This is a great thing to make available. Given your interest, you may
want to read (if you haven't) the two essays on Eliot and Curtius in
Elizabeth Daumer's and Shyamal Bagchee's book on the International
reception of Eliot: 

The International Reception of T. S. Eliot. Elizabeth Däumer and Shyamal
Bagchee, eds. Continuum Reception Series. London: Continuum, 2007. 

They represent two quite different and conflicting responses to the way
Curtius translated the poem. The following is from the typed draft of my
review; I assume it is short enough to be fair use. 

"Several other essays emphasize broader cultural contexts as they shape
specific authors. Elizabeth Däumer and J. H. Copley present contrasting
evaluations of Ernst Robert Curtius’s translations, and, in Däumer’s
analysis, the importance of Eva Hesse’s more free and open version; they
provide an absorbing debate on Germany’s response to Eliot and the
German preference for the later poetry, and also suggest the need for
more work on assumptions about translation."

>>> Tom Colket 12/08/12 3:22 PM >>>

In the Letters of T. S. Eliot, Vol 3, (p 752) Eliot replied to Claude
Collier Abbot who had asked TSE about 'The Waste Land.' TSE wrote:

13 October 1927 The Monthly Criterion

Dear Sir,

I am sorry that I was unable to answer immediately your letter of the
15th September, and perhaps I am now too late to be of any use for your
purpose. I am pleased that you like The Waste Land and wish that I could
tell you more about it. It is not an evasion, but merely the truth, to
say that I think in these cases that an explanation by the author is of
no more value than one by anybody else. You see, the only legitimate
meaning of a poem is the meaning which it has for any reader, not a
meaning which it has primarily for the author. The author means all
sorts of things which concern nobody else but himself, in that he may be
making use of his private experiences. But these private experiences are
merely crude material, and as such of no interest whatever to the
public. About the best thing that has been written about this poem is an
introductory essay by Professor E. R. Curtius in the Neue Schweizer
Rundschau, but I do not know whether you know German.

Yours faithfully, 
T. S. Eliot

During this past summer Ken Armstrong helped me locate a copy of this
essay by Professor Curtius. I finally got a new scanner to replace my
broken one, so I decided to try it out by scanning in the 1927 Curtius
essay, which follows below.


-- Tom --


T. S. Eliot


Essay by Professor E.R. Curtius
Translated from the original German by Michael Kowal (p355-371)
Princeton University Press

(Note: All footnotes appear at the end of the main text)


Let us begin with the positive facts. A small volume is lying before me,
Poems, by T. S. Eliot.(1) The dust jacket contains a note on the author:
"Thomas Stearns Eliot was born at St. Louis, Mo. in 1888. He received
his A.B. at Harvard in 1909 and his A.M. in 1910. He studied
subsequently at the Sorbonne, at the Harvard Graduate School, and at
Merton College, Oxford. He has lived in London where he became a master
at Highgate School, and lecturer under both the Oxford and the London
University Extension Systems. He has contributed to several English
papers, among them, the 'Athenaeum.' From 1917 to 1919 he was Assistant
Editor of the 'Egoist.' He published Prufrock in 1917 and Poems in
1919*this volume assembles the contents of the two, together with a
number of other poems, and is the first volume to be published in
America, where heretofore it has been exceedingly difficult to obtain
his poems."

Groping a bit further bibliographically, we come upon The Criterion, a
quarterly. The editor is T. S. Eliot. The first number appeared in
October 1922, published by R. Cobden-Sanderson in London. It contained
contributions by George Saintsbury, Dostoevski, T. Sturge Moore, May
Sinclair, Hermann Hesse, Valery Larbaud*and a poem by the editor
entitled The Waste Land. The work was published separately, with
additional notes, in 1923.(2) Since 1926 The Criterion has been
continued by Eliot as The New Criterion.(3) It is in a class by itself
among the literary periodicals of the globe. Other publications of
Eliot's that I am familiar with are: 1. The Sacred Wood, Essays on
Poetry and Criticism,(4), 2. Homage to John Dryden, Three Essays on
Poetry of the Seventeenth Century,(5) 3. Poems 1909-1925(6), various
contributions to the Nouvelle Revue Francaise, Commerce, etc.

