Dear Peter,

You are not alone in this. Almost every critic even before and during
the religious phrase has had to deal with Eliot's antipathy to sex and
human love. 

It is one of the ironies of his life that his only adult happiness did,
in fact, come from that when he finally found it in his 60s with
Valerie. And it produced only one poem, a pretty awful one. He never
wrote a love poem except that. But the early poetry is full of loathing
of women (for a much more hateful version, see the representation of
Fresca in the Facsimile, which Pound had the sense to cut with a fairly
harsh dismissal. Fresca is called "a doorstep dunged by every dog in
town"--very loving. Interestingly, though, there is a kind of sympathy
for the sorrows of women in the treatment of the typist and the Thames
daughters--or perhaps not, depending on how one reads it. But Eliot did
add and then remove allusions to Dido, a story that always seemed to
haunt him--even in 1944. It is a very complicated topic, clearly. But it
is not about a man loving a woman except generally in images of guilt,
like that of Aeneas in the underworld.

Also there is nothing of love in "La Figlia che Piange" unless one
counts the sorrow of the young girl, whom the narrator contemplates
abandoning and considers in terms of its aesthetic interest. And
ironically the passage on the rose garden was written in a description
of his trip to Burnt Norton with Emily Hale. He did imagine he loved her
for some time but came to feel he could not, but that poem is not about
loving her. It is about what did not happen. None of the passages below
is about love except the last, and that is divine love, not human love
except as it is in Dante's heaven. 

4Q is also, of course, written during and is partly about War. In this
case WWII when Eliot was a fire watcher. And his allusions in "Little
Gidding" to the "king at nightfall" are about England's civil war that
ended in the beheading of Charles I. Charles spent his last safe night
at "Little Gidding."

>>> Peter Dillane 08/09/13 8:56 PM >>>
Hey CR, 
I don't see Eliot's poetry as a treatise on love. 

Of course love - in human affairs and in theological affairs - is turned
over a great lot by Eliot but it is subordinate to a controlling
intellect with other wholly inward looking concerns.

For example I suggest that the moment of gentle personal address : "Your
heart would have responded gaily"
is changed utterly by "when invited, beating obedient to controlling

I own to a blind spot with respect to the theologically driven melding
of fire and love in the crowned knot of fire but I remain unconvinced
that the faithful really can sort out Luke's Jesus with his fire he
wishes were already burning. 

I will only start a shitfight about the status of the artist's life in
discussion of works if I mention Emily Hale but let me try an
observation from the text that his representation of Celia Coplestone's
death which he self censored ( the painting with ant bait idea )
suggests a remoteness from the dynamic of affection that I would respect
more if he demanded the lines stayed in the play.

Cheers Pete

On 10/08/2013, at 10:01 AM, Chokh Raj wrote:

Incidentally, a note that throbs through and through Eliot's poetry:

She turned away, but with the autumn weather 

Compelled my imagination many days, 

Many days and many hours: 

Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers. 20

And I wonder how they should have been together! 

I should have lost a gesture and a pose. 

Sometimes these cogitations still amaze 

The troubled midnight and the noon’s repose. 


I would meet you upon this honestly. 

I that was near your heart was removed therefrom 55

To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition. 

I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it 

Since what is kept must be adulterated? 

I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch: 

How should I use it for your closer contact? 


“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago; 35

They called me the hyacinth girl.” 

*Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden, 

Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not 

Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither 

Living nor dead, and I knew nothing, 40

Looking into the heart of light, the silence.


Is it like this

In death’s other kingdom

Waking alone

At the hour when we are

Trembling with tenderness

Lips that would kiss

Form prayers to broken stone. 

The eyes are not here

There are no eyes here

In this valley of dying stars

In this hollow valley

This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms


Because I know that time is always time

And place is always and only place

And what is actual is actual only for one time

And only for one place

I rejoice that things are as they are and

I renounce the blessèd face

And renounce the voice

Because I cannot hope to turn again


Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened

Into the rose-garden. 

In fine, love and a progression on love, culminating in a note of union 

of the human and the divine love: 

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.


We must also keep in mind Eliot's later description of the poem as “the
relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life * just
a piece of rhythmical grumbling." It only confirms that the poem was
essentially a lament on the loss of love. 


From: Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask] 
Sent: Friday, August 9, 2013 12:58 PM
Subject: Re: Eliot and WWI

PS - fructify life and redeem it in terms of divine love


Forgive my rushing in but I just wished to say that I'd concur with Tom.

Just a word, vis-a-vis Tom's observations, about Dante's Inferno that
keeps coming to my mind vis-a-vis TWL. Hell to Dante was, in effect, the
absence of 'love' with all its attributes including those Eliot lists in
What the Thunder Said: Datta (Surrender in love), Dayadhvam (the
opposite of pride/ego), and Damyata (Control). Eliot's wasteland is a
waste essentially because it is devoid of love, and it is this alone
(i.e. love) by which we //fructify life//.