TOPIC: COMPARE AND CONTRAST BETWEEN W. B. YEATS AND T. S. ELIOT
AS A MODERN POET
MINHAZUL ANWAR MRIDUL
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH STUDIES
BA IN ENGLISH
ID: UG 07-10-07-019
DATE OF SUBMISSION
March , 2010.
STATE UNIVERSITY OF BANGLADESH
as many definitions of poetry as there are poets. Wordsworth defined
poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings;"
Emily Dickinson said, "If I read a book and it makes my
body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry;"
and Dylan Thomas defined poetry this way: "Poetry is what
makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what
makes me want to do this or that or nothing."
Poetry is a lot of things to a lot of people. Homer's epic, The Oddysey, described the wanderings of the adventurer, Odysseus, and has been called the greatest story ever told. During the English Renaissance, dramatic poets like John Milton, Christopher Marlowe, and of course Shakespeare gave us enough to fill textbooks, lecture halls, and universities. Poems from the romantic period include Goethe's Faust (1808), Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" and John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn."
Shall I go on? Because in order to do so, I would have to continue through 19th century Japanese poetry, early Americans that include Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot, postmodernism.
Perhaps the characteristic most central to the definition of poetry is its unwillingness to be defined, labeled, or nailed down. But let's not let that stop us, shall we? It's about time someone wrestled poetry to the ground and slapped a sign on its back reading.
the chiseled marble of language; it's a paint-spattered canvas - but
the poet uses words instead of paint, and the canvas is you. Poetic
definitions of poetry kind of spiral in on themselves, however, like
a dog eating itself from the tail up. Let's get nitty. Let's, in
fact, get gritty. I believe we can render an accessible definition of
poetry by simply looking at its form and its purpose.
One of the most definable characteristics of the poetic form is economy of language. Poets are miserly and unrelentingly critical in the way they dole out words to a page. Carefully selecting words for conciseness and clarity is standard, even for writers of prose, but poets go well beyond this, considering a word's emotive qualities, its musical value, its spacing, and yes, even its special relationship to the page. The poet, through innovation in both word choice and form, seemingly rends significance from thin air.
One may use prose to narrate, describe, argue, or define. There are equally numerous reasons for writing poetry. But poetry, unlike prose, often has an underlying and over-arching purpose that goes beyond the literal. Poetry is evocative. It typically evokes in the reader an intense emotion: joy, sorrow, anger, catharsis, love... Alternatively, poetry has the ability to surprise the reader with an Ah Ha! Experience -- revelation, insight, further understanding of elemental truth and beauty. Like Keats said:
"Beauty is truth. Truth, beauty. That is all ye know on Earth and all ye need to know."
Modernist poetry is a mode of writing characterized by two main features: the first is technical innovation through the extensive use of free verse and the second a move away from the Romantic idea of an unproblematic poetic "self" directly addressing an equally unproblematic ideal reader or audience.
The questioning of the self and the exploration of technical innovations in modernist poetry are intimately interconnected. The dislocation of the authorial presence is achieved through the application of such techniques as collage, found poetry, visual poetry, the juxtaposition of apparently unconnected materials and combinations of all of these. These techniques are used not for their own sake but to open up questions in the mind of the reader regarding the nature of the poetic experience. These developments parallel changes in the other arts, especially painting and music, which were taking place concurrently.
Another important feature of much modernist poetry in English is a clear focus on the surface of the poem. Much of this focuses on the literal meaning of the words on the page rather than any metaphorical or symbolic meanings that might be imputed to them. This approach to writing is reflected in Ezra Pound's advice to young writers to "buy a dictionary and learn the meanings of words" and T. S. Eliot's response when asked the meaning of the line "Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree in the cool of the day" from Ash Wednesday (1930): "It means 'Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree in the cool of the day'", he replied. Also pertinent is William Carlos Williams's 1944 declaration: "A poem is a small machine made out of words".
William Butler Yeats (13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939) was an Irish poet, dramatist, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years Yeats served as an Irish Senator for two terms. He was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival, and along with Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn founded the Abbey Theatre, serving as its chief during its early years. In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for what the Nobel Committee described as "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation." He was the first Irishman so honored. Yeats is generally considered one of the few writers whose greatest works were completed after being awarded the Nobel Prize; such works include The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1929)
Yeats was born and educated in Dublin but spent his childhood in County Sligo. He studied poetry in his youth, and from an early age was fascinated by both Irish legends and the occult. Those topics feature in the first phase of his work, which lasted roughly until the turn of the century. His earliest volume of verse was published in 1889, and those slowly paced and lyrical poems display debts to Edmund Spenser and Percy Bysshe Shelley, as well as to the lyricism of the Pre-Raphaelite poets. From 1900, Yeats' poetry grew more physical and realistic. He largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with physical and spiritual masks, as well as with cyclical theories of life. Over the years, Yeats adopted many different ideological positions, including, in the words of the critic Michael Valdez Moses, "those of radical nationalist, classical liberal, reactionary conservative and millenarian nihilist".
William Butler Yeats was born in Sandymount, County Dublin, Ireland. His father, John Butler Yeats, was a descendant of Jervis Yeats, a Williamite soldier and linen merchant who died in 1712. Jervis' grandson Benjamin married Mary Butler, daughter of a landed family in County Kildare. At the time of his marriage, John Yeats was studying law but abandoned his studies to study art at Heatherley’s Art School in London. His mother, Susan Mary Pollexfen, came from a wealthy Anglo-Irish family in County Sligo who owned a prosperous milling and shipping business. Soon after William's birth the family relocated to Sligo to stay with her extended family, and the young poet came to think of the area as his childhood and spiritual home. Its landscape became, over time, both literally and symbolically, his "country of the heart". The Butler Yeats family were highly artistic; his brother Jack went on to be a highly regarded painter, while his sisters Elizabeth and Susan Mary—known to family and friends as Lollie and Lily—became involved in the Arts and Crafts movement.
By early 1925, Yeats's health had stabilized, and he had completed most of the writing for "A Vision". He had been appointed to the first Irish Senate in 1922, and was re-appointed for a second term in 1925. Early in his tenure, a debate on divorce arose, and Yeats viewed the issue as primarily a confrontation between the emerging Roman Catholic ethos and the Protestant minority. When the Roman Catholic Church weighed in with a blanket refusal to consider their anti position, the Irish Times countered that a measure to outlaw divorce would alienate Protestants and "crystallize" the partition of Northern Ireland.