In France Ramon Fernandez has written on Eliot (1925, in the Nouvelle
Revue Francaise),(7) in England his influence on recent literature has
been strong, according to the testimony of Edwin Muir (in Transition,
Essays on Contemporary Literature).(8) But despite my literary sympathy
for Fernandez and Muir, I cannot think that they have viewed and
appreciated Eliot correctly.

The Waste Land is Eliot's most important work up to now. I have tried to
translate it.(9) In my translation I was particularly concerned to
reproduce the rhythms and the changes in the rhythms. Coleridge once
said that, to please him, a poem had to have either "sense" or "music."
These are indeed the two approaches to the arcanum of poetry. They issue
in the one adyton. But the point of departure is different. And yet both
are legitimate. A line of verse that causes us to vibrate musically,
that excites us with its rhythm and haunts us with its melody*must be a
good line, even if its meaning is still hidden from us. Think of

Den Erben lass verschwenden 
An Adler Lamm und Pfau
Das Salbol aus den Handen 
Der toten alten Frau.
[Let the heir squander on eagle, lamb, and peacock the anointing oil
from the hands of the dead old woman.]

A long time may pass before the meaning of The Waste Land has become
clear to us. I do not pretend to have solved all its riddles. But even
on the first reading, years ago, it captivated me with sudden dazzling
flashes of mystery and music, with a resonant happiness. This is the
path I followed; this is the path on which I should like to guide a few

Criticism, after all, always remains a risk. Evaluation cannot be
grounded. The ground exists, no doubt, but only as intuition. This can
leap across as a spark. It can be transmitted, but not communicated.
That is the beauty of criticism. It is an act of creative intellectual
freedom. Of course intuition can be subsequently motivated. But this
motivation will only convince those who are already favorably disposed.
The fundamental act of criticism consists in irrational contact. True
criticism never seeks to prove, it seeks only to show. Its metaphysical
background is the conviction that the world of the mind is organized
around systems of affinities.


But I do not wish to be misunderstood. Intuition is an unfortunate term.
It is constantly in the mouths of people who are otherwise starving. I
am "against intellectual nourishment through intuition," to use Franz
Blei's estimable coinage. What we would like, after all, is that
intuition and intelligence should be brought together. Hence we combat
the superstition that poets must be stupid, men of letters uncultured,
and scholars obtuse. Eliot is especially interesting to me because he
unites criticism and poiesis in one person. He confirms me in the
conviction, which I recently found again in Marichalar, that in the
twentieth century criticism is an ingredient of all superior
intellectual production. Examples? Here they are: Gide, Proust, Valery,
Larbaud, Joyce, Ayala, Ortega. . . . They are all artists of
intellectualism, all establishers of awareness. Mere "creativity," or
whatever else goes by this label, is no longer enough. Do I mention only
foreign names? I could mention German ones as well. I go so far as to
claim priority for us Germans in this respect. We once had a Novalis, a
Friedrich Schlegel. This is where the new world begins, where
consciousness means a creative heightening of life; where myth is wedded
to method; where for the first time the synthesizing mind crystallizes
and mirrors itself in ironic-mystical fashion. After that we had
Nietzsche, who has not been discovered as a critic even now, when we
mummify him as a hero or work him up as scholarship. We still have
criticism today, even if*as good old custom requires*it is not
acknowledged or is not allowed to be acknowledged as such. We simply
want to have only poets. But how is one to do justice to a Franz Blei or
a Borchardt if one doesn't take them as critics, as creative critics
(and hence also destructive)? If we could bring ourselves to erect a
temple of criticism on the German Parnassus*only Utopian dreamers could
demand a section for criticism in the German Academy of Literature*then
the rank of Alfred Kerr might at last be properly ascertained; this
sovereign intellect and founder of values who, from a historical
standpoint, has been the sole but perfectly adequate justification for
the existence of hundreds of bad plays: that is, to say that they were
bad, to say it with such brilliance and trenchancy; and to use the
occasion to say so many other, more interesting things that have nothing
to do with the matter.

It is not merely a western European, it is, we may hope, also a German
phenomenon that criticism is assuming a new and productive function
within the economy of the intellectual energies of our age. It cannot be
otherwise if we wish to accept this age, with its exploration of
consciousness, its syncretism, its emerging ecumenical, cosmopolitan


And if it really were an epoch of Hellenism? Would that be so bad as
people often suppose? Those five or six hundred years from Menander to
Lucian, from Theocritus to Plotinus, from Callimachus to the Pervigilium
Veneris, those ages of Alexander, of the Ptolemies, of the Julians and
the Antonines *should they really still need "saving"? Many a later age,
and not the worst, has turned with longing toward their ripe abundance,
their autumnal sweetness, toward the breadth of vision and freedom of
choice of late Antiquity, where every desire could find its wisdom.

