Print

Print


Rick

Thank you vey much.  I am rereading Brooker and will get to that point.

Jonathan

-----Original Message-----
From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
Of Rickard A. Parker
Sent: 08 June 2007 14:33
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole!


Jonathan Crowther wrote:
> 
> Cd anyone enlighten me as to why this line is quoted as an 'end' to 
> the Mrs Porter lines?
>
> The line concludes Verlain's Parcifal sonnet which is the soln to the 
> plot of the TWL surely?  If only the sonnet were true the TWL could 
> end!


There are so many ironies in this section of TWL it is difficult for me to
handle this one (but I'll try).

> Cd anyone enlighten me as to why this line is quoted as an 'end' to 
> the Mrs Porter lines?

There is an irony in prostitutes washing their "feet" with the impure, and
unholy, soda water (the real bawdy lyrics to the song used the word "cunts")
when that's compared to the washing of Christ's feet. And Eliot makes that
comparison, by indirectly alluding to Wagner's "Parsifal" and of Kundry's
washing Parsifal's feet in imitation of Mary's anointment of the feet of
Jesus.


> The line concludes Verlain's Parcifal sonnet which is the soln to the 
> plot of the TWL surely?  If only the sonnet were true the TWL could 
> end!

No. The singing of the children just starts another round of temptations
that will never end. 

Note that Eliot, who quoted from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" and
"Götterdämmerung" did not quote from his opera "Parsifal" in the Mrs. Porter
section of "The Waste Land."  He instead quoted from Verlaine's poem
"Parsifal," based upon the opera (it was published in the Revue Wagnérienne
of January 8, 1886).

Commentaries usually say the poem describes how Parsifal overcame the
temptations of young girls and of Kundry, and how he regained the Holy
Spear, with which he cured the Fisher King. Then Verlaine's last line
alludes to the singing in the dome that ends the opera.

Verlaine, famous for a homosexual affair with Rimbaud, was a rather lusty
fellow who turned to the Catholic Church but who still had trouble
overcoming his demons. And his "Parsifal" attests to that. There is a
subtlety in the opening lines of "Parsifal" that I (with very limited
French) think can be read two ways.  I have seen translations that go one
way and some the take the other.  One way leads to a deeper poem.

Here is the opening stanza in French, followed by a translation by Tony
Kline and then a translation attempt by me:

    Verlaine:
        Parsifal a vaincu les Filles, leur gentil
        Babil et la luxure amusante -- et sa pente
        Vers la Chair de garçon vierge que cela tente
        D'aimer les seins légers et ce gentil babil;
    
    Kline:
        Parsifal has conquered the girls, their sweet
        Chatter, amusing lust -- and his inclination,
        A virgin boy's, towards the Flesh, tempted
        To love the little tits and gentle babble; 
    
    Parker:
        Parsifal overcame the Girls, their gentle
        Chatter and their amusing lewdness -- and his inclination
        Towards the Flesh of the virgin boys that tempts him
        To love their slight breasts and pleasing prattle;

Now, in the opera, it is not only children singing in the dome. The libretto
specifies:

    Knaben, Jünglinge und Ritter: (mit stimmen aus der mittleren sowie
                                  der obersten Höhe kaum hörbar leise)
        Höchsten Heiles Wunder!
        Erlösung dem Erlöser!

    Pages, squires and knights: (with barely audible voices from the
                                 mid-height and top of the dome.)
        Supreme miracle of salvation!
        Redemption to the Redeemer! 

With Wagner's opera and some translations of Verlaine's poem (like
Kline's) the choir underscores the supreme moment of the healing of the
Fisher King.  With translations of the poem like mine, and because Parsifal
hears only the voices of the pages, there is also the added irony of
Parsifal's possible falling back toward his inclinations. Given Verlaine's
history I believe that this is the way he wanted his poem to read. And
Eliot, who was famous for his irony, is giving a double dose here by quoting
Verlaine rather than Wagner.

          
Jonathan, in another post, has just recommended the book: "Reading The Waste
Land: Modernism and the Limits of Interpretation" by Jewel Spears Brooker
and Joseph Bentley. On page 135 Brooker and Bentley discuss the use of
Verlaine's Parsifal lusting after boys and how Eliot uses the irony.

Regards,
    Rick Parker