* 1886 – Mosada, verse play
* 1888 – Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry
* 1889 – The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems, includes "The Wanderings of Oisin", "The Song of the Happy Shepherd", "The Stolen Child" and "Down By The Salley Gardens"
* 1890 – "The Lake Isle of Innisfree", poem first
published in the National Observer, 13 December; poem included in The
Countess Kathleen and Various Legends and Lyrics, 1892
* 1891 – Representative Irish Tales
* 1891 – John Sherman and Dhoya, two stories
* 1892 – Irish Faerie Tales
* 1892 – The Countess Kathleen and Various Legends and Lyrics, includes "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" (see 1890, above) (Lyrics from this book appear in Yeats' collected editions in a section titled "The Rose"  but Yeats never published a book titled "The Rose")
* 1893 – The Celtic Twilight, poetry and nonfiction
* 1894 – The Land of Heart's Desire, published in April, his first acted play, performed 29 March
* 1895 – Poems, verse and drama; the first edition of his collected poems
* 1895 – Editor, A Book of Irish Verse, an anthology
* 1897 – The Tables of the Law. The Adoration of the Magi, privately printed; The Tables of the Law first published in The Savoy, November 1896; a regular edition of this book appeared in 1904
* 1897 – The Secret Rose, fiction
* 1899 – Crossways
* 1899 – The Wind Among the Reeds, including "Song of the Old Mother"
* 1900 – The Shadowy Waters, poems
* 1902 – Cathleen Ní Houlihan, play
* 1903 – Ideas of Good and Evil, nonfiction
* 1903 – In the Seven Woods, poems, includes "Adam's Curse" (Dun Emer Press)
* 1903 – Where There is Nothing, play
* 1903 – The Hour Glass, play, copyright edition (see also 1904 edition)
* 1904 – The Hour-Glass; Cathleen ni Houlihan; The Pot of Broth, plays
* 1904 – The King's Threshold; and On Baile's Strand
* 1904 – The Tables of the Law; The Adoration of the Magi, a privately printed edition appeared in 1897
* 1905 – Stories of Red Hanrahan, published in 1905 by the Dun Emer Press, although the book states the year of publication was 1904; contains stories from The Secret Rose (1897) rewritten with Lady Gregory; another edition was published in 1927
* 1906 – Poems, 1899 –1905, verse and plays
* 1907 – Deirdre
* 1907 – Discoveries, nonfiction
* 1910 – The Green Helmet and Other Poems, verse and plays
* 1910 – Poems: Second Series
* 1911 – Synge and the Ireland of his Time, nonfiction
* 1912 – The Cutting of an Agate
* 1912 – Selections from the Writings of Lord Dunsany
* 1912 – A Coat
* 1913 – Poems Written in Discouragement
* 1916 – Responsibilities, and Other Poems
* 1916 – Reveries Over Childhood and Youth, nonfiction
* 1916 – Easter 1916
* 1919 – The Wild Swans at Coole, Other Verses and a Play in Verse, a significantly revised edition appeared in 1919
* 1918 – Per Amica Silentia Lunae
* 1918 – In Memory of Major Robert Gregory
* 1919 – Two Plays for Dancers, plays; became part of Four Plays for Dancers, published in 1921
* 1919 – The Wild Swans at Coole, significant revision of the 1917 edition: has the poems from the 1917 edition and others, including "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" and "The Phases of the Moon"; contains: "The Wild Swans at Coole", "Ego Dominus Tuus", "The Scholars" and "On being asked for a War Poem"
* 1920 – The Second Coming
* 1921 – Michael Robartes and the Dancer, poems; published in February, although book itself states "1920"
* 1921 – Four Plays for Dancers, plays; includes contents of Two Plays for Dancers, published in 1919, together with At the Hawk's Well and Calvary
* 1921 – Four Years
* 1922 – Later Poems
* 1922 – The Player Queen, play
* 1922 – Plays in Prose and Verse, plays
* 1922 – The Trembling of the Veil
* 1923 – Plays and Controversies
* 1924 – The Cat and the Moon, and Certain Poems, poems and drama
* 1924 – Essays
* 1925 – A Vision A, nonfiction, a much revised edition appeared in 1937, and a final revised edition was published in 1956
* 1926 – Estrangement
* 1926 – Autobiographies of William Butler Yeats, nonfiction; see also, Autobiography 1938
* 1927 – October Blast
* 1927 – Stories of Red Hanrahan and the Secret Rose, poetry and fiction
* 1928 – The Tower, includes Sailing to Byzantium
* 1928 – The Death of Synge, and Other Passages from an Old Diary, poems
* 1929 – A Packet for Ezra Pound, poems
* 1929 – The Winding Stair published by Fountain Press in a signed limited edition, now exceedingly rare
* 1932 – Words for Music Perhaps, and Other Poems
* 1933 – Collected Poems
* 1933 – The Winding Stair and Other Poems
* 1934 – Collected Plays
* 1934 – The King of the Great Clock Tower, poems
* 1934 – Wheels and Butterflies, drama
* 1934 – The Words Upon the Window Pane, drama
* 1935 – Dramatis Personae
* 1935 – A Full Moon in March, poems
* 1937 – A Vision B, nonfiction, a much revised edition of the original, which appeared in 1925; reissued with minor changes in 1956, and with further changes in 1962
* 1937 – Essays 1931 to 1936
* 1938 – Autobiography, includes Reveries over Childhood and Youth (published in 1914), The Trembling of the Veil (1922), Dramatis Personae (1935), The Death of Synge (1928), and other pieces; see also Autobiographies (1926)
* 1938 – The Herne's Egg, drama
* 1938 – New Poems
* 1939 – Last Poems and Two Plays poems and drama (posthumous)
* 1939 – On the Boiler, essays, poems and a play (posthumous)
W. B. Yeats – AS A
William Butler Yeats was one of the modern poets, who influenced his contemporaries as well as successors. By nature he was a dreamer, a thinker, who fell under the spell of the folk-lore and the superstitions of the Irish peasantry. He felt himself a stranger in the world of technology and rationalism. He is a prominent poet in modern times for his sense of moral wholeness of humanity and history.
Yeats was a realistic poet though his early poetry was not realistic. His later poems, despite realistic accent, are not free from magic and the mysterious world. The First World War and the Irish turmoil gave Yeats a more realistic track. This can clearly be seen in his poem, “Second Coming”, when he says;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Obscurity in Yeats’ poetry is due to his occultism, mysticism, and Irish mythology, use of symbolism and theory of ‘Mask’. Yeats was keen to replace traditional Greek and Roman mythological figures with figures from Irish folk lore which results in obscurity. The juxtaposition of the past and the present, the spiritual and the physical, and many such dissimilar concepts and his condensed rich language make his poetry obscure.