This is the horizon against which I see Eliot's poetry. Eliot is an
Alexandrian poet in the strictest sense of the word*as such a poet can
and must look today. He is first of all an erudite poet. He knows the
languages, the literatures, the techniques. His works are adorned with
the jewels of quotation, with reminiscences of his reading. He does
precisely what the Alexandrians and Romans did, except that he indicates
his sources directly in a footnote. His poetry draws its sustenance from
the late Latins, the Trecentisti, the Elizabethans, and the French
Symbolists. Philologists might learn from his work the artistic
significance of this technique of mosaic: how personal experience is
enhanced, suffused, illuminated when it is registered by the discerning
memory. Ages and styles coalesce into magical substance. It is the
poetry of an expert, and only the expert will get the best out of it.
But to be an expert, an expert in literature, would be contemptible only
if literature itself were contemptible. For literature without tradition
is destiny without history*uncomprehended, unpossessed. Only original
geniuses could take offense at this idea or maintain even further that
literature and life are antitheses. Literature is a form of life: a form
by which it can be enjoyed, known, and overcome.

Poetry of this kind operates with the highest awareness of its art. It
knows all the means and all the effects. According to his purpose Eliot
will choose free verse, blank verse, rhymed verse. The rhythmic curve
feels out precisely the curve of the emotion. In The Waste Land nothing
is chance or pure inspiration. One might have that impression because
the poem is so obscure. But this obscurity, too, is deliberate. It is
one of the stylistic elements of all secondary poetry. It is present in
Hellenism, in the troubadours (where, as trobar clus, it was held in
high esteem); it is present in Dante and in Mallarme. The purpose of
this obscurity is to scare off the superficial reader, but it is also to
reinforce the symbols, to deepen the mystery. It was this obscurity that
prompted the troubadours, and Dante as well, to comment on some of their
own works; so that when Eliot appends notes, he is only taking up again
a time-honored practice.

Finally, Eliot has a third trait in common with the Alexandrians: his
learning in mythology. Eliot himself tells us that he is indebted to the
anthropological research of Frazer and Jessie Weston for the title,
plan, and symbolism of his work. We shall go into that later. Apart from
anything particular we are fascinated by the general situation that for
the poet, with his sensibility and receptiveness, the miracle-plant of
eternal religion can spring from the soil of philological and historical

Our religion, inasmuch as we still have one, is a spiritualized
religion. The religions of the ancient world, however, were
predominantly religions of life. Even after the great god Pan had died,
they were not yet dead. They survived through centuries and millennia,
partly in the form of heresies which sought an accommodation with
Christian dogma, spiritualizing on gnostic principles the old life cult;
partly in secret fellowships; and partly as customs, legends, and
traditions which had been emptied of meaning and had lost the memory of
their origin. The Church has always done everything in its power to
repress and extirpate them: by force (through persecutions of heretics);
by method (through eradication of documents, reinterpretation of
traditions); by reform (under which must be included both Reformation
and Counter-Reformation). What this work of annihilation destroyed
cannot be estimated. But it could not destroy everything. Again and
again a longing for the mysteries made itself felt, for a religious
consciousness which should embrace nature as well as spirit, for a new
initiation into the cult of the life powers. Goethe hinted at it in his
poem Die Geheimnisse [The Mysteries], in Faust's rejuvenation, in the
journey to the Mothers. Novalis, in his Hymnen an die Nacht [Hymns to
the Night], proclaims a Christianity in which Dionysian enthusiasm is
united with Catholic Mariolatry; a Christianity in which all the beauty
of Hellas, all the wisdom of the East is not only preserved but actually
realized for the first time:

Die Sternwelt wird zerfliessen 
Zum goldnen Lebenswein. 
Wir werden sie geniessen 
Und lichte Sterne sein. 
Die Lieb' ist frei gegeben 
Und keine Trennung mehr. 
Es wogt das voile Leben 
Wie ein unendlich Meer....
[The starry world will dissolve into golden wine of
life. We shall drink it with joy and become bright
stars ourselves. Love is freely given, and separation
at an end. Life billows in all its fullness like
an infinite sea ]

It is that third kingdom, that everlasting gospel of Christianity, which
had already appeared to the heresies of Antiquity and the Middle Ages as
the light at the end of their journey.

