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A MATURING UNDERSTANDING

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Guest
159129.  Fri Mar 23, 2007 6:08 am Reply with quote

T.S. Eliot, the famous poet, stayed at the Hotel St. Luce in Lausanne from 24 November 1921 until 2 January 1922. Then he returned to Paris. Lausanne, he wrote on 4 December, is a “very quiet town, except when children come downhill on scooters over the cobbles. Mostly banks and chocolate shops.” But it was there, amidst “banks and chocolate shops,” that Eliot finished his draft of what is arguably the most famous poem of the twentieth century, The Waste Land.1 While Eliot was in Lausanne ‘Abdu’l-Baha passed away. Eliot also wrote ten essays in 1921 while working on The Waste Land. It was a productive year for Eliot. -Ron Price with thanks to Lawrence Rainey, “Eliot Among the Typists: Writing The Waste Land,” Modernism/modernity, V.12 No1, 2003.

As you say, Thomas,
no intelligent writer
knows how good he is
and knows, too, that it
may well be for nothing.

There’s an intensity, pressure
to the artistic process procured
from and cured in the past, some
living whole of all that hath been,
where impressions and experiences
combining peculiarly, unexpected.

Now this poem you wrote, Thomas,
to get something off your chest--why
I’ve been doing that for years and it’s
still not off my chest; it still hasn’t fused--
this labour--with all of creation. But yours
fused, slowly after three god-men came and
went: civilization went on waiting for spring.

And so the breakdown of a social order,
interpenetration of fragments, incoherence,
vacuity, confused identity and no answers,
no centre in the chaotic wasteland of despair.
And now I write about your work out of gratitude.
It is a lifetime’s task of maturing understanding;
And now there is here a political thinking concerning
permanent principle, what is underneath, envisaging
some final state, a oneness of thought and action and
working out what to meddle with and to leave alone.1

1 T.S. Eliot, To Criticise The Critic, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, N.Y., 1965.-R Price, 23 March 2007.

 
Jenny
159429.  Fri Mar 23, 2007 1:52 pm Reply with quote

Thank you for that, and welcome to the forum, RonPrice :-)

I am a great admirer of Eliot's work, and I know JumpingJack is too, so I hope he sees this.

Fascinating article about Eliot by Craig Raine here.

 
samivel
159438.  Fri Mar 23, 2007 2:12 pm Reply with quote

Welcome :)

I'm a big fan of 'Toilets' as well, so thanks for that post, and for the link to the Craig Raine article.

 
Guest
159546.  Fri Mar 23, 2007 7:39 pm Reply with quote

The great majority of most groups, at least at this point in history, do not respond to the poet, whether he be a Shakespeare, a Dickinson or whoever "What matters," writes T.S. Eliot about the future influence of the poet, "is that there should always be at least a small audience for him in every generation." A small audience in this generation and who knows time will tell as far as future audiences are concerned. Inevitably, too, there will be varying reactions to a poet's work. There will be many vocabularies of encomium and opproprium that arise in reaction to poetry whoever writes it as the years go on. In the last analysis, of course, the reading of poetry exists in a private and secret presence. For the experience of literature, of poetry, is incommunicable; it is unable to speak. It can not be brought into the structure of criticism.

Northrop Frye states that criticism can not be brought into the direct experience of poetry. It seems to me that a book, poetry, of this kind can only be offered to a reader who has who has sympathy with its aims and a general interest in its content with enough sympathy to overlook its faults.

Matthew Arnold's views in his "The Study of Poetry" help us gain a perspective on Eliot for the future. Arnold says there are three sorts of "estimates" we make of a writer: the historic, the personal and the real. His contribution to the study, the understanding, of the past; the contemporary relevance to the present, the time the poet is being read; and the poetry "as in itself it really is." Enough!-RonPrice, Tasmania

 
Jenny
159556.  Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:39 pm Reply with quote

Over the years I have formulated a theory that goes '90% of everything is crap'. In evidence for this, I offer a look at a broader picture than the great writers, artists and musicians whose work either endures from the beginning or who is rediscovered by a later generation (such as, for example, Coleridge's rediscovery of Donne).

Many writers are highly esteemed at the time of publication, and fairly rapidly forgotten. Anybody read Mrs Humphrey Ward these days? Others are slow burners, likely to catch fire in the future. Some evoke a small but consistent response in every generation.

I think Eliot is often unpopular with people who can't cope with his particular brand of Christian mysticism, which in an essentially secular society goes over the heads of many. And yet you don't have to be a Christian to respond to the thoughts, and many of his poems capture his Zeitgeist perfectly and still have relevance today, when we are perhaps even more likely to shore up fragments against our ruin.

 
Guest
159558.  Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:51 pm Reply with quote

When Eliot wrote the Waste Land he was far from a Christian philosophy, religion or Zeitgeist. It was another 7 or 8 years before he adopted a Christian position. Perhaps one could say that "a rose smells the same by any name" and, one could extend that aphorism, to add that "some roses seem to be immersed in crap." Thanks for your post-Ron

 
samivel
159567.  Fri Mar 23, 2007 11:44 pm Reply with quote

In Eliot's case, some of his unpopularity is almost certainly down to his (perceived?) anti-Semitism and his elitism. And the fact that he isn't always instantly understandable.

 
Rudolph Hucker
159568.  Sat Mar 24, 2007 1:31 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
Quote:
when we are perhaps even more likely to shore up fragments against our ruin.


C'mon Jenny,

Eliot is a fine, cerebral poet in need of no help to add obscure motives.

Give me a translation of this quote, please.

 
gerontius grumpus
159594.  Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:14 am Reply with quote

Wasn't he a bit of a fascist?

 
Jenny
159602.  Sat Mar 24, 2007 10:01 am Reply with quote

Ron - you're right about the change in Eliot's philosophy and understanding, of course, and I should have made that clear. It was the earlier poems - The Wasteland, Prufrock, Sweeney etc - I was thinking about as capturing the Zeitgeist. Serves me right for rattling off a post quickly.

Rudolph - the line about shoring up fragments against our ruin is a paraphrase of a line almost at the end of The Wasteland. You can find the whole thing (and some other Eliot poems, with links that explain some of the references) here. It's a good site, with some excellent links for Eliot lovers.

As I have always understood it (and maybe Ron would like to chime in on this and enlarge my understanding) this line refers to the decay of modern civilisation, propped up by shiny fragments of past culture. Throughout The Wasteland, of course, Eliot refers constantly to fragments of earlier works and also gives quite cinematic snapshots of modern life.

I've often thought that this poem is one of the early examples of the way the techniques of cinema affected writing. Another is John Dos Passos' book Manhattan Transfer.

 
RonPrice9
186325.  Fri Jun 29, 2007 12:08 am Reply with quote

I don't get back here frequently enough, but anyway...such is life...Ron
_____________
I am certainly no expert on Eliot. I read a good deal about his poetry back in the 1980s and early 1990s when I was a teacher of English Literature--and back in the 1960s when I was a student. Now that I am retired and aged 63 I think about Eliot from time to time and dip into his poetry and the commentary on it. I'll post a reflection I wrote recently.

Your understanding of the reference to "fragments" seems quite appropriate. Certainly in 1921 Eliot had a slim hope at best for the value of classical culture(Christian or Greek/Roman) to provide a rebirth for western man and so"shoring up fragments against his ruin" was in fact, it seems to me anyway, what he was doing--as the poem ends. That's why, fundamentally, society is "a wasteland." WW1 only confirmed his view. What does one base society on? He had no answer in 1921.
___________And a reflection of my own________________
(to the extent any of us have completely new reflections)________
NOURISHING MY MIND

One of the features of metaphysical poetry, writes T.S. Eliot, is the yoking together of "the most heterogeneous ideas." As Eliot goes on to say "a degree of heterogeneity of material compelled into unity is a feature omnipresent in poetry."1 Heterogeneity is certainly a feature of my poetry as I try to bring together the social and cultural experience of my society, my value system and my own life into relation with each other. The difficulty of defining my poetry is similar to the difficulty of defining metaphysical poetry. The result is a wide range of definitions and explanations that I have given to my poetry.

My language, like that of the metaphysicals, is(I like to think) simple, pure, although the structure is, at times, complex. A thought, for some of the metaphysical poets, like John Donne, was an experience, an event. That is surely true for me and I like to think my poetry is a reflection of this personal reality.
-Ron Price with thanks to T.S. Eliot, Selected Essays, Faber and Faber Ltd., London, 1932, p.283.

Among the host of aims here

is an attempt to devour what

it is that has become my experience(1)

--in words, to take it to the uttermost

depths and with an intricacy of relationship

producing fresh and unfamiliar juxtapositions,

complete perceptions of thought and mood,

an original point of view, something conceived

in my soul, something from what seems to me

to be a large and unique view of life, something

that nourishes my mind and reinvents the who

that I am, my own Dr. Who, in a light of day

that has pretensions to be God's shadow.

(1) experience, for me, includes, thought and memory.

Ron Price
30 January 2002
Revised 29/6/07

 
Jenny
186343.  Fri Jun 29, 2007 4:02 am Reply with quote

Nice to see you back Ron, and thanks for the poem.

I don't know a great deal about Baha'i, so maybe you could start a thread about it in the Quite Interestrings forum?

 
RonPrice9
186398.  Fri Jun 29, 2007 5:30 am Reply with quote

I'll post an opening note or two, as you suggest. Good idea.-Ron

 

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