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But it is Sweeney who makes it deflating by dissociating it from all the rest of life and even from any joy in itself.  And Sweeney is hardly a reliable source.
 
And yes, Eliot suggests the same reduction in his own voice (or persona) in later poems, but it hardly describes his final, happy few years, and certainly not the longing of the early poems--the longing that gives them such poignant power.
Nancy

>>> Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]> 07/07/09 11:11 AM >>> 
Tom Colket wrote: 
> 
> 
> Another thought: I had mentioned the word "reproduction", which would 
> be part of the "cycle of life" for heterosexuals. Focusing on 
> "copulation" keeps the focus on the individual rather than on future 
> offspring, and also applies equally to homosexual and heterosexual 
> individuals. 
But in the whole glum project altogether, with birth so closely allied 
to copulation, the rather loud implication is that there is, after all, 
in the whole ruddy business, reproduction. In fact, isn't it the 
inexorability of the progression that is so deflating? 

Cheers, 
Ken A 
> 
> -- Tom -- 
> 
> 
> 
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
> Date: Mon, 6 Jul 2009 16:27:23 -0700 
> From: [log in to unmask] 
> Subject: Re: Birth, and copulation, and death 
> To: [log in to unmask] 
> 
> Also the word "copulation" suggests the word "population" (like Eliot 
> and/or Sweeney is putting it on a more universal scale). If one uses 
> that line to set up the rhythm of the previous line (which has only 
> one syllable words with no obvious accents) you get a 'jazzy' 
> rhythm of trochee, trochee, trochee, iamb: 
> 
> 
> THAT'S all, THAT'S all, THAT'S all, that's ALL, 
> BIRTH, and COPuLATion, and DEATH. 
> 
> 
> where the final "all" has, like "death," a sense of 'finality' to it. 
> 
> Robert 
> 
> 
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> *From:* Nancy Gish <mailto:[log in to unmask]> 
> *To: *[log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]> 
> *Sent:* 7/6/2009 10:06:07 AM 
> *Subject:* Re: Birth, and copulation, and death 
> 
> Without "copulation" the line would fall flat. And it seems to me 
> the kind of word Sweeney would know and use to show off to Doris 
> and Dusty. The whole text is a way of incorporating jazz rhythms 
> and slang. Sweeney is being both crude and self-aggrandizing. I 
> don't see any reason to make more of it than it says. 
> 
> Eliot speaks of TWL in "The Modern Mind," but just skimming I do 
> not see anything about Sweeney, though he mentions birth and 
> death. Where in the article is it? 
> Cheers, 
> Nancy 
> 
> 
> >>> Peter Montgomery 07/06/09 12:30 PM >>> 
> You may wish to consult Eliot's own commentary on the work 
> in ON THE USE OF POETRY AND THE USE OF CRITICISM, in, 
> I believe the essay titled "The Modern Mind." 
> 
> P. 
> 
> On Jul 4, 2009, *Tom Colket* <[log in to unmask]> wrote: 
> 
> 7/4/2009 
> 
> After reading some of the recent posts on the list, I've been 
> thinking about Eliot's "Sweeney Agonistes". I know the work 
> was unfinished, so we don't know what the final form may have 
> been. Nonetheless, I have some thoughts and questions about a 
> particular line from the work, the line about "Birth, and 
> copulation, and death". 
> 
> Sweeney describes life on a crocodile isle, a life with "no 
> telephones, . . . no gramophones, . . . no motor cars, . . . 
> nothing to eat but the fruit as it grows". 
> 
> Then he says that there is "Nothing at all but three things . 
> . . Birth, and copulation, and death. 
> That's all, that's all, that's all, that's all, 
> Birth, and copulation, and death. 
> . . . 
> That's all the facts when you come down to brass tacks" 
> 
> It seems that Sweeney is trying to describe the situation we 
> find ourselves in on this E! arth (i.e., the cycle of life we 
> find ourselves in). The word that stands out to me as very odd 
> is "copulation". 
> 
> First of all, in past poems Sweeney is Eliot's 'uncouth, 
> natural man'. Sweeney "shifts from ham to ham, stirring the 
> waters in his bath" in contrast to the "masters of the subtle 
> schools". Sweeney has sex in a whorehouse and is described in 
> blunt terms such as "This withered root of knots of 
> hair/Slitted below and gashed with eyes,/This oval O cropped 
> out with teeth". 
> 
> It strikes me as odd that this same "uncouth" Sweeney now uses 
> a rather fancy word like "copulation". I would have expected a 
> more basic description from Sweeney, such as: 
> 
> "Birth, and sex, and death. 
> That's all the facts when you come down to brass tacks" 
> 
> or even 
> 
> "Birth, and screwing, and death." 
> 
> On top of that, when contemplating the "cycle of life", I 
> believe that most people think about _reproduction_ rather 
> than _sex_ as the triumvirate of "brass tas! ks". I wonder if 
> the four-syllable word "copulation" in fact invites t he 
> reader to think about another formulation with a different 
> four-syllable word, namely, "Birth, and reproduction, and death." 
> 
> There is a striking contrast between having one of the "brass 
> tasks of existence" be "copulation" rather than 
> "reproduction". In focusing on sex, Eliot asks an implied 
> question: Why is 'sex' of equal importance to the individual 
> as 'birth' and 'death'? What makes 'sex' an equal partner with 
> the other two in the cycle of life? 
> 
> I think Eliot is trying to say, as he has done in other works 
> and essays, that sex serves a critical (and unexpected) 
> purpose for humankind. The critical purpose is not 
> reproduction but rather is that sex prepares the individual 
> for a union of the soul and God. 
> 
> I know Eliot's essay "DANTE (1929)" has been quoted on the 
> list before, but for your convenience I'd like to quote the 
> passage relevant to what I'm talking about: 
> 
> ============================== 
> 
> The attitude of Dante to the fundamental! experience of the 
> _Vita Nuova_ can only be understood by accustoming ourselves 
> to find meaning in _final causes_ rather than in origins. It 
> is not, I believe, meant as a description of what he 
> _consciously_ felt on his meeting with Beatrice, but rather as 
> a description of what that meant on mature reflection upon it. 
> The final cause is the attraction towards God. A great deal of 
> sentiment has been spilt, especially in the eighteenth and 
> nineteenth centuries, upon idealizing the reciprocal feelings 
> of man and woman towards each other, which various realists 
> have been irritated to denounce: this sentiment ignoring the 
> fact that the love of man and woman (or for that matter of man 
> and man) is only explained and made reasonable by the higher 
> love, or else is simply the coupling of animals. 
> 
> ============================== 
> 
> In this passage we see "copulation" (the coupling of animals) 
> elevated to inducing the individual to unde rstand the "higher 
> love", the soul's attraction towards God. 
> 
> I think this also ties back to the epigraph of the work, where 
> Eliot provides the quote from "St. John of the Cross, "Hence 
> the soul cannot be possessed of the divine union, until it has 
> divested itself of the love of created beings". 
> 
> As always, comments criticisms and corrections are welcome. 
> 
> -- Tom -- 
> 
> 
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