It is difficult to say exactly what I mean, to quote Prufrock.

Well, to suggest is to create, to state is to destroy.
So I had better desist from reducing poetry to prose.
That would indeed be a heresy.
So you'll kindly excuse me for making this vain attempt.


On Aug 23, 2013, at 9:20 AM, Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I must hasten to correct myself, though.  

Whereas Socrates tells us about what is the highest good and what is not, 
'The Waste Land' dilates upon what is redeeming and what is not. 


a word for what it is worth, though there's nothing new in this

In continuation with what Tom Colket has culled from the Philebus dialog, I'd say that DEATH BY WATER coming at the end of THE FIRE SERMON is a recapitulation of all that has gone before in terms of the Socratic wisdom on 'memory' and 'desire'. Water as 'desire' (as lust, pleasure) is a destructive element, and water as 'memory' (wisdom and love and all that is good) is a purifying and regenerative agent. Hence the admonition at the end of the brief section: 

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,  
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep seas swell  
And the profit and loss.  
                          A current under sea 315
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell  
He passed the stages of his age and youth  
Entering the whirlpool.  
                          Gentile or Jew  
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, 320
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you. 

The wheel of time and fortune runs its inexorable course.


From: Tom Colket <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Friday, August 23, 2013 8:03 AM
Subject: Re: TWL as ground.

P> And forlorn Phlebas gets a name and a whole section of the poem all to hisself. 
P> Unique ol' feller, ain't 'e?


I'm not sure if your post is just a general comment, or if you're asking why Phlebas has that particular name and what function he serves in the two Eliot poems. I'll assume you're asking . . .

The best answer to the "name question" that I've found comes from Arrowsmith (who was a classics scholar and a translator as well as a literature professor). He identified the name as coming from a Plato dialog called "Philebus." The line about Phlebas being "as handsome and tall as you" likely alludes to this part of the Philebus:

SOCRATES: Are there not three ways in which ignorance of self may be

PROTARCHUS: What are they?

SOCRATES: In the first place, about money; the ignorant may fancy
himself richer than he is.

PROTARCHUS: Yes, that is a very common error.

SOCRATES: And still more often he will fancy that he is taller or fairer
than he is, or that he has some other advantage of person which he
really has not.

PROTARCHUS: Of course.

SOCRATES: And yet surely by far the greatest number err about the goods
of the mind; they imagine themselves to be much better men than they

PROTARCHUS: Yes, that is by far the commonest delusion.


//The Philebus dialog deals with whether the highest good is found in "pleasure" or in "wisdom," which is surely a concern in TWL. Also, the TWL idea of "memory and desire" is a major topic of the Philebus dialog, introduced like this: 

Philebus was saying that enjoyment and pleasure and delight, and the class of feelings akin to them, are a good to every living being, whereas I contend, that not these, but wisdom and intelligence and memory, and their kindred, right opinion and true reasoning, are better and more desirable than pleasure for all who are able to partake of them, and that to all such who are or ever will be they are the most advantageous of all things.  //

-- Tom --

Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2013 13:50:56 -0700
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: TWL as ground.
To: [log in to unmask]

And forlorn Phlebas gets a name and a whole section of the poem all to hisself. Unique ol' feller, ain't 'e?

Tom Colket <[log in to unmask]> wrote:


In the essay I mentioned, Arrowsmith is writing about "Dans le Restaurant," not TWL. Phlebas is still Phoenician in "Dans."  I understand that the two poems are very different, and that the reasons TSE had for using certain images may have varied completely from poem to poem. However, the fact that Phlebas is Phoenician in "Dans" has to be explained.

I don't see how the theme of empire has anything to do with "Dans le Restaurant." In "Dans" at least, I think Arrowsmith is right when he says that Eliot is signaling to the reader that the themes explored in that poem are as old as recorded history, are an inescapable part of our shared human nature.

-- Tom --

Date: Wed, 21 Aug 2013 14:34:47 -0400
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: TWL as ground.
To: [log in to unmask]

Also, in a larger context, Mylae was the first war in which the Romans defeated the Carthagenians at sea. That was a key to their expansion into empire. Carthage was settled by Phoenicians. So Arrowsmith is on a useful track, but I do not think it is about the generalization of all wars. Again, the explanation is long, but as I noted just in the last post, there is a very good essay on why that geography matters. I can find it when I go back from London if anyone is still on this.

>>> Tom Colket 08/21/13 12:26 PM >>>
P> Those are ancillary elements which reinforce Phoenecia but they don't say why.


I want to highly recommend an essay on Eliot's "Dans le Restaurant" (which contains Eliot's first reference to Phlebas the Phoenician). The essay, written by the late Professor William Arrowsmith, is "Daedal Harmonies: A Dialogue on Eliot and the Classics," Southern Review 13 (1977) 1-47.

In that essay, Arrowsmith postulates several ideas about why Phlebas is Phoenician. Arrowsmith's main idea is that Eliot is taking us back as far as written literature can go. As noted in Wikipedia "The Phoenicians were the first state-level society to make extensive use of the alphabet. The Phoenician phonetic alphabet is generally believed to be the ancestor of almost all modern alphabets." Arrowsmith views the Phoenician reference as similar to the reference to Mylae, an ancient war, bringing up the idea that "this has all happened before; this is the human condition."

-- Tom --

Date: Wed, 21 Aug 2013 02:14:38 -0700
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: TWL as ground.
To: [log in to unmask]

Those are ancillary elements which reinforce Phoenecia but they don't say why.

Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Because Dido was Phoenician, and there had been a long passage on Dido and Aeneas, and because Carthage was first defeated at sea by Rome in the battle at Mylae. Among  many other reasons.

>>> P 08/20/13 11:44 PM >>>
Why Phoenician? He is another figure in the ground, but why Phoenician? Why not Egyptian? Greek? Roman?

Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

fact and artifact: vis-a-vis the postulate of the fugue

"Here, said she, is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor."

Well, it may as well be the poet who is "drowned" here, vis-a-vis his nervous breakdown, passing into a fugue in which state the "unconscious" wakes up to a mode of recollection and recreation. And even though there is always a correlation between "the man who suffers and the mind which creates,"  

Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.


Now this fugue postulate is corroborated by what the poet himself observed vis-a-vis the wasteland that was his first marriage: "To her the marriage brought no happiness to me it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land." It correlates "the man who suffers and the mind which creates."

TWL as ground, indeed, absolutely!


And yet I must compliment Peter Montgomery for this wonderful insight -- 
a state of fugue in which the 'unconscious' is free to cull up fragments
from its stock of memories and put them in an order that suits it best. 
When the poet recovers from that state he makes what he can of 
what the 'unconscious' has expressed. 


No, it does not leave to the reader to make whatever he/she would make of it. There are enough signposts. 

Of course, by 'madness' I meant whatever form it takes. 


On Aug 19, 2013, at 9:43 PM, Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> wrote: 
There is a method to this madness, if madness it be. 
It is just not random ramshackle curiosity shop.
It is a work of art.


On Aug 19, 2013, at 9:23 PM, P <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I'm not sure how relevant mental health analysis actually is. This is more of a fragmented cultures rammed together and laid out for whatever the reader synthesises.