From debris and oblivion the scholarship of the last hundred years has
rescued much that the tradition of the Church had consigned to
extinction. In ecclesiastical history men like Harnack have brought us
the insight*in H. v. Soden's fine formulation*"that heresy is not a
caricature but a component of Catholicism."(10). Classical and Oriental
philology, in close collaboration, have shed new light on our view of
postclassical syncretism. Research in ethnology and
anthropology*stimulated by Jacob Grimm, advanced by Wilhelm
Mannhardt's Feld-und Waldkulte (1875-1877)*has recognized and
interpreted the survival of pre-Christian religious practices up until
our own times. Upon Mannhardt is based Sir James George Frazer's The
Golden Bough (from 1890 to 1922, several editions and revisions), and
Frazer's work was carried on and expanded in valuable studies like Jane
Harrison's Themis (1912) and Jessie L. Weston's From Ritual to Romance

A strong influence has been exerted by this English branch of studies in
comparative religion (in England customarily designated by the
misleading term anthropology) upon recent English literature. Without a
knowledge of these connections The Waste Land cannot be understood at

Impressive as is the achievement of modern work in comparative religion,
it has, by the very nature of the case, been accomplished from the point
of view of the modern scientific consciousness, which in its main
varieties of liberalism, historicism, and positivism, is essentially
irreligious or at most religious only in a pallid moral sense. The aim
of comparative religion is to confront customs, explain myths and
rituals, delimit spheres of religious conceptions, establish influences.
It hands its material over to libraries and museums. But this material
was alive once, these conceptions were certainties, these rites had
power, and these mysteries were the gate by which the adept ascended to
higher planes of life. The monuments of comparative religion are nothing
but the petrified and fragmentary remains, in stone or script, of a
religious life that had its reality only in covenants and cults, and
that was consummated in initiation, apotheosis, ecstasy, and the
transcendence of life and death. They are evidences of a race of men
still bound to the earth and to the stars, and they can reveal their
significance only to those who, even in these "times without gods," have
preserved some trace of these primary religious powers. They resemble
shriveled flower bulbs, which can blossom into life if planted in a bed
of warm soil. This warm soil is the soul of the poet.


What is the result of such a fertilization? Well, surely no rebirth of
ancient mysteries. We can no longer raise altars or cultivate gardens to
Adonis. That a poet like Eliot may once again hear echoes of a long
vanished world does not make him either a priest or an initiate. No, he
is a poet and a man of this age, and he knows its thoughts and its
dissensions, its restless city-life, its wage slavery, its suburban
ugliness, its prostitution, and its snobbishness. But Psyche is alive
even in this world. Even in this desolate land the soul lives and can
pray with the Psalmist: "Deus meus, Deus meus, ad te de luce vigilo.
Sitivit in te anima mea, quam multipliciter tibi caro mea in terra
deserta et invia et inaquosa" ["O God, thou art my God; early will I
seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a
dry and thirsty land, where no water is"*Psalm 63]. The soul can abate
nothing of its wishes, its hopes, its fears. It thirsts for the waters
of life, it cowers at the darkness of death:

Animula vagula blandula, 
hospes comesque corporis, 
quae nunc abibis in loca, 
pallidula rigida nudula, 
nec ut soles dabis iocos!
["Dear wandering, charming little soul, guest and companion of the body,
whither will you go now, pale, rigid, naked little soul, and not crack
jokes as you used to do!"]

This soul is not only at home in our age but in every age. And if she
cannot find an echo amidst the noise of our time, she puts her ear to
the shell that resonates with the song of vanished ages, there to
hearken to the voice of her longing.

To sum up: Eliot is not a religious poet, but in our Americanized
age*the age of the Sweeneys(11) *he has rediscovered the primary form
of religious symbolism and used it to express Psyche's passion and

It will now be necessary to state some of the main conclusions reached
by the English studies in comparative religion on which Eliot has drawn.
The work of Mannhardt and Frazer directed attention to the significance
of the vegetation cults. The Syrian Adonis, the Phrygian Attis, the
Egyptian Osiris are vegetation gods. The death and resurrection of these
deities symbolizes the cycle of growth and decay in nature. The
fertility of nature is conceived as dependent upon the vital curve of a
god or godlike being, and occasionally even of a king or
priest-king.(12) Such a being is inhabited by the cosmic life-principle.
Tree-cults, rain magic, maypoles, harvest festivals are all associated
with it.

