Biography is not everything; but it is not nothing.  The poem was written by T. S. Eliot, not Yeats or Pound or H.D. or WCW or Marianne Moore.  And the life he lived is inevitably part of what framed his poetic vision.
 
Labeling any reference to his life a fallacy does not make it so.  For example, it does matter that he was born in St. Louis and not London.  It does matter that he felt the loss of Verdenal so deeply.  It does matter that his marriage was a mutual hell.  All that affected everything he wrote, and later in life he himself wrote about how the life affects the poems, in Yeats, for example.  Anything is a fallacy if misused or used to displace all else.  But it is bazaar to imagine that all of Western thought and culture and religion affected his work, but his own life alone did not. 
N

>>> Tom Colket <[log in to unmask]>07/07/09 5:27 PM >>>

Thanks, Ken. I appreciate the comments. Let me clarify.

I wasn't trying to say that Eliot's biography leads me to the meaning of the poetry lines. I believe the lines portray the cycle of life as an individual person would experience existence. To an individual, "birth" would refer to one's own existence while "reproduction" would refer to the existence of an offspring. While birth and reproduction are redundant if viewed from the frame of reference of a whole population, these are not redundant concepts from the viewpoint of an _individual_.

When I look at the Sweeney epigraph from St. John of the Cross, I'm still thinking about the "copulation" reference as tied in to the epigraph.

-- Tom --


> Date: Tue, 7 Jul 2009 15:37:54 -0400
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Birth, and copulation, and death
> To: [log in to unmask]
>
> Tom,
>
> I think you're committing the biographical fallacy. Always looking first
> to Eliot's life for what the poem means and not to the internal life of the
> poem pretty much negates the poem.
>
> >Sweeney's articulation of the progression is "Birth, and copulation, and
> death", not "Birth, and reproduction, >and death", and I think the reader
> is supposed to think about that.
>
> Not to belabor it too much, but "birth" and "reproduction" in the same
> series would seem somewhat redundant.
>
> >I keep coming back to Eliot's Dante essay where he says, "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."
> >Again, no talk of reproduction, just copulation.
>
> Again, the coupling of animals implies reproduction. He is trying to say
> we are more than animals and (in Fragment) that when we think that's all
> there is, we are reducing ourselves to a state unnatural for human beings.
>
> Ken A



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