No one has mentioned that planting a corpse rather than burying it implies that it will grow again in the spring, a feature of ancient vegetative-fertility myths.
Jessie Weston noted that Celtic and Christian stories related to the Arthurian legend have evolved from rituals relating to ancient fertility cults. These vegetative-fertility myths are so primeval, argues Weston, that they have insinuated themselves in myth and literature ever since the creation of writing.
These vegetative myths are based on nature, particularly on the cycle of the seasons. Many ancient rituals often invoked one god or another; when fall and winter came, these gods or goddesses were often thought of as "dying" only to be reborn, or replaced by new gods, the following spring.
Obviously if the dog digs up the planting, the myth has failed to perform in the expected way. Something is very wrong in nature.
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: The Stetson Passage in TWL
Date: Wed, 6 Jun 2007 15:01:33 -0400
I think there is good reason to see the corpse as a crime and sin--the
speaker's tone and attitude fit that and there is really no other reason
to plant a corpse, unless it is the corpse of a dead soldier, a possible
reading given the horror of trench warfare and the fact that both
speaker and Stetson are soldiers. What I see no necessay reason for is
the connection with sexual crime. A man may murder and bury a woman,
but it is not the only kind of murder.
As for Stetson, there actually was a man by that name in London from
America a year or two before, and the hat is an American image. I do
not have the source here right now, but there have been some
identifications of the "Stetson" figure as someone--like Marie--who had
put in an appearance. Valerie Eliot says there was an American banker
by that name that Eliot may have met, but anyone from St. Louis,
Missouri is familiar with the Stetson hat. But I think he is definitely
a double. I have written on that for conferences: if you look at the
quotation marks, the whole quotation about "hypocrite reader, my double,
my brother," it is all addressed TO Stetson. I have no doubt at all
about the savage in Eliot; he recognized it too well.
I do not know what you mean by an antecedent in the Hyacinth garden. It
has no corpse. What is the connection?
>>> cr mittal <[log in to unmask]> 06/06/07 2:19 PM >>>
Dear Carrol and Nancy,
Thanks for opening up for me the possibility of discussing TWL
on so many fronts -- the thematic unity of the work, for instance,
as I perceive it, or the leitmotif of lust at the heart of the
You'll presently hear me on these topics. But at the moment I'd
like to focus on the Stetson passage.
My apprehensions (understanding) in this regard are based on
the following clues :
1. If Stetson has done nothing reprehensible in planting a corpse
in the garden, where was the need to reprimand the reader
[ 'You ! hypocrite lecteur ! ...] for occupying a high moral ground?
they (the readers) are accused of hypocrisy in this regard, and
reminded that they're no better than Stetson : "mon somblable,
2. Of Stetson
"It has been suggested that Eliot was here referring to Ezra Pound,
favourite hat was a sombrero-stetson. Eliot said that he just meant
superior bank clerk in bowler-hat, black jacket and striped trousers,
that he was not referring to anyone in particular. Stetson is possibly
persona's alter ego -- an image of the split self. This is suggested
the allusions to Baudelaire."
Jain, Manju, T.S. Eliot's
(Delhi: Oxford University Press,
1998, p. 162)
3. Of "the savage" in Eliot :
According to Peter Ackroyd, Eliot did sometimes speculate about
the nature of "the savage" and even its presence within himself.
Remarkably, in 'Eeldrop and Appleplex', Eeldrop (said to be
a representation of Eliot) muses endlessly on the moral fate of a man
who has murdered his mistress. One would not, therefore, be surprised
if the poet here, in the persona of the speaker, addresses Stetson
-- a dramatic visualization of himself, of his own alter ego.
4. The "local" context of the passage is grounded in a post-war
scenario -- earlier or contemporary. Incidentally, Stetson was
a slouch hat worn by soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand
forces. Well, there's Albert, demobbed, returning home "to have a
good time" -- and if Lil doesn't give it him, others will -- and Lil :
It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
(She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.)
Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it
And 'A Game of Chess' concludes on a poignant note with an
allusion to mad Ophelia.
And, previous to the tragedy of Lil is the tragic fate of another
Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair
Spread out in fiery points
Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.
And, in the backdrop, we hear Philomela's timeless cry -- her
onomatopoeic story of Teseus's criminal violence.
And more, "That corpse you planted last year in your garden"
has an antecedent in the hyacinth garden :
---Yet when we came back, late, from the hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
One breathes in a haunting and pervasive air of tragedy even as
one contemplates the fate of "the corpse" in question.
And, as I said, it's just _a_ reading of sorts. And I took the
to share it in the hope that someone might -- just might -- find it
plausible enough to pursue the lead.
As for literary hermeneutics, one had as well share one's
half-formed thoughts as not -- for not doing so would only foreclose
the possibility of exploration.
AND, thanks a lot, Peter Montgomery and Diana Manister, and
Rickard Parker, for your comments.
[P.S. I forgot to say, all emphasis in the quotations mine.]
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