Print

Print


 . . . breeding lilacs out of the dead land
I haven't had the pleasure of breathing in that special aroma that is
lilacs in over 15 years.  There is no dead land, i.e. winter and thus,
lilacs do not bloom here, here in the land of forever spring and summer.
 When I did reside in the land of the lilacs, Easter meant spring to me and
warmth, air that I could actually breathe in.  But that all too brief span
of time that contained the lilacs and the roses were not sufficient for my
high temperature needs and so I deserted the lilacs and content myself with
jasmine.


On Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 9:54 PM, Chanan Mittal <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> THE WASTE LAND - a Christian perspective
>
> In the modern-day secular scenario, the opening voice in 'The Waste Land,'
> a deeply Christian one, agonizes over the abysmal absence of the Christian
> sense of spring, of Easter and all the sacrosanct memories associated with
> it. What meets the eye is a world asleep to, and oblivious of, all that
> constitutes the discipline, the joy, and the glory of Easter.
>
> April is the cruellest month, breeding
> Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
> Memory and desire, stirring
> Dull roots with spring rain.
> Winter kept us warm, covering
> Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
> A little life with dried tubers.
> Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
> With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
> And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
> And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
> Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
> And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,
> My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
> And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
> Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
> In the mountains, there you feel free.
> I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
>
> Implicitly, the contemporary secular scenario evokes a strong contrast
> with Chaucer's April with its "showers sweet" that engender a strong
> spiritual urge in the inhabitants of a Christian land.
>
> The passage which follows (Eliot's notes direct us to Ezekiel 2:7 and
> Ecclesiastes 12:5) makes a befitting Christian response to the secular
> scenario depicted in the opening passage.
>
> What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
> Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
> You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
> A 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. Only
> There is shadow under this red rock,
> (Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
> And I will show you something different from either
> Your shadow at morning striding behind you
> Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
> I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
>
> Remarkably the opening lines, "April is the cruellest month, breeding /
> Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire" have their
> counterpart in 'Gerontion,' a poem intended by Eliot to preface The Waste
> Land:
>
> In the juvescence of the year
> Came Christ the tiger
>
> In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,
> To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk
> Among whispers
>
> Sections II and III, A Game of Chess and The Fire Sermon are wholly given
> to the inferno that inflicts the domestic and social fronts.
>
> Even though the title of section III, The Fire Sermon is derived from
> Buddha, its elaboration is in terms of a Western society viewed by a
> Christian who can draw upon his erudition of diverse lores:
>
> Et O ces voix d’enfants, chantant dans la coupole!
>
> A Christian longing is at the heart of The Waste Land:
>
> O City city, I can sometimes hear
> Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,
> The pleasant whining of a mandoline
> And a clatter and a chatter from within
> Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
> Of Magnus Martyr hold
> Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.
>
> It is not a coincidence that The Fire Sermon culminates in a vision of St
> Augustine engulfed by the fires of lust:
>
> To Carthage then I came
>
> Burning burning burning burning
> O Lord Thou pluckest me out
> O Lord Thou pluckest
>
> burning
>
> Remarkably the admonition with which Death by Water closes is administered
> to Gentiles and Jews, denizens of a Christian world:
>
>                                    Gentile or Jew
> O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
> Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
>
> The "memory and desire" associated with Easter at the outset of the poem
> find expression in What the Thunder Said in terms of the passion of Christ:
>
> After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
> After the frosty silence in the gardens
> After the agony in stony places
> The shouting and the crying
> Prison and palace and reverberation
> Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
> He who was living is now dead
> We who were living are now dying
> With a little patience
>
> It is followed by a yearning for the waters, both literal and metaphoric,
> that would redeem the land:
>
> Here is no water but only rock
> Rock and no water and the sandy road
> The road winding above among the mountains
> Which are mountains of rock without water
> If there were water we should stop and drink
> Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
> Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
> If there were only water amongst the rock
> Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
> Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
> There is not even silence in the mountains
> But dry sterile thunder without rain
> There is not even solitude in the mountains
> But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
> From doors of mudcracked houses
>                                       If there were water
>    And no rock
>    If there were rock
>    And also water
>    And water
>    A spring
>    A pool among the rock
>    If there were the sound of water only
>    Not the cicada
>    And dry grass singing
>    But sound of water over a rock
>    Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
>    Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
>    But there is no water
>
> There is the "memory" too of Christ's resurrection:
>
> Who is the third who walks always beside you?
> When I count, there are only you and I together
> But when I look ahead up the white road
> There is always another one walking beside you
> Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
> I do not know whether a man or a woman
> —But who is that on the other side of you?
>
> There is the grim and frightening scenario of Europe in the grip of a war
> with a secular civilization breaking apart.
>
> The Christian quest ends with the arrival at a chapel, neglected in a
> secular world, only the wind's home. A highly symbolic crowing of the cock
> brings a damp gust that brings rain.
>
> The Christian quest theme is then reinforced by drawing upon the wisdom of
> the East in terms of what the Thunder said.
>
> The protagonist of the poem who took on different voices in the course of
> the poem resolves to redeem his lands in the light of the wisdom drawn from
> various lores.
>
> With a final recapitulation of the fragments he has shored against his
> ruins he prepares to put them together to restore fertility to the land.
>
> Not without a reaffirmation of the wisdom and a prayer for peace.
>
> CR
>