Like Eliot, Yeats’ poetry is marked with pessimism. After his disappointment with Maud Gonne and his disenchantment with the Irish National Movement, Yeats started writing bitter and pessimistic poems. But he tried to dispel this feeling by philosophizing in his poems. “To A Shade”, “When Helen Lived”, and two Byzantium poems along with many more of his poems reflect this mood.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Yeats’ mysticism is also a modern trait. Although modern age is scientific, yet modern poetry has traces of mysticism in it. Yeats is the only modern poet who initiated occult system and mysticism in his poetry. Mysticism runs throughout his poetry in which the gods and fairies of the Celtic mythology live again. To Yeats, a poet is very close to a mystic and poet’s mystical experience give to the poem a spiritual world. The state of spiritual exaltation is described in “Sailing to Byzantium”:
Soul clap its hands and sing,
Yeats believed in magic as he was anti-rationalist. By ‘Magic’ Yeats meant the whole area of occult knowledge. Occult was very much common in modern poetry for numerology was lately been introduced in 19th century. Most of his symbols have a touch of the supernatural about them. Number 14 is his typical occult number which symbolizes decline. In “The Wild Swans at Coole”, he says:
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.
Being disillusioned by lack of harmony and strength in modern culture, Yeats tried to revive the ancient spells and chant to bring unity and a spirit of integration in modern civilization torn by conflicts and dissensions. Modern man was a disillusioned due to mechanism. All the romances were coming to an end and people were getting brutal. In “Easter 1916” he highlights the disillusionment of modern man. He says:
What is it but nightfall?
Yeats was an anti-war poet and does not admire war fought under any pretext. In his last years, he wrote poems dealing with the crumbling of modern civilization due of war. He believed that a revolutionary change is in the offing. In “The Second Coming” he describes what lies at the root of the malady;
Things fall apart; the entire cannot hold ….
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Humanism is another modern trait in literature. The threat of war cast a gloomy shadow on the poetic sensibility of the modern poets. The sad realities of life paved the way of humanitarian aspect in modern literature. Yeats’ poetry also abounds in humanism. In “Easter 1916”, he feels even for his rival. He says:
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yeats believed that much chaos has entered in Christianity as it has lost its effect and now it is about to end. The good people sadly lack conviction, while the bad pursue their wicked ends with passionate intensity. The second coming is at hand. This coming prophet will be the prophet of destruction. The falcon, symbolizing intellectual power, has got free of the control of the falconer, representing the heart or soul.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Yeats’ later poetry is typified by a stark, naked brutality and bluntness. His poems present the truth about the human state and he does not hesitate to use blunt and brutal terms to express it. He called spade a spade. He calls the world “the frog-spawn of a blind man’s ditch”. He says that a man is:
All mere complexities,
The fury and the mire of human veins.
Yeats’ use of symbols in poetry is complex and rich. He was the chief representative of the Symbolist Movement. He draws his symbols from Irish folklore and mythology, philosophy, metaphysics, occult, magic, paintings and drawings. Several allusions are compressed into a single symbol. His symbols are all pervasive key symbols. His key-symbols shed light on his previous poems and “illuminates their sense”. ‘The Rose’, ‘Swan’ and ‘Helen’ are his key-symbols. Symbols give ‘dumb things voices, and bodiless things bodies’ in Yeats’ poetry.
One of Yeats’ concerns was old age which is seen as a symbol of the tyranny of time. Rage against the limitations of age and society upon an old man occurs frequently in his poetry. In “Among School Children” he considers himself a comfortable scarecrow. The heart becomes ‘comprehending’, unfortunately attached to a ‘dying animal’. In “The Tower”, Yeats calls the aged body an ‘absurdity’. A powerful expression of Yeats’ agony facing old age appears at the beginning of “Sailing to Byzantium”:
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the tress
Those dying generations – at their song.
Yeats attitude to old age cannot be typified. Old age is certainly a handicap to the still strong sensual desires. He talks of the limited choices available to an old man who is simply a torn coat upon a stick:
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, —-
He was both romantic and modern and so talks about balance. In the age of industrialization, man was losing the equilibrium between science and religion. They were destroying their physical beauty by injuring it for the elevation of soul. The balance was lost.
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
Eliot was contemporary and had a great influence on Yeats. Both have certain things in common. Both are intensely aware of man in history and of the soul in eternity. Both at times see history as an image of the soul writ large. Both see an uncongenial world disintegrating and an unknowable future taking shape in the surrounding dark. Both call in eternity to redress the balance of time.
Yeats is a unique poet as he is a traditional and a modern poet at the same time. Though he started his poetic career as a Romantic and the Raphaelite, he very soon evolved into a genuine modern poet. All the romantic traits found in Yeats early poetry collapsed in his later poetry. Before coming in contact with the Imagist school, he was writing poems, common with the writings of the Imagist Movement. But Yeats symbolism is not derived from that movement. Thus, Yeats is a poet who is both traditional and modern.
Yeats Love Poetry should need little introduction to any lover of poetry. W.B.Yeats is widely recognized as the greatest poet of the Twentieth Century, and as a love poet, his output is equally unmatched for lyrical beauty and elegant language. Thank you for visiting my page on Yeats Love Poetry, together we shall explore the best love poetry of this great Irish poet and discover why he is held in such high esteem by the literary world!
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet and nationalist, dramatist and prose writer was one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.
For a long time his works evinced mixed feelings as to his true status as a towering literary figure, until gradually recognition as the pre-eminent poet and writer came from his peers towards the last decade of his life. This was in 1928 when he published 'The Tower' arguably his finest volume.
The reason for this long standing ambivalence to Yeats is because Yeats himself was frequently torn by the forces that shaped and molded him from the onset, and these opposing forces operated to create often times a confusing career wherein the sublime and the ridiculous intermingled frequently.
He had a childhood broad in education and personal experiences, and as a youth he was full of internal contradictions who subjected all he was taught to a rigorous examination and questioning. As a writer Yeats made his debut in 1885 at 20, when he published his first poems in The Dublin University Review. From 1887 on, he devoted himself to writing.
Spiritually, educationally and personally, he pulled himself in different directions, unable to decide on a clear direction until all these internal contradictions eventually shaped the complex man and the writer he eventually became.
Thus a reviewer could say of his poetry, Yeats "produces both poppycock and sublimity in verse, sometimes closely together." (Brendan Kennelly) and another would say reading him was a strange experience... "I read a line or two; they seem too simple and crude. I read them a second time, they become opaque. A third time, they yield and I feel as if playing with a kaleidoscope. Now at least I am wiser; I know I will be profoundly touched, annoyed and bored in turns, but I also know I will always return to Yeats, because a quarrel with him is better than a constant love for another poet."
