a defining moment of pain
Dear List,
The experience of the flux is largely an experience of pain --
and so is the experience of liberation from it.
"Be mindful in due time of my pain", said Arnaut Daniel to Dante
before diving into the refining fires of Purgatory.
Such perhaps is the pain involved in a redemptive
"death by water" as well. The 'Dans le Restaurant' version
hints at the pain involved in such a death :
Go and clean the ripples from your face;
Take my fork, and pick your head.
In which way will you pay back experiences like mine?
Take, here's ten sous, for the bathroom.
Phlebas, the Phoenician, for fifteen days drowned,
Forgot the cry of gulls and the swell off Cornwall,
And the profit and the loss, and the cargo of tin:
A current under sea carried him far back,
He passed the stages of his past life.
Imagine then, it was a painful fate;
And yet he was once a handsome and tall young man.
                                (an English rendering)
"April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land",
said someone like Sibyl trapped in the flux.
"Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and
surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge?
He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision -- he cried
out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath -- 'The horror!
the horror!' "         
                              [from Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"]

"Rickard A. Parker" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I wrote to Diana (in part and on Fri, 3 Aug 2007):
> Somewhere in this long thread I believe you asked
> something like "Why fear death by water?"

Tom Gray quoted this in a reply and added (on Fri, 3 Aug 2007):
> Doesn't Eliot provide and answer to that question?
> "Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you"


I'm reading your reply as Eliot setting up the comparison "Phlebas
died and you will too." While certainly true, I don't see that as a
reason to fear death. //Diana and CR were discussing the redemptive
quality of Phlebas' drowning. I'm not going to go that far myself
yet, but it doesn't appear to be a death to be feared.// Nor did
the drowning of the fishermen in the draft of the poem. Nor the allusions
to The Tempest scattered within the poem (Those are potatoes that were
eyes.) //Other Eliot poems that have death by water also don't
seem to me to be fearful of a death by water.//

Rick Parker

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