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Dear CR: It does seem that the poem is saying that a moderate amount of water is beneficial, but too much kills. Abundance as destructive. hmmmm. Diana


From:  Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:  "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To:  [log in to unmask]
Subject:  Re: Water in TWL
Date:  Fri, 27 Jul 2007 15:20:10 -0700

Diana,
  
 
  
Your first point.  Eliot has skilfully used the tarot cards for
  
 
  
a) laying out the major symbols/themes that become subsequently
  
   operational in the poem;
  
 
  
b) to repudiate the secular aspect of contemporary civilization
  
    (represented here in the character of Madame Sosostris) which
  
    is blind to the spiritual aspect of these symbols.
  
 
  
You're right, Eliot
places great value upon "death by water".
  
Madame Sosostris has the power to predict it but she cannot
  
decipher its spiritual value -- hence her note of caution.
  
 
  
Your second point. The dual aspect of "water" in Eliot's
  
poetry has always fascinated me -- as water of passion(s),
  
or as a purifying/redeeming/transforming agent.
  
 
  
In Part I, Isolde is lingering over the
seas of passion
  
and the sailor's song sounds a note of caution.
  
 
  
In Part V, the seas of passion are "calm", if one's hand is
  
"expert with sail and oar", i.e. if one has control over one's
  
passions.
  
 
  
As a purifying agent, it is part of the washing ceremony at
  
Chapel Perilous.  As a transmuter, "Those are pearls that were
  
his eyes. Look!" And as a redeemer in Part IV.
  
 
  
In TWL, the yearning for water is both literal and figurative --
  
(a) the need to quench one's physical thirst, as well as to dispel the
  
dryness of the land,  and (b)  the need for emotional and spiritual
  
sustenance.
  
 
  
It would be interesting to watch this duality in Eliot's use of
  
the "wind" too -- but for that one will have to look up some other
  
poems too in addition to TWL. 
  
 
  
I must thank you, Diana, for raising this issue.
  
 
  
Regards,
  
 
  
CR

      
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