It is fair to say that Yeats range was breathtaking. It covered a wide arc from luminous reworking of ancient Irish myths and legends to passionate meditations on the demands and rewards of youth and old age, from exquisite, occasionally whimsical songs of love, nature, and art to somber and angry poems of life in a nation torn by war and uprising.
His influences as you might imagine from the foregoing were diverse.
1. The occult, eastern mysticism, and spirits pursuits. Reincarnation, communication with the dead, mediums, supernatural systems and Oriental mysticism fascinated Yeats through his life and defined his outlook right from youth to old age. His 1917 marriage to Georgie Hyde-Lee who turned out to be a medium, rekindled his interest in mysticism and incurred criticism from his peers. Undaunted, Yeats faced harsh ridicule by stating his belief in fairies.
2. A strong love affair with Ireland and Irish literature that eventually enmeshed him in Irish mythology and folklore. Yeats was interested in folktales as a part of an exploration of national heritage and for the revival of Celtic identity. A self avowed socialist with a rabid hatred for the middle class, he also got involved in Irish politics during the Irish Revolution in 1896, and even though he was to be ultimately disillusioned by the eventual outcome of his nationalistic struggles, he was involved briefly with the fascist Blueshirts in Dublin in 1933
3. An influence which undeniably stimulated both his poetic and Irish obsession was his famed doomed love for the fiery revolutionary Maud Gonne. Gonne, the love of Yeats life, spurned his marriage proposals five times in twenty five years.
During this period, Yeats' unrequited love drove him both to distraction and some of the most beautiful love poetry ever created. When in 1903 after the fourth rejection she married Major John MacBride, an Irish revolutionary who was later executed by the English, Yeats' lines are unforgettable in his poem” No Second Troy"...
Major Themes OF His poetry
Age and Death
Though a young poet at the time of the composition of The Rose, Yeats is quite preoccupied with themes of aging and mortality. Imagining his old age served as an escape for the young Yeats, who found himself unsuccessful in love and imagined that later in life he would either have won his beloved or his beloved would have come to regret her rejection of him. "In Old Age" is particularly marked by the image of an older Maud Gonne (the woman with whom Yeats was in love) becoming wiser in old age.
Yeats also had an anxiety about death which was unusual in someone so young. He contemplated death less in terms of himself than in terms of his loved ones. When Maud Gonne traveled to France as a convalescent, a worried Yeats wrote "A Dream of Death." This meditation on Gonne's possible death is less of a nightmare than a dream comes true, as Yeats envisions himself being useful to her in death as he could not be in life. Yeats, therefore, views both aging and death as more or less positive forces.
Images of Irish Nature
It is not surprising that a collection entitled The Rose draws heavily upon nature imagery. Yeats draws upon natural imagery both in terms of the symbols he employs and in the settings he summons. Indeed, natural imagery features in all of Yeats's poetry, even that which contains political themes.
Yeats's landscape descriptions are often obviously Irish, even if they do not include a specific place name. He highlights the rolling greenness and shifting light that characterize the Irish landscape. Additionally, some of his poems take a more specific approach to the Irish landscape. Many of them, including "The Lake Isle of Inisfree," treat a particular Irish place. Nearly all of these places are in County Sligo, Yeats' mother's ancestral home and the place on earth that he felt most connected to. Yeats was eventually buried in Sligo.
Yeats also references the natural landscapes of Irish legend and myth. Imaginary natural worlds like Faeryland or Tir na nOg, where people never grow old, provide a compliment to both the general and specific treatments of Irish nature. In all his poems, Yeats carefully chooses a natural backdrop - real or imagined - that captures his home country.
The Rose is rife with mythological references, from King Fergus to Conchubar to Diarmuid. Indeed, such mythic Irish figures populate nearly every poem in the collection.
Mythology operates as a theme in this collection in a number of ways. First and foremost it separates Yeats' poetry from British writing. British writers drew on Roman and Greek mythology - the mythology, in fact, of other imperialists. In choosing Irish mythology as his source of allusions and subjects, Yeats creates poetry distinct from that of Ireland's long-time oppressors. This compliments Yeats' desire to cultivate a poetic language suitable to Ireland alone.
Moreover, Yeats' use of Irish mythological subjects allows him to avoid the political climate of his own day. Yeats, a moderate compared to his beloved Maud Gonne, found his political beliefs to be a burden in his pursuit of love. In treating legendary figures, Yeats avoids the problem of referencing the complicated political environment that so tormented him.
For a fuller discussion of the specific mythology that Yeats draws on, see the Additional Content section in this Classic Note.
Nationalism in Ireland in the 1890s was in a complicated stage. Many die-hard Fenians (Republicans), including Maud Gonne, were more than willing to take arms against the British to gain their independence. Another group, including Yeats, took the more cautious parliamentary approach. This political party, called the Home Rule Party, was led by John Redmund and held that Ireland could gain independence through legal means.
Because this collection focuses so much on Maud Gonne, Yeats inevitably touches upon his political differences with his beloved. These differences, needless to say, affected their relationship negatively. Yeats feared that Gonne was more repulsed by his moderate politics than by his person.
Thus, in some poems, such as "To Ireland in the Coming Times," Yeats seems to be willfully disassociating himself from the complex political fabric of his own era, instead hearkening to a simpler politics of ancient kings. Undoubtedly Yeats was drawn to these ancient mythic times anyway, but his interest takes on a sadness in the context of his relationship with the politics of his own day. Nationalist politics exist negatively in these poems, as the subject that Yeats doesn't want to address.
At the time that Yeats published this collection, Maud Gonne was the major focus of his life. He was deeply in love with her, and although Gonne did not return his romantic sentiments, she remained close friends with him. He saw her often enough to become obsessed with her. Most of the poems in the collection were written for or about Gonne.
The central image of the rose is a symbol of Gonne as well as Ireland. Gonne, an extreme nationalist, represents the Irish spirit in her politics as well as her beauty. Thus Gonne, Ireland and the image of the rose exist interchangeably in Yeats' poetic imagination. His beloved, with her violent desire to free her country from British rule, captures the ferocity of nationalistic pride with spiritual and physical beauty. She is the thorny rose, and the thorny rose is Ireland. Indeed, one of Yeats' fears is that he himself is not violent enough politically or personally to attract Gonne's attentions, a fear that seemed to be justified by her marriage to a military man.
