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Dear CR: If in one passage of the poem water is a metaphor for lust, and later he prays for water, for what is he praying? Water's referent is so ambiguous as to be impossible to discern with any certainty, and I see this as a flaw in the poem. If Phlebas refers at least partly to Eliot's dear friend Jean Verdenal than the drowned sailor represents a force that is destructive of  emotional satisfaction. I can see Eliot believing that lust is destructive of the spiritual life, but why would he yearn for it later? Or is the poem asserting that a certain quantity of water is destructive, but a little bit is good? Then we want to know just how much is too much; that would seem to be the whole point. Drips and drops are salvation but the sea is death? But Eliot generally the sea as restorative. You see the problem. 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:  Tue, 31 Jul 2007 10:53:50 -0700

Diana,
  
 
  
Here's a justification of Kate Troy's comment, "Isn't it  simply
  
'irony' that she predicts death by water in the midst of a drought."
  
 
  
In TWL "drought" is an objective correlative of the springs of love
  
(and consequently of life) gone dry.
  
 
  
And "water" is an objective correlative of either love or lust
  
-- depending upon how
pure or impure the metaphoric water is --
  
"Sweet Thames" or the river that sweats "Oil and tar".
  
Incidentally, "the waters of Leman" is a phrase associated with
  
the fires of lust", Leman also meaning one who is loved illicitly,
  
especially a mistress. (Manju Jain, TS Eliot's Selected Poems,
  
OUP, 1998)
  
 
  
In the wasteland context then, Kate's statement implies :
  
Madame Sosostris predicts death by water -- a death by
  
the waters of
lust as evident in 'The Fire Sermon'.
  
She predicts such a death in the midst of a "drought",
  
i.e. in the midst of an emotional and spiritual drought
  
when the wellsprings of love have gone dry ("And voices
  
singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells").
  
 
  
Cheers!
  
 
  
CR
  
 
  
P.S.  Viewed in this light, Madame Sosostris is a clairvoyante, indeed! 
  
        Maybe, (as TSE rightly remarked) a poet is not always aware of
  
        the full implications of what he writes. Ha-ha !!!

      
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