Dear CR: I read so many published, supposedly authoritative speculations as the meaning of individual lines and phrases and even single words in Eliot's work that our imaginative approach seems more ordinary than not.
For example, Calvin Bedient, in his book He Do the Police in Different Voices, offers his speculations on the corpse planted in the garden:
"Is it the Primal Father who lies in the garden, killed yet restored to a still-phallic life in a nonthreatening vegetal form, thus easing conscience a little (a very little)? Once allies in an ancient war, are Stetson and the protagonist also the original Brothers who conspired against the Unbearable Father? ...Or have they murdered, instead, the Primal Mother, the principle of germination itself, the indifferent feminine power of reproduction -- a power the soul must murder but which the Oedipal son must honor and protect! The burial of the dead seems in this instance an attempt to annihilate, in indiscriminate, condensed form, both phallic terrorization and female fertility...."
Now that's what I call wild speculation. Eliot only says it's a planted corpse. But Bedient's over-the-top Freudian analysis was published by The University of Chicago Press! By comparison, our imaginative or even fanciful speculations on "ivory men" seem conservative indeed! At least we tried to tie our associations to the actual text! heh. Diana
Dear Listers,This is to raise a question about the boundaries of poetry.There already is the wholistic approach to poetic hermeneutics-- the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts -- and the partshave an existence only in relation to the whole.What I draw your attention to is nothing new, perhaps, but to whichlittleattention has been paid. And this is : a fragment of poetry-- it could be a word, a phrase, a line, or more -- has a life of itsown too, apart from its existence as an organic part of a poem.And that fragment may resound loud with new meanings in freshcontexts unknown to its readers in the first place.Imagine a scenario where an international gang of ivory dealersrule the roost and where their voice alone is heard -- mere cynicalwhispers passing between nations divided by mutual hatred anddistrust, reduced to pawns in a game of chess.In that scenario, Eliot's line,The ivory men make company between us ,would, indeed, voice a new reality, bleaker than what obtainedat an individual levelin the poem. One might find its expressionin public and popular discourse of the day, without knowledgeeven of its restricted meaning in the poem.This is possible, and this is valid in a way because, as Eliot saidsomewhere, even a poet himself is not always conscious of the fullramifications of what he writes. People will always find in poetrya new means of subsistence -- a new voice to articulate its newneeds.CR
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