Ireland is, historically, an agrarian land. For centuries it was a nation of farmers - often working under unfair conditions for their British conquerors. Thus, though Ireland's agrarian identity was complicated, it was central. A rapport with the change of seasons and with the harvest cycle was central to Irish life.
At the time of the composition of The Rose, however, urbanization had begun to encroach upon Ireland. Dublin was a major metropolitan area, for instance, in the heart of a traditionally rural society. This complex relationship between urban and rural existence is essential to Yeats' perspective in The Rose. Though he lived much of his life in London and Dublin, Yeats viewed cities as inherently negative and poisonous. Thus poems like "The Lake Isle of Inisfree," which romanticize the Irish agrarian landscape with breathless awe, largely express the poet's discomfort with his urban environment.
It is worth asking, then, whether Yeats' natural landscapes of Ireland are realistic or purely imaginative. They seem to exist largely in the poet’s remembrance and longings - to be places of escape from a modernity that Yeats finds discomfiting. Yeats invites the conclusion that, in fact, it doesn't matter whether his Ireland is the real Ireland: it is, nevertheless, a place of meaning for the Irish.
Thus Yeats expresses a desire to capture in imaginative verse the spirit of Ireland - its symbols, mythology, people, nature - that might well be lost in the encroaching press of nationalism and urbanization. Yeats, in short, writes against the city, but also from the city. He cultivates an imaginative place of escape that is only necessary because of the coming modernity.
Analysis of Themes in the Poems of W.B. Yeats
Although there are several allusions to it made by several scholars within the vast library of biographical works regarding William Butler Yeats, the poet’s intense fear and disdain of aging and death can be discerned with even the most cursory reading of his works. Many of Yeats’ poems reflect an intense dread of the aging process with its decay and impending threat of death on both a physical and spiritual level through the use of imagery and reflection. For W.B. Yeats, there is little that is honorable about becoming an old man, perhaps simply because there is still so much left to do. Despite having lived a life that might appear to the outsider as quite fulfilling, William Butler Yeats remained somewhat hollow and unsatisfied with the great deal of personal and artistic progress he made throughout his long life.
There are several themes that are common throughout the poems of William Butler Yeats. Many of poems by W.B. Yeats reflect an unrelenting obsession with the past—both the distant past and that of his personal life—and these fixations are symbolic of his fear of growing old or aging and a persistent fear of death. There were many things W.B. Yeats wanted to accomplish, one of which was gaining the hand of his long-time love Maud Gonne. Images of her, both as she appeared to him in his memory and as expressed by allusions are frequent throughout Yeats’ poetry as are his numerous references to the grim process of aging and preparing for death. For Yeats, death or even aging alone was not the romantic end or dramatic solution—it was an organic process that caused a man to become hollow and scarecrow-like.
Along with this thesis statement expressed here on the similarities in themes in the poems by W.B. Yeats and their fixation on death and aging, it should also be noted that many of the poems by Yeats induce an image of an aged man as such a scarecrow or as a man in tatters with little left of any substance. Such a man is only able to stagnate in one position and can only look backward since moving forward is no longer a possibility. Although this is a rather bleak image, it is highly representative of the many struggles W.B. Yeats endured in as a young man, a frustrated suitor, a political pioneer, and finally, an aged poet—a sage. Although traces of these themes are recurrent in several poems by William Butler Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium,” “Among Schoolchildren,” and “The Circus Animal’s Desertion” portray these complex themes most completely.
One of the most stunning poems reflecting implicit fear of aging in poems by William Butler Yeats occurs throughout “Sailing to Byzantium.” This poem was written in 1926 as W.B. Yeats was growing older and beginning to realize the meaning and consequences of old age. “Sailing to Byzantium” reflects the speaker’s desire to return to an older age far from the youthful excesses and their inability to recognize age and wisdom. One of the important quotes from "Sailing to Byzantium" is at the beginning and says, “that is no country for old men. The young / in one another’s arms, birds in the trees—those dying generations” which discusses the reason for the speaker’s journey. He no longer feels he has a place among the youthful exuberance and seeks something more fulfilling and ancient. Although the young represented in the poem by William Butler Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium" are “those dying generations” they are nonetheless too engaged with their trivialities to understand the pursuits of an old man who feels he is condemned to live in an aging body, or “fastened to a dying animal” while his soul yearns to be free.
To the speaker of “Sailing to Byzantium” by W.B. Yeats and also to the poet himself, aging is a foul degrading process and the only things that were sustainable and true are the relics of gold that serve as testaments to an older age such as that in “Sailing to Byzantium”. All that is organic or living is prone to death and decay, even the young people at the beginning who are “dying generations” and especially men that are already advanced in age. It is worth noting in this poem analysis of "Sailing to Byzantium" by William Butler Yeats that the speaker comments upon both the appearance and presumably the soul of an aging or old man when he begins the second stanza with the statement, “An aged man is but a paltry thing, / A tattered coat upon a stick, unless / his soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing / For every tatter in its mortal dress.” This description of an aged man is hollow and devoid of personality. The image that arises in the reader’s mind is one of a scarecrow—something made from flimsy material without genuine substance and prone to the elements.
Furthermore, and also important in this analysis of “Sailing to Byzantium” by William Butler Yeats, the imagery of this scarecrow figure suddenly clapping to prove its vitality becomes grotesque and nearly absurd, which demonstrates that this is something rare or perhaps even impossible. While the remainder of the poem "Sailing to Byzantium" by W.B. Yeats discusses a way for this tattered heap of sticks and old clothing to live on, this series of imagery tactics on the part of Yeats to express symbols of aging versus youth are difficult to escape or forget about and it becomes clear that this is a prime example of the author's personal fear of aging—of turning to dust or to mere rags on a stick—despite the somewhat epic ending featuring a man living on through wisdom, relics, and memory. To a mystic such as W.B. Yeats, the concept of the aging soul outlasting the “dying animal” of the body is not uncharacteristic and can be witnessed in several of his later poems as well.
As this poem analysis of “Sailing to Byzantium” suggests in terms of the poem itself and of William Butler Yeats, the imagery of the aged man as a hollow image or a scarecrow is prominent throughout several of Yeats’ poems and it is not coincidence that nearly all of the examples of such imagery are connected to his thoughts about aging. After taking a tour of a school late in his political career, Yeats penned the poem, “Among Schoolchildren”. Far from being a discussion about the pleasures or lives of these young people, the speaker takes the opportunity to travel back to his own boyhood days and picture the woman he would later fall in love with, Maud, when she was a child. Although "Among Schoolchildren" by William Butler Yeats, the reader is never able to escape the fact that the speaker is a man advanced in age. As this analysis of "Among Schoolchildren" by W.B. Yeats suggests of this and other poems by the poet, we are reminded of this in the first stanza when he imagines the children’s perceptions of him as, “a sixty-year-old smiling public man.” This more wholesome imagery in "Among Schoolchildren" belies the bitterness and sadness of such an image. Although he smiling, this is public face and no one can witness the grim and anguished thoughts that invade his perceptions of the children.
