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The Hollow Men has always been a bore for me -- but Vendler's  commentary
makes me rethink it. What  do others think?

Here is that part of her review:


Self-definition by trade or profession is expressed with such sarcasm by
Eliot because there exists no worldly trade-name for a poet. The poet-or at
least this poet-is a hollow man, having neither a commercial profession nor
a religious vocation, balked of both. Once The Waste Land had been
completed, and the broken self was evacuated, Eliot writes his own 
(collective) epitaph: 

We are the hollow men 
We are the stuffed men 
Leaning together 
Headpiece filled with straw, 
Alas! Our dried voices, when 
We whisper together 
Are quiet and meaningless 
As wind in dry grass 
Or rats' feet over broken glass 
In our dry cellar 

Paralyzed, the hollow men cannot actualize any potential, sexual or
creative; their every effort is blocked, their very lines falter: 

Between the desire 
And the spasm 
Between the potency 
And the existence 
Between the essence 
And the descent 
Falls the Shadow. 

The voice falls silent after a futile attempt to finish the Lord's Prayer,
breaking up in static as it utters its final whimper: 

For thine is 
Life is 
For 
Thine is the 

Beneath Eliot's letters in the second volume-so preoccupied with journalism
on the left and marital horror on the right-one hears the hollow men's
meaningless whispers. Eliot is heading toward religion, but is unable as yet
to carry a religious utterance through to finality. In a letter in 1925 to
Herbert Read, Eliot sets out the dangers of pursuing a religious identity: 

Of course the religious difficulty is the great one and it is impossible to
tell what one's solution will be....