Delightful. Thanks a bunch Tom.
----- Original Message -----
From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">Tom Colket
To: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]
Sent: Monday, August 10, 2009 6:23 PM
Subject: Dynamo, Flanagan, and that "third scene" from Sweeney Agonistes

Rick wrote:
> I've been meaning to thank you Tom for all the time you've spent
> on Sweeney and then sharing it with us
No problem. It's a labor of love finding Eliot material and sharing it with the List. And since you're the author of that unbelievable web site "Exploring The Waste Land", I know you know what I mean.
> In the early 1940s Hallie Flanagan published a book
> named Dynamo that has information on Sweeney Agonistes (but
> all that is important MAY have appeared in the secondary
> references you recently read.

Your timing is perfect. I just finished a post on that very topic which I'm including below this one. I was aware of "Dynamo" but it's long since out of print and it took me a while to find a copy. I think you'll like the additional Eliot information that her book provides.
-- Tom


   In 1943, Hallie Flanagan published a book called "Dynamo - An Adventure in the College Theatre". The book explores her innovative work in college theatre productions at Vassar. It took me a while, but I finally obtained a copy. I believe the List may be especially interested in the part of the book that deals with "Sweeney Agonistes".

   In 1933, Hallie Flanagan staged a production at Vassar called "Now I Know Love", consisting of several plays, including the world premiere of "Sweeney Agonists". Ms. Flanagan had previously written to Eliot asking permission to perform the play. I have scanned in his response letter to her, as well as other commentary about Sweeney Agonistes by Ms. Flanagan. In Eliot's response letter you will be pleased to find the "third scene" of "Sweeney Agonistes".

   In these scanned pages you will see the phrase "As the illustrations indicate" -- It turns out that the picture from _Sweeney Agonistes_ that I posted on Monday (reprinted in Marc Robinson's book) originally were published in _Dynamo_, so you have the picture she is referring to about Sweeney (the other illustrations refer to pictures from the other plays of "Now I Know Love".

   I hope you find the material interesting.

-- Tom --

From "Dynamo - An Adventure in the College Theatre" by Hallie Flanagan, pages 82-85, published by Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, New York, 1943
[Hardcover, $2.75 - the book price in 1943, of course!]

                                                    18 March 1933

Dear Hallie Flanagan:

   I have no objection to your doing _Sweeney_, what there is of him, though I cannot imagine what anybody can do without me there to direct it. The action should be stylised as in the Noh drama - see Ezra Pound's book and Yeats' preface and notes to _The Hawk's Well_. Characters _ought_ to wear masks; the ones wearing old masks ought to give the impression of being young persons (as actors) and vice versa. Diction should not have too much expression. I had intended the whole play to be accompanied by light drum taps to accentuate the beats (esp. the chorus, which ought to have a noise like a street drill). The characters should be in a shabby flat, seated at a refectory table, facing the audience; Sweeney in the middle with a chafing dish scrambling eggs. (See "you see this egg.") (See also F. M. Cornford: _Origins of Attic Comedy_, which is important to read before you do the play.) I am talking about the _second_ fragment of course; the other one is not much good. The second should end as follows: there should be 18 knocks like the angelus, and then

  Enter an old gentleman. He is in full evening dress with a carnation,
  but otherwise resembles closely Father Christmas. In one hand he
  carries an empty champagne bottle, in the other an alarum clock.

THE OLD GENTLEMAN. Good evening. My name is Time. The time by the exchange clock is now nine-forty-five (or whatever it is). I come from the vacant lot in front of the Grand Union Depot, where there is the heroic equestrian statue of General Diego Cierra of Paraguay. Nobody knows why General Cierra is there. Nobody knows why I am there. Nobody knows anything. I wait for the lost trains that bring in the last souls after midnight. The time by the exchange clock is now 9:46.

SWEENEY. Have you nothing else to say?

OLD GENTLEMAN. Have you nothing to ask me?



SWEENEY. When will the barnfowl fly before morning?
         When will the owl be operated on for cataracts?
         When will the eagle get out of his barrel-roll?

OLD GENTLEMAN. When the camel is too tired to walk farther
               Then shall the pigeon-pie blossom in the desert
               At the wedding-breakfast of life and death.

SWEENEY. Thank you.

OLD GENTLEMAN. Good night.

(As Old Gentleman leaves, the alarum clock in his hand goes off·)

I will let you know if I can possibly come on May 6th.

Yours very sincerely,

T. S. Eliot

    The alarum clock went off and Mr. Eliot arrived on May 6. As the illustrations indicate, there was no shabby flat, no refectory table, and no chafing dish. The egg, however, was present in the setting itself and Mr. Eliot found it a satisfactory egg. He particularly liked Quincy Porter's musical score and Sweeney's tropical get-up ("Oh my little island girl," etc.) though I think he regretted the absence of a kitchen apron. Sweeney was played by a Poughkeepsie doctor who said Sweeney was the only truthful play he had ever read, and consequently he played it with a relaxed conviction which made a center of gravity for the otherwise somewhat loose goings-on.

   Philosophic discussion engendered by the play continued most of the night in a flow of Eliot prose and verse which I fervently wish had been recorded. More remarkable, it carried over Sunday, when by request of the student body, Mr. Eliot discussed poetry in the theatre. Roaming about the setting of his own play he talked about poetry with impersonal lucidity.

   "My poetry is simple and straightforward," he declared; and when the audience laughed he looked pained. "It is dubious whether the purpose of poetry is to communicate anyway. Poetry ought simply to record the fusion of a number of experiences." Later when asked about _Sweeney Among the Nightingales_, he said, "I'm not sure it means anything at all." And he went on to develop the point that a poem may be like a still life, the meaning of which we do not formulate - "We merely estimate the way the painter has used planes and angles."

   To student questions from the crowded house he was painstakingly exact, though sometimes cryptic.
   "Was the production what you expected?"
   "The moment expected may be unforeseen when it arrives."
   (This line he later used in _Murder in the Cathedral_.)

   And to the student who asked why he did not write Sweeney differently, he said thoughtfully, "To be a different poem a poem would either have to be written by the same poet at a different time, or by a different poet at the same time."

   One questioner, referring to the lines,

   Every man has to, needs to, wants to
   Once in a lifetime do a girl in,

asked hopefully, "Mr. Eliot, did you ever do a girl in?" Mr. Eliot looked apologetic and said, "I am not the type."






> Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2009 17:47:03 -0400
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Sweeney Agonistes - Vassar Picture
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Doris looks bored.
> I've been meaning to thank you Tom for all the time you've spent
> on Sweeney and then sharing it with us but I've been wanting to
> add something to the message and I've just haven't had an idea
> until now. In the early 1940s Hallie Flanagan published a book
> named Dynamo that has information on Sweeney Agonistes (but
> all that is important MAY have appeared in the secondary
> references you recently read.
> Regards,
> Rick Parker

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