Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Refreshing Sunday

Eliot dined last Sunday & read his poem. He sang it & chanted it rhythmed it. It has great beauty and force of phrase: symmetry; & tensity. What connects it together, I'm not so sure. But he read till he had to rush -- .. 

One was left, however, with some strong emotion. The Waste Land, it is called; & Mary Hutch[inson], who has heard it more quietly, interprets it to be Tom's autobiography - a melancholy one.

Last Sunday - not so long ago - I dined with Eliot at the beach, as I had on Friday and Saturday. When alone, I very commonly will dine with a book. I have never been less alone at dinner in my life; and for this reason, I have no regret at deferring the occasion for so long. But this is not, strictly speaking, true, because of an element he translated into his poem, from his Harvard doctoral thesis, crediting the insularity of human experience. As vividly as Eliot was present, the experience was viscerally solitary. 

I cite this element as vital, not merely to the poem's point of view, but to mine toward the pretensions of the broadcasts of last Sunday, which have been doing with that date for 10 years what they've been doing with Jesus of Nazareth for the last 2100 - forging a hammer of compulsory definition of experience. No more than 2 horrors are involved in Sunday's unhappy abuse of the mind: that our young have been taught that those facts were unprecedented, and that they licensed the debauch of their birthright: that they should cherish ignorance and foulest self-interest, that fear might reign. The hostess of the dinner recalled above, meanwhile, was well advised by their mutual friend on an affect of Eliot's poem; but as her diary entry unfolded, her Hogarth Press would share in the transatlantic publishing crescendo which launched it with the 'force and symmetry' it happens still to convey. Its date is 1922; that makes it newer than last Sunday. 

.. The boat responded Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar The sea was calm, your heart would have responded Gaily, when invited, beating obedient To controlling hands

What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only
What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Falling towers
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
Vienna London

These fragments I have 
shored against my ruins

Why then Ile fit you ..

Shantih  shantih  shantih

Virginia Woolf
The Diary of Virginia Woolf
Harcourt Brace, 1978©

T.S. Eliot
The Waste Land
    V What the Thunder Said
i       ll 418 - 422
ii      ll 366 - 376
iii     ll 430 - end [fragment]
op. cit.


  1. Laurent, another excellent post and eerily attuned to my melancholic sentiments this Sunday past. Perhaps Tom was mistaken and September is the cruellest month with its thunder of hammers and fear.
    thank you for the kind reference

  2. Kind of you to accept this one from me.

    I think Mr E had a mode of the ideal tease, and I suggest that April had to suffer for the effronteries of his Chaucer preceptor. Mine, thank god, was beyond marvelous; and so my opinion of the months is sympathetic to their best. September, I know, can be schismatic, and in other ways conducive to your experience now. We inhale, however, crispness and burnt sugar all about, and the promise of restorative holidays to come.

    The poem has brought me closer to my blog than I ever supposed I'd be. I'm happy you were here.