Yes CR I often wonder if it is poor intellectual form to wonder whether Eliot is clear about his attitude to Sweeney – ie am I indulging in silly conjecture missing the point.
apeneck and shifting from ham to ham suggests a kind of mute animal indifference to cerebral processes and the poet sounds analytically cool but it is not exactly Tennesse Williams saying of Stanley “look out or the gorillas will take over” so I wonder if he is unequivocally a bete noire of brute libido for Eliot.
and the title “Sweeney Agonistes” focuses my mind on Milton’s Samson who is chained to one spot with others from his life coming to visit his circumstance whereas Sweeney seems to come into the circumstances of others both here and in the SA play. I allow the missionary isle stuff takes up the kind of frivolous word riff of the others in SA but then it is more laden with menace and therefore significance than Doris’ other visitors’ strophes but when he rolls into the man who did a girl in the language is differentiating too.
This is just to highlight two observations by you, Peter Dillane, one about the ambiguity of 'golden' in the "golden grin", the other a couple about 'circumscribing':
>[Is] "golden" a glorious adjective or a more sinister toothy gold capped leer?
>I wonder what I am supposed to think about that circumscribing which is only apparent when you view him from inside.
>Do you think circumscribe is just to surround or is it to delimit[?]
The ambiguity of 'golden', to my mind, evokes the hiatus between the "toothy gold capped leer" and the "glorious" aspect of 'golden'. The glorious aspect is evident in the subsequent scenario where
The nightingales are singing near
The Convent of the Sacred Heart
[BTW, juxtaposition, or presence in the same poem, of disparate images, I believe, mutual
bearings. It modifies our response by way of contrast.]
The other observation about "circumscribing" being evident only when viewed from inside has rich connotations. An exercise for the listers, if you like.
I also appreciate the question, Pete, whether the circumscribing merely frames the golden grin or is it of a "delimiting", liberating sort.
I wonder if literary scholarship has taken into account these ramifications.
Interesting observations, Pete.
yes I also CR as most would I think but I still ask myself why I engage in that economy of narrative collaboration when the poet goes out of his way to tease out who is who for each event.
As Nancy also observed (paraphrasing from memory ) it is a poem of transient indistinct events with a grave menace in the background. If there is a kind of slippage or indistinct view of person and place I cant see why I should be so sure of my presumptions that I know who is who.
The persons represented all are gravity bound to this room and find themselves in specific locations except Sweeney who is also guarding something like the gates of hell when the vista slips towards the river plate and he also gets out from under the girl seamlessly and then outside if that is him at the window.
outside with the nightingales.. I wonder what I am supposed to think about that circumscribing which is only apparent when you view him from inside.
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