Re Dresden, the attached I think says it all.Over recent years, I've been most-heartened by the 'Wiederaufbau' of the Frauenkirche - it was just a heap of rubble when I first came across it, but, meticulously rebuilt, it's a truly uplifting monument. So poignant too, that the gold cross that tops the dome was donated from Coventry, England and that the father of the craftsman who fashioned it had been a bomb-aimer on those terrible raids.I get into trouble, still, in UK, by asserting that the bombing of Dresden was a war crime, that couldn't morally be justified in itself, whatever the circumstances. Churchill, to his credit, seems to have felt the same, albeit after the event.My own father was in charge of keeping Lancaster bombers flying from various English air bases; he would have vehemently disagreed with me, about Dresden, but, that was then, and this is now.
Incidentally,T.S.Eliot’s Letter to “The Nation”A paper by George SimmersThe American Modernism ConferenceBrookes UniversitySeptember 2006http://greatwarfiction.wordpress.com/tseliots-letter-to-the-nation/It takes note of a gripping poem by Eliot"In silent corridors of death".CRThanks, Carrol.
A very powerful portrayal of a grim scenario.The 20th century must be the darkest period of human history.A genuine frame of reference for The Waste Land, the century'sbleakest poem. Here are some excerpts for the list'sconsideration.CR---from Eliot's Notes to The Waste Land:366-76. Cf. Hermann Hesse, Blick ins Chaos:Schon ist halb Europa, schon ist zumindest der halbe Osten Europas auf dem Wege zum Chaos, fährt betrunken im heiligen Wahn am Abgrund entlang und singt dazu, singt betrunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Karamasoff sang. Ueber diese Lieder lacht der Bürger beleidigt, der Heilige und Seher hört sie mit Tränen.[Already half of Europe, already at least half of Eastern Europe, on the way to Chaos, drives drunk in sacred infatuation along the edge of the precipice, sings drunkenly, as though hymn singing, as Dmitri Karamazov [in Dostoyevski's Brothers Karamazov] sang. The offended bourgeois laughs at the songs; the saint and the seer hear them with tears.]---One may view the following lines of the poem vis-a-vis the first World War:What are the roots that clutch, what branches growOut of this stony rubbish? Son of man, 20You cannot say, or guess, for you know onlyA heap of broken images, where the sun beats,And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,And the dry stone no sound of water. OnlyThere is shadow under this red rock, 25(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),And I will show you something different from eitherYour shadow at morning striding behind youOr your shadow at evening rising to meet you;I will show you fear in a handful of dust.That corpse you planted last year in your garden,Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!I think we are in rats’ alley 115Where the dead men lost their bones.The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leafClutch and sink into the wet bank. The windCrosses the brown land, unheard.But at my back in a cold blast I hear 185The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.A rat crept softly through the vegetationDragging its slimy belly on the bankWhite bodies naked on the low damp groundAnd bones cast in a little low dry garret,Rattled by the rat’s foot only, year to year.To Carthage then I cameBurning burning burning burningO Lord Thou pluckest me outO Lord Thou pluckest 310burningHe who was living is now deadWe who were living are now dyingWith a little patienceHere is no water but only rockWhat is that sound high in the airMurmur of maternal lamentationWho are those hooded hordes swarmingOver endless plains, stumbling in cracked earthRinged by the flat horizon only 370What is the city over the mountainsCracks and reforms and bursts in the violet airFalling towersJerusalem Athens AlexandriaVienna London 375UnrealA woman drew her long black hair out tightAnd fiddled whisper music on those stringsAnd bats with baby faces in the violet lightWhistled, and beat their wings 380And crawled head downward down a blackened wallAnd upside down in air were towersTolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hoursAnd voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.Datta: what have we given?My friend, blood shaking my heartThe awful daring of a moment’s surrenderWhich an age of prudence can never retractBy this, and this only, we have existed 405Which is not to be found in our obituariesOr in memories draped by the beneficent spiderOr under seals broken by the lean solicitorIn our empty roomsDayadhvam: I have heard the keyTurn in the door once and turn once onlyWe think of the key, each in his prisonThinking of the key, each confirms a prisonOnly at nightfall, aetherial rumours 415Revive for a moment a broken CoriolanusLe Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolieThese fragments I have shored against my ruinsDatta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.Shantih shantih shantih---He who was living is now deadWe who were living are now dyingWith a little patienceThere is the empty chapel, only the wind’s home.---The world is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time; so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and to save the world from suicide. — T. S. Eliot, “Thoughts After Lambeth”
From: Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>;To: <[log in to unmask]>;Subject: Yeats, An Irish Airman . . .Sent: Thu, May 24, 2012 3:17:15 AM
Meditation on a theme from YeatsIt has been over 50 years since I saw All Quiet on the Western Front, and Iremember one scene (or hope I remember accurately) near the end. The burlysergeant is carrying a wounded man slung over his back. Then in an uppercorner of the screen a plane appears in the distance. Then there is a briefchatter of machine-gun fire and the sergeant trudges on, unaware that theman on his back is now dead. I think of that corner of the screen whenever Ithink of Yeats's wonderful and vile poem, "An Irish Airman Foresees HisDeath." That airman is in the air (as the poem makes clear) for purepersonal joy: he neither loves the 'side' he fights for nor hates the 'side'he fights against; no conclusion of the war can bring either joy or sorrowto those he loves. That scene near the end of All Quiet brings that airmanvividly to mind. The war is over; there can be no rational motive for theflier; he kills for joy, as does the sniper in the movie's most famousscene, at the very end, when the central character, moments before thearmistice takes effect, reaches out for a butterfly, is seen by the sniper,and killed.What brought all this to mind was listening to a radio program on Straus's_Elektra_, which was framed by the opera's appearance at a time, 1909, whenthe 20th-c was looked forward to as a century of peace and plenty -- fiveyears before the Horror of WW1, and by an occurrence three years before thedeath of Strauss, the fire-bombing of Dresden (where Elektra had beenproduced in 1909) -- a raid as near to the end of WW2, for all practicalpurposes, as that airplane in the corner of the screen had been to the endof WW1: 40,000 people died in that pointless raid. (Read Vonnegut'sSlaughter House Five). And the century was to end with the deliberatedestruction by the U.S. Air Force of the sewage system of Baghdad and, a fewyears after the close of the century, the horror of Fallujah, an equal toany of the great atrocities of the 20th-c. Whenever I read or think ofYeats's poem it calls up for me this history -- and also the present: asoldier comes home from Afghanistan and greets his mother with, "Mom, I'm amonster." My dentist, who served a year in Vietnam, is dying of ALS --almost certainly as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. The Vietnamesepeople, of course, continue to be exposed to that deadly chemical: duringthe war a book on it was entitled: Not Since the Romans Salted the Earth.The Romans made of Carthage a wasteland, the U.S. made of Vietnam an endlessdestroyer of the people who must live there. The death toll so farapproaches 3 million and counting.I don't know enough about music in general or Wagner & Strauss in particularto really make sense of the radio program I listened to an hour ago, but itwas of interest that the woman recounting it said of Elektra that thoughproduced 5 years before the beginning of the Century of Horror in fact wastruer to that coming world than to the optimistic world in which it wascomposed and produced. And this brings me to Eliot's grim War Poem, TWL. Itis against this tapestry that An Irish Airman or All Quiet epitomize that weshould see Eliot's poem. We've already discussed the grim irony of the finalline. I would like to suggest that we should see the domestic scenes (offrustrated or sterile sexuality) within that same context. (Bernard DeVoto,in a somewhat philistine harangue still of interest was to remark thatpeople like the young man carbuncular and the typist were to be the heroesof the Battle of Britain. If you think about it, that does not lessen butenhance the poem's power.) TWL gives us life on the home front of a savageand purposeless war, a war that introduced a century of unending violence:think of them as 'citizens' of Dresden. "The anatomy of man is a key to theanatomy of the ape," an aphorism which Bertell Ollman usefully glosses withthe concept of "doing history backward." An event, an act, a whole agethrows little light on the future: without the perspective given by homosapiens the potential of that species in the ape could not be recognized;without the perspective given by modern capitalism the 'meaning' of eventsin the 16th-c British countryside could not be grasped. (See Ellen MeisinsWood, _The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View_). I want to suggest thatDresden & Agent Orange & Fallujah give us the perspective from which we canmore vividly see that final line of TWL as well as the inability of TWL'spersonae to achieve sexual satisfaction. The meaning of "Finding the stairsunlit" revealed 90 years later with "Mom, I'm a monster." The meaning ofLil's husband in Iraq & Afghanistan veterans throwing their medals into thestreet in Chicago:only water" 'fulfilled' in the destruction of Fallujah.This is not a 'reading' of TWL; it is just one of many frames within which areading could be developed.CarrolCarrol