By the fourth stanza of "Among Schoolchildren" by William Butler Yeats, we not only see his inner thoughts, but he calls himself “a comfortable kind of old scarecrow” again, imagining the children’s perceptions. This image of the old man as what Yeats referred to as, “A tattered coat upon a stick” in “Sailing to Byzantium” is equally present in this poem. The difference here, however, is that he is not entirely faceless. Instead, the reader is confronted with two images that are juxtaposed; the first is of a smiling old man, the second is a scarecrow. The result of these two images is rather disturbing as it is a blank-faced but grinning and smiling scarecrow in tattered rags. He is a public scarecrow, one who smiles when appropriate although there is nothing inside—the soul has been exchanged for the vast painful store of memory he now thrives off of.
It is important to mention in this poem analysis of “Among Schoolchildren” by W.B. Yeats that this emptiness and hollow vacant smile is the result of not having lived a life that has result in anything significant. Like a scarecrow, he is destined to live only in the moment and does not have the ability to move from his post. He is spiritually fated to remain in one place, always looking out but never moving forward. Because of Yeats’ frustration with his inability to attain the woman he most desired, and later, as expressed in the poem “The Circus Animal’s Desertion” W.B. Yeats is suggesting that old age is most frightening when it is accompanied by a life unfulfilled. As he is in the schoolroom, he cannot see the children for what they are, but only looks to the past, trying to recapture some vital essence that might have changed things, or at least would bring them back for a precious moment.
For William Butler Yeats, as this thesis statement suggests, aging is part of that awful inevitable process of decay and dissolution. In one of the most poignant stanzas for analysis in “Among Schoolchildren”, the speaker wonders about a young mother beholding her son. He wonders if a mother would think the eventual decay and breakdown of old age would change things for her somehow if, “did she but see that shape / with sixty or more winters on its head / a compensation for the pang of his birth.” In other words, if a mother were to see the eventual state of a son—one who has lived and been young but is now a mere husk of man—would the joys and anxieties of birth, motherhood, or even life itself be worth it? It is also worth pointing out that such thoughts about speculations of mothers do not seem to appear often, if at all, throughout the works of Yeats.
One of the final poems by William Butler Yeats, “The Circus Animal’s Desertion” speaks not only of his fear of physical aging but more importantly, his fear of being aged after leading a life that was not substantial or full of meaning. This is an attempt by W.B. Yeats to look back upon his vast career and question the themes that had once been prominent during his days as a young poet. It is within this poem and more specifically, in this particular interpretation of “The Circus Animal’s Desertion” that both of these fears coalesce and the reader is finally exposed to the true Yeats, without artifice or gilded imagery guiding the meaning. In the poem “The Circus Animal’s Desertion” the images appear as hollow fantasies and Yeats expresses his understanding of his development as an artist as well as a man. In old age he feels as though he has been misled, but by whom remains unclear.
At the beginning of the poem by William Butler Yeats, “The Circus Animal’s Desertion” the speaker or narrator of the poem states that he has been looking for a theme for “six weeks or so” and one gets the impression that he has run through the course of old imagery and found that it lacks what his old age and wisdom needs to convey. He tells the reader, “Maybe at last, being but a broken man, / I must be satisfied with my heart, although winter and summer till old began / My circus animals were all on show.” These circus animals obscured his fears and anxieties and it seems that now that he has actually reached old age and infirmity, it is only right that these magical images be traded in for a discussion about his heart.
It is important to mention in this poem analysis of “Among Schoolchildren” by W.B. Yeats that this emptiness and hollow vacant smile is the result of not having lived a life that has result in anything significant. Like a scarecrow, he is destined to live only in the moment and does not have the ability to move from his post. He is spiritually fated to remain in one place, always looking out but never moving forward. Because of Yeats’ frustration with his inability to attain the woman he most desired, and later, as expressed in the poem “The Circus Animal’s Desertion” W.B. Yeats is suggesting that old age is most frightening when it is accompanied by a life unfulfilled. As he is in the schoolroom, he cannot see the children for what they are, but only looks to the past, trying to recapture some vital essence that might have changed things, or at least would bring them back for a precious moment
Yeats addresses his fear of having become an aged man who has not been able to reach his best aspirations, among which are not only his poetry, but the gaining of the love of Maud. Throughout “The Circus Animal’s Desertion” he is not only forlorn at the hollowness of some of his visions, but of his lack of success with the woman he dreamed of. Throughout the poem he makes explicit references to her, stating, “I, starved for the bosom of his faery bride” and telling the reader that she had, “pity-crazed, had given her soul away.” He beings to see her not only as one of his greatest failures, but as one of his most potent imaginations or an overly-fanciful dream. He states, “Those masterful images because complete, / Grew in pure mind, but out of what began? / A mound of refuse, or the sweepings of a street. / Old kettles, old bottles, a broken can.” He recognizes that he has lived his life according to these imaginations and this makes his old age even more frightening and horrible because he realizes too late that it more fancy than reality. Just as in many of his poems, he recognizes his age by using an image that makes the reader think of something hollow or not functional.
It is important to note, especially in terms of its meaning to this poem analysis of “The Circus Animal’s Desertion” by William Butler Yeats, the speaker calls himself a “broken man” and this is due to his recognition of his advanced age more than any physical condition. The images that flooded his youth, the many heroes and icons are now “stilted boys” with “burnished chariot” and a hopeless conglomeration of “the Lord knows what.” In his advanced age he has realized that all that he has imagined is not real or substantial, that he has aged but not been meaningful. For Yeats, this might have been the reason why aging itself was so frightening—because he could not imagine dying without meaning. This same theme is expressed in the earlier poem, “Sailing to Byzantium” as he first recognizes himself as a hollow or broken man but then attempts to reconcile this with his lust for knowledge and wisdom in the ancient land of Byzantium.
Unlike in “Sailing to Byzantium,” however, the speaker in this poem does not attempt to be a soul clapping his hands to prove his worthiness or willingness to live—he is instead a truly broken man or tattered clothing on a stick. This image resurfaces when he describes himself, saying, “Now that my ladder’s gone, I must lie down where all the ladders start / In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.” Even though he is discussing the worn condition of his heart (as opposed to his physical body) the image of the tattered scarecrow emerges, this time in a different form—the soul of an old man who has realized some essential truth.