Miss Weston, known to specialists for decades as an authority in the
complicated field of Grail studies, and inspired by Frazer, Jane
Harrison, Leopold von Schroder et al, was able to
demonstrate*convincingly, to my mind*that the Grail legend derives
neither from a Christian legend nor from a folkloristic marchen motif
(the enchanted cup or vessel), but rather from an ancient nature cult
which, at the time of the Hellenic-Christian religious mingling, was
incorporated into the symbolism of the cult of the Eucharist and then
survived esoterically for centuries until, merging with the cycle of
Celtic legends about King Arthur and his Round Table, it penetrated,
along with this cycle, the matter of the courtly romance, finally to
lose altogether, in its latest versions, its original meaning, owing in
part to the misunderstandings of uninitiated jongleurs, in part to a
systematic correction in the sense of clerical orthodoxy.(13)

The original version of the Grail legend tells of a young hero who comes
to a barren land in which the water has dried up and nothing can grow.
The lord of the land, the ailing fisher-king, inhabits a mysterious
castle whose knights receive material and spiritual nourishment whenever
the miraculous vessel of the Grail manifests itself. Spear and cup are
always seen in connection with the appearances of the Grail. The task of
the hero*regardless of whether he succeeds or not*is to heal the
fisher-king and so to redeem the parched land, which is withering
because of the king's infirmity.

What is this infirmity? Some versions veil it in euphemism, others say
it outright: it is the loss of male potency, in other words, it has the
same meaning as the mutilation of the Phrygian Attis and the mortal
wounding of the Syrian and Cyprian Adonis by the boar.

Why do lance and cup appertain to the symbolism of the Grail and of the
fisher-king? This combination of symbols is unknown to Christian
literary and artistic tradition. Attempts have been made to prove their
origins in the spear of Longinus and the chalice of the mass. But these
attempts have been unsatisfactory. The question is resolved simply if
lance and cup are taken as life symbols, as male and female sexual
symbols. This symbolism antedates Christianity and lies outside it. It
belongs to the magic archetypal symbolism; but there it is further
associated with two other symbols: the sword and the dish.

The ensemble of these four symbols may have an esoteric efficacy and
validity even today. Exoterically, however, it has sunk to the lowest
level: it is found in the suits of playing cards. The Tarot pack had 870
cards, distributed among four colors: hearts=cup; diamonds=spear;
spades=sword; clubs=dish (also pentagram). Initiates are still familiar
with the meaning of these symbols. There are good indications that
playing cards were imported from Egypt by the gypsies.

I mention all this only to explain the significance of cartomancy*Mme.
Sosostris*and the Tarot pack in Eliot's work.

But what does the fisher-king mean? He is one of those semihuman,
semidivine creatures on whose vitality the fertility of the land
depends. He is a life and vegetation daemon. The fish is a life symbol
of utmost antiquity (corroborations for which can be found in
psychoanalysis). The Temple of Astarte in Ascalon was surrounded by
flocks of doves and by fishponds. It was prohibited to catch the
fish*except for certain ritual meals at which fish was eaten by the
priests and initiates in order to unite with the lives of the gods.
These meals were held on Friday as the day sacred to Astarte and later
to Venus*hence vererdi, vendredi. The Jews, probably during the
Babylonian exile, adopted the custom of eating fish on Friday.

The secret of the Grail lies in the fusion of ancient life-cults with
the Christian mysteries, a fusion that was probably a component of an
esoteric tradition. It happens that we possess a document attesting this
tradition, die so-called Naassene sermon, which was transmitted by
Bishop Hippolytus (220) in his Philosophumena, a polemic against
heretics. The Naassenes combined the (Iranian?) myth of the celestial
original man and his son*from which the Biblical expression "son of man"
also seems to be derived*with the Attis cult and the belief in Christ as
chosen to fulfill the entire process of cosmic redemption. They taught
that the beginning of perfection was the gnosis of man, but that the
gnosis of God was perfect perfection.(14) They distinguished between the
little and the great mysteries. The former are those of fleshly
generation. "When men have been initiated into these, they should cease
for a while and become initiated into the great, heavenly mysteries . .
. , for this is the gate of heaven and the house of God, where the good
God dwells alone, into whose house no one impure shall enter."(15)

This is followed in the document by an Attis hymn. The conclusions
reads, however: "And of all men we alone are Christians and fulfill the
mystery at the Third Gate."(16)

The question that has interested students of comparative religion in
this text is, of what and how many strata of various provenience does it
consist, and how many redactors have worked on it. For the study of
comparative religion this is worth knowing. But for religion it is worth
knowing that this text reproduces a unified experience, albeit one drawn
from many sources, of a pagan-Christian fellowship in the mysteries.
What to the eye of history appears as syncretism is, regarded
phenomenologically, a complex oppositorum; a unity in multiplicity; a
life. And of this age-old life of the mysteries the Grail legend is a
last*or provisionally last*literary residuum. Who can tell whether the
heretical esotericism that brought destruction upon the Order of the
Templars may not be related to it in origin?


No one who understands poetry will suppose that Eliot's work is nothing
but an ornamental tissue of motifs from comparative religion. The only
reason why Eliot could employ these motifs was that they expressed
certain essential elements in his own psychological situation,
reinforcing and concealing them at the same time. But this situation
comprises more and other things as well. Eliot's poem is motivated by
the two great afflictions of the soul*sexual love and death. These are
the poles around which revolve the thoughts and struggles of all those
who cannot rest content with the traditional solutions of Christianity
and the available stores of worldly wisdom. Eros and Thanatos are the
gods of the hooded gaze before whose images the modern soul prays,
laments, questions, and sacrifices. Eliot is modern because he sees and
speaks of everything physical, defiling, anxious, horrible, and
grotesque that has to do with love and death. To label this as
materialism would be a grave misconception. Materialism and spiritualism
are no longer antitheses in our world. What contemporary poet is still
capable of separating body and soul? Perhaps this very separation, which
seemed so certain to past centuries that it was taken for granted, was
itself a symptom of decay. And perhaps the very fact that it is no
longer valid for us affords a guarantee that a new type of man is
developing who has once more achieved integration.

Anyone who still refuses to see the reality, the ugliness and the beauty
of this flesh-spirit human condition to which we are bound will have
little to say to us today. Whether this reality and unity is experienced
as more depressing or more elating in character will undoubtedly always
be a matter of personal temperament and type. With Eliot the depressive
element predominates. He is of those for whom everything earthly reeks
of the charnel house. The rat plagues and torments his imagination. He
has an obsession with decay that expresses itself partly as poetry,
partly as cynicism*both are manifestations of suffering. This earthly
residue which is "impure" does not signify a delight in filth. It
represents the old Christian consciousness of sin in the modern soul.
And like this consciousness it goes hand in hand with a spirituality
that longs for seraphic worlds. It would be enough to cite Baudelaire in
this connection. We ought to be more careful generally in our use of the
word realism. There is a kind of realism that seems to be a necessary
component of ecstatic religiosity. One has only to think of Tintoretto.
The putrescent horrors depicted in his Last Judgment in Santa Maria
dell'Orto are brought to mind by certain of Eliot's verses. Others make
one think of Brueghel. There are drawings by him that could be set
beside the last section of The Waste Land.

The waste land, the desolate, barren, rocky, terrible land, is our age.
This at any rate is one side of the symbol that cannot be ignored. It is
an age of self-despair, in all its hopelessness, its deadly lassitude,
its memories of the song and story and beauty of former ages which it is
almost too ashamed of itself to dare to recall. It reduces all grandeur
to a common grimace. It thought it could rise to heroism through war.
But the outcome is the banality and ugliness of daily life to which the
demobilized soldier returns. This age has turned the ancient arts of
magic and divination into the sordid practice of card reading; has made
of the Phoenician sailor an unshaven Smyrna merchant trading in
currants. Eliot's poem is a lament for all the misery and fear of this
age. It breathes the same air of desperation that constitutes the
substratum of Proust and Valery: that sense of universal collapse that
prompted Joyce to introduce "the End of the World" into the
hallucinatory procession in one of the scenes of Ulysses. It is the mood
of the concluding lines of Eliot's poem:

This is the way the world ends 
This is the way the world ends 
This is the way the world ends 
Not with a bang but a whimper.

All this had to be suffered, suffered to the bitter end. The pangs of
thirst, the barren stony wastes, the horrors of death had to be spoken.
Like the Sybil in Petronius, a poet would have to say: "I want to die."
The way to rebirth lies only through this mortal agony.

This mortal agony is already lit up, in Eliot, by the first faint
dawning of a new consciousness. I am referring to that new consciousness
of our age which knows the synthesis beyond the antitheses. It is,
properly speaking, a mystical consciousness. The last section of The
Waste Land may be read as a journey to the hereafter. Such things are
being written again. Psyche wanders through unearthly regions. The
"little life in dried tubers" has a presentiment, however obscure, of
future germination. He who has felt his life to be united with the
general rhythm of growth, who has recognized his own passion in that of
the ancient vegetation gods, has passed through the gates of death into
the land of the beyond. Death and life are no longer antitheses to him.
He has come to know a third condition that is neither

Your shadow at morning striding behind you 
Nor your shadow at evening rising to meet you.

The old distinctions no longer apply. Past and present are
contemporaneous. The seer who once sat at the gates of Thebes is the
same who is present in the shabby room of the London typist. He,
Tiresias, has experienced in his own person the changes of time and the
changes of sex*"venus huic erat utraque nota." He knows that the
division into male and female is not permanent either. The original
man*Adam as well as the Anthropos of the Gnostics*was not aware of
it. Individuation is an illusion. All the women in the poem are,
according to Eliot's explanations, the same woman, just as the one-eyed
merchant of the Tarot cards melts into the trader in currants Mr.
Eugenides and into Phlebas the Phoenician.

All this seems unreal. But even this ultimate antithesis between
"reality" and "unreality" must be abolished. What is unreal need not on
that account be a fiction. It simply belongs to a different level of
existence. There are many such levels. The modern poet is familiar with
this superreality. He sees the dead streaming across London Bridge, sees
Elizabeth and Leicester on their gilded barge, he sees the cities in the
land of the beyond; and our cities become unreal:

Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
Vienna London

The more often I read Eliot's poem, the more sense and music I discover
in it. What I have said about it is only a fragment. . . . Eliot's
aesthetic theories especially ought still to be discussed. But that
would have to be done in connection with his critical writings. I shall
save it for a later occasion. May it suffice if I have led a few readers
to the poet.



1 Alfred A. Knopf (New York, 1920).
2 Hogarth Press (Paradise Road, Richmond, Surrey).
3 Faber & Gwyer Ltd. (London). 
4 Methuen & Co. (London, 1920).
5 Hogarth Press (London). 
6 Faber & Gwyer (London).
7 The Waste Land was translated into French by Jean de Menasce and
published in the first issue of Esprit (F. Rieder & Cie., Paris, 1926).
8 Hogarth Press (London, 1926).
9 My translation appeared in 1927 in the Neue Schweizer Rundschau (newly
reprinted in the Neue Rundschau, 1950), and now in T. S. Eliot,
Ausgewahlte Gedichte. Englisch und deutsch (Suhrkamp, Frankfurt).
10 From which it would he possible to conclude, of course, that one must
be a Catholic and a heretic at the same time.
11 Sweeney is the name Eliot gives to the American man of practical
reality. He is a recurring figure in Eliot's poems and also appears in
The Waste Land.
12 According to Frazer, monarchy is of magical origin. Traces of
it in Roman religion are the legend of Numa and Egeria as well as
the priestly offices of the rex sacrificulus (in Rome) and above all of
the rex nemorensis (by the lake of Nemi). The latter institution, with
its highly archaic features, is attested as late as the period of the
Empire, and constituted the starting-point for Frazer's investigations.
Renan treated it in his drama Le Pretre de Nemi (1885). In England
and France, too, the monarchy preserved vestiges of the magical
conception for a long time. As recently as the seventeenth century
one of the King's functions was to cure scrofula by the laying on of
hands. The republic means a "dis-enchantment" of the state.
13 As might have been expected, official Grail scholarship, working only
with philological and literary-historical methods, has rejected Miss
Weston's conception.
14 Hippolytus Werke, ed. Wendland, vol. 3 (1916), 78.
15 Ibid. p. 97. 
16 Ibid. p. 102.

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