abstract proposition, but also at a particular
story of "surrender" or intimacy (even if that story is only hinted at)?
Of course, this wouldn't have to be an autobiographical story. But if
some readers find the lines more resonant when read in connection with
Eliot' biography, I don't really see the harm (especially if those
readers are also open to other interpretations). Reading these lines as
a fragment of story (whether the story i autobiographical or fictional)
doesn't preclude also reading them as an "abstract proposition" or
general statement whihc reader are called upon to affirm or deny.