For Yeats, aging was hardly a dignified process but was rather one of sadness, opportunity for regret, and of retrospection. Despite this rather grim assessment of life and the preparations for one’s death, his observations are not all fraught with anxiety, estrangement, or horror. While the reader gets the impression that Yeats wishes he could travel back in time and correct his mistakes or live again in youth, there are few, if any, comments made in any of his poetry about such a wish. Even though he may feel unfulfilled, he is content to wonder solemnly about becoming the “scarecrow” of old age and eventual death, but rarely, if ever, does he digress into long tirades about what he might have done differently. While his love of Maud Goone may not have been fulfilled and although he may have second thoughts about the poetry of his youth, he remains realistic in his acceptance of infirmity. Although this is hardly something one can reflect upon with great beauty, it is something that can be discussed with integrity, despite the tinge of sadness. Yeats may never have felt completely satisfied, but his vast collection of poetry speaks volumes about all of our fears about aging, of sinking into oblivion, or of not having achieved that one rare blessing—love.
Yeats: The Master of Symbolism
critics and most readers who are a bit confused by W. B. Yeats' poems
would call him the "master of symbolism." He uses the
rhyme, and meter-along with the use of both emotional and
intellectual symbols to express emotion and higher meaning in a
usually short and concise length of words. His theories on rhythm and
use of symbols are evident in his work, especially in such pieces as
"The Second Coming," "The Valley of the Black Pig,"
and "No Second Troy," and Yeats' feelings toward emotion
and the symbols and words that invoke them make both he and his work
In Yeats' essay "The Symbolism of Poetry," he explains his theory of how rhythm, rhyme, and meter should be properly applied in poetry. Of rhythm, he says that it should be musical, not stilted in any way by a strict form, and the same goes for meter. Throughout his poetry there is an underlying rhythm and meter; he uses it in a way that makes its presence come secondary to the ease of reading the poem naturally. He does this with "The Second Coming" and "The Valley of the Black Pig." In places, through variation in rhythm, it is obvious that he is more worried about the content of the poem than any particular meter. Lines such as
some revelation is at hand; / Surely the Second Coming is at hand. /
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out..."and "The
dews dropping slowly and dreams
gather: unknown spears / suddenly hurtle before my dream-awakened
show examples of this. Yeats explains in his own words, "The purpose of rhythm...is to prolong the moment of contemplation, the moment when we are both asleep and awake, which is one moment of creation, by hushing us with an alluring monotony, while it holds us waking by variety..." What Yeats means is that rhythm lulls us into a trance, as he says later, "...to keep us in that state of perhaps real trance, in which the mind, liberated from the pressure of the will is unfolded in symbols". So Yeats believes that a natural, musical rhythm, through this state of trance that it induces, helps the mind reach a dreamlike state in which everything is expressed and understood in symbols and understood more purely than if the logical side of the mind were to "pick" at the poem. Thus, his use of symbols is justified in one way through his preference of a looser rhythm.
Rhyme, Yeats explains in his essay, is used best for memory's sake. In this way it is believed he means for rhyme to be recursive and to draw a connection between one line or lines and another. The rhyming words cause the brain to inadvertently recall the line or lines before it that rhymed with the last line they have read. The motion of this recursive rhyming theory can be seen as a needle sews in a loop, two stitches forward and one stitch back, weaving a story fragment and an emotion into the mind of the reader.
Also in the same essay, Yeats describes symbolism in many different ways: as the "language" of dreams, as emotional or intellectual, and as an ever-changing level of meaning that differs from person to person and time period to time period. He believes that these images evoked by symbols are what the essence of poetry should be, that a poem should not merely have one meaning, but many meanings to many people of different times. Throughout almost all of his poetry there are symbols to be felt or interpreted. One type of symbol he writes about in his essay is an emotional symbol. An example of an emotional symbol is the use of the word purple to describe hills or clouds; it gives a serine feeling but also perhaps a sad feeling, though for no particular, logical reason. The second type of symbol Yeats writes about is an intellectual symbol; this is a symbol that stands for something and its meaning is learned, such as, the cross standing for forgiveness or Jesus, or a white lily standing for purity. Yeats says that intellectual symbols are the most effective because they convey depths of meaning rather than just a general feeling or nostalgia. He says:
"It is the intellect that decides where the reader shall ponder over the procession of symbols, and if the symbols are merely emotional, he gazes from amid the accidents and destinies of the world; but if the symbols are intellectual too, he becomes himself a part of pure intellect...If I watch a rushy pool in the moonlight, my emotion at its beauty is mixed with memories...but if I look at the moon herself and remember any of her ancient names and meanings, I move among divine people...".
For example, Yeats' poem "The Second Coming;" in this poem there are the symbols gyre, falcon and falconer, lion body, rocking cradle, and Bethlehem, just to name a few. Each of these is an intellectual symbol, and, depending on the person's individual knowledge, can be interpreted differently and some are only linked to one thing, such as Bethlehem, which can only be linked to the city of the same name and specific historical or religious meaning.
Yeats' poetry is very dreamlike in its symbols and allusions and in the emotional colors that those symbols paint in the reader's mind. This creates deep levels of meaning to his poems. If a poem, such as "No Second Troy," is read lightly it gives off a simple emotion from its wording and subject matter. But with deeper study into the history of both Yeats and the poem, one learns who the woman is that he speaks of and why he says such things of her as
"[She has] taught to ignorant men most violent ways, Or hurled the little streets upon the great..."and” With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind / That is not natural in an age like this,..."
on another level, one could see a comparison and contrast of the
woman in the poem and Helen of Troy. A whole discussion could be
drawn up from this.
