Folks,
      One interesting exception to the symbol of water as a purifying agent or as an agent of passion in a positive sense in TWL is T. S. Eliot's use of the words of  Ophelia at the conclusion of "A  Game of Chess" -- "Good night, ladies, good night sweet ladies, good night, good night."  Elizabeth Drew, in her book "T. S. Eliot:The Design of His Poetry," says "The good nights of the group modulate into the voice of the mad Ophelia, the preface to another death by drowning, but a death which is self-destruction, the end of frustrated love, not a baptism and regeneration into a new birth."
      I wonder if the reference to the Thames in "The Fire Sermon" (another water allusion), in addition to being a comment about the decline of Western culture/civilization ("The river sweats oil and tar..."), might not also be an allusion to the philosophy of TSE's "hero of pessimism", Heraclitus, the real Father of Quantum Mechanics -- Heraclitian flux: "a person cannot step into the same river twice." As Bertrand Russell wrote in 1946, "The doctrine of perpetual flux, as taught by Heraclitus, is painful, and science can do nothing to refute it."  -- but poetry can. :-)
Regards,
Barnwell
 
 
 
 
 
 
In a message dated 7/27/2007 6:21:49 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, [log in to unmask] writes:
Diana,
 
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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