expressions of the unconscious
You had once pointed to the surrealistic strain in Eliot's poetry.
The Stetson passage could perhaps be a fine illustration of it.
Incidentally, it was in response to Carrol Cox's query, "why is the
spider beneficent?" ("in memories draped by the beneficent spider")
that Rickard Parker wrote: "Seems to me that the narrator thinks that
he and his friend will keep their memories to themselves even beyond
the grave and that the spider will do good in draping even their
Well, viewed surrealistically, in the Stetson passage the speaker
could be alluding to the burial of a memory ('The Burial of the Dead').
That the memory had an element of guilt/sin to it is evident in the
haunting fear of exposure ["Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this
year?"]. The Unconscious reassures itself, though, by universalizing
the moral aberration -- O, humanity in general is equally vulnerable !
So, with a side glance, or in an aside as it were, the narrator ends
with a bantering note of admonition to the reader:
You! hypocrite lecteur! -- mon semblable, --
For a symbolist, though, the images from contemporary life come
as handy tools for the expression of what Eliot called "the deeper,
unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which
we rarely penetrate". (The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism)
Or, as Baudelaire put it, "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
inner life, loaded with deep spiritual meanings." (I'm sorry
I have no citation for this quote.)
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