In my 1962 The Complete Poems and Plays: 1909-1950 Eliot includes a headnote as follows:
(The Dry Salvages--presumably les trois sauvages--is a small group of rocks, with a beacon, off the N.E. coast of Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Salvages is pronounced to rhyme with assuages. Groaner: a whistling buoy.)
So if he is aiming at a symbolic significance for them, he seems to point toward the savages and the beacon as aspects of the life and death powers of the ocean he then develops in the poem.
>>> Diana Manister 01/08/09 2:11 PM >>>
Nancy, I don't recall where I read that it was pronounced "sauvages." It makes sense to me that it would be pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, i.e., "savages," in America. I never could see New England sailors saying "sauvage" exactly as the French do!
I'm not sure where you found this spelling, but somewhere Eliot (I think) or someone who wrote about them gave the pronunciation to rhyme with "assuages." But according to Gordon, the name was said to derive from the fact that they reminded the settlers of "the red men, the 'savages.'"
I am not sure it is all that symbolic in some specific, particular way: Eliot used to sail up to Maine and he would pass them. They are a local site that would evoke danger on the sea. Eliot may have found all this a vivid image, but the name and history were already there to use.
>>> Diana Manister 01/08/09 9:45 AM >>>
The name is not pronounced "salvages" as the noun "salvage" is pronounced. In Massachusetts the name is pronounced like the French "sauvage" by those who sail around them, and means roughly "savage" not something salvaging or salvaged.