Certainly Yeats knows his theories on symbolism in poetry and how to apply them. He shows these qualities in his own work through mechanics and content. The ideas of his essay clearly define and influence his poetry and his perspective of it. Clearly he is a master of symbolism even among his peers. Perhaps one of the effects of his knowledge of symbols is that the moon may be more than just a moon, and a flower more
The gyre, a circular or conical shape, appears frequently in Yeast’s poems and was developed as part of the philosophical system outlined in his book A Vision. At first, Yeats used the phases of the moon to articulate his belief that history was structured in terms of ages, but he later settled upon the gyre as a more useful model. He chose the image of interlocking gyres—visually represented as two intersecting conical spirals—to symbolize his philosophical belief that all things could be described in terms of cycles and patterns. The soul would move from the smallest point of the spiral to the largest before moving along to the other gyre. Although this is a difficult concept to grasp abstractly, the image makes sense when applied to the waxing and waning of a particular historical age or the evolution of a human life from youth to adulthood to old age. The symbol of the interlocking gyres reveals Yeast’s belief in fate and historical determinism as well as his spiritual attitudes toward the development of the soul, since creatures and events must evolve according to the conical shape. With the image of the gyre, Yeats created a shorthand reference in his poetry that stood for his entire philosophy of history and spirituality
Swans are a common symbol in poetry, often used to depict idealized nature. Yeats employs this convention in “The Wild Swans at Coole” (1919), in which the regal birds represent an unchanging, flawless ideal. In “Leda and the Swan,” Yeats rewrites the Greek myth of Zeus and Leda to comment on fate and historical inevitability: Zeus disguises himself as a swan to rape the unsuspecting Leda. In this poem, the bird is fearsome and destructive, and it possesses a divine power that violates Leda and initiates the dire consequences of war and devastation depicted in the final lines. Even though Yeats clearly states that the swan is the god Zeus, he also emphasizes the physicality of the swan: the beating wings, the dark webbed feet, the long neck and beak. Through this description of its physical characteristics, the swan becomes a violent divine force. By rendering a well-known poetic symbol as violent and terrifying rather than idealized and beautiful, Yeats manipulates poetic conventions, an act of literary modernism, and adds to the power of the poem.
Yeats employs the figure of a great beast—a horrific, violent animal—to embody difficult abstract concepts. The great beast as a symbol comes from Christian iconography, in which it represents evil and darkness. In “The Second Coming,” the great beast emerges from the Spiritus Mundi, or soul of the universe, to function as the primary image of destruction in the poem. Yeats describes the onset of apocalyptic events in which the “blood-dimmed tide is loosed” and the “ceremony of innocence is drowned” as the world enters a new age and falls apart as a result of the widening of the historical gyres. The speaker predicts the arrival of the Second Coming, and this prediction summons a “vast image” of a frightening monster pulled from the collective consciousness of the world. Yeats modifies the well-known image of the sphinx to embody the poem’s vision of the climactic coming. By rendering the terrifying prospect of disruption and change into an easily imagined horrifying monster, Yeats makes an abstract fear become tangible and real. The great beast slouches toward Bethlehem to be born, where it will evolve into a second Christ or anti-Christ figure for the dark new age. In this way, Yeats uses distinct, concrete imagery to symbolize complex idea.
Yeats started his long literary career as a romantic poet and gradually evolved into a modernist poet. When he began publishing poetry in the 1880s, his poems had a lyrical, romantic style, and they focused on love, longing and loss, and Irish myths. His early writing follows the conventions of romantic verse, utilizing familiar rhyme schemes, metric patterns, and poetic structures. Although it is lighter than his later writings, his early poetry is still sophisticated and accomplished. Several factors contributed to his poetic evolution: his interest in mysticism and the occult led him to explore spiritually and philosophically complex subjects. Yeast’s frustrated romantic relationship with Maud Gonne caused the starry-eyed romantic idealism of his early work to become more knowing and cynical. Additionally, his concern with Irish subjects evolved as he became more closely connected to nationalist political causes. As a result, Yeats shifted his focus from myth and folklore to contemporary politics, often linking the two to make potent statements that reflected political agitation and turbulence in Ireland and abroad. Finally, and most significantly, Yeast’s connection with the changing face of literary culture in the early twentieth century led him to pick up some of the styles and conventions of the modernist poets. The modernists experimented with verse forms, aggressively engaged with contemporary politics, challenged poetic conventions and the literary tradition at large, and rejected the notion that poetry should simply be lyrical and beautiful. These influences caused his poetry to become darker, edgier, and more concise. Although he never abandoned the verse forms that provided the sounds and rhythms of his earlier poetry, there is still a noticeable shift in style and tone over the course of his career.
Throughout his literary career, Yeats incorporated distinctly Irish themes and issues into his work. He used his writing as a tool to comment on Irish politics and the home rule movement and to educate and inform people about Irish history and culture. Yeats also used the backdrop of the Irish countryside to retell stories and legends from Irish folklore. As he became increasingly involved in nationalist politics, his poems took on a patriotic tone. Yeats addressed Irish politics in a variety of ways: sometimes his statements are explicit political commentary, as in “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” in which he addresses the hypocrisy of the British use of Irish soldiers in World War I. Such poems as “Easter 1916” and “In Memory of Eva Gore Booth and Con Markiewicz” address individuals and events connected to Irish nationalist politics, while “The Second Coming” and “Leda and the Swan” subtly include the idea of Irish nationalism. In these poems, a sense of cultural crisis and conflict seeps through, even though the poems are not explicitly about Ireland. By using images of chaos, disorder, and war, Yeats engaged in an understated commentary on the political situations in Ireland and abroad. Yeast’s active participation in Irish politics informed his poetry, and he used his work to further comment on the nationalist issues of his day.
Yeats had a deep fascination with mysticism and the occult, and his poetry is infused with a sense of the otherworldly, the spiritual, and the unknown. His interest in the occult began with his study of Theosophy as a young man and expanded and developed through his participation in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a mystical secret society. Mysticism figures prominently in Yeats’s discussion of the reincarnation of the soul, as well as in his philosophical model of the conical gyres used to explain the journey of the soul, the passage of time, and the guiding hand of fate. Mysticism and the occult occur again and again in Yeats’s poetry, most explicitly in “The Second Coming” but also in poems such as “Sailing to Byzantium” and “The Magi” (1916). The rejection of Christian principles in favor of a more supernatural approach to spirituality creates a unique flavor in Yeats’s poetry that impacts his discussion of history, politics, and love.
Yeats’s participation in the Irish political system had origins in his interest in Irish myth and folklore. Irish myth and folklore had been suppressed by church doctrine and British control of the school system. Yeats used his poetry as a tool for re-educating the Irish population about their heritage and as a strategy for developing Irish nationalism. He retold entire folktales in epic poems and plays, such as The Wanderings of Oisin (1889) and The Death of Cuchulain (1939), and used fragments of stories in shorter poems, such as “The Stolen Child” (1886), which retells a parable of fairies luring a child away from his home, and “Cuchulain’s Fight with the Sea” (1925), which recounts part of an epic where the Irish folk hero Cuchulain battles his long-lost son by at the edge of the sea. Other poems deal with subjects, images, and themes culled from folklore. In “Who Goes with Fergus?” (1893) Yeats imagines a meeting with the exiled wandering king of Irish legend, while “The Song of Wandering Aengus” (1899) captures the experiences of the lovelorn god Aengus as he searches for the beautiful maiden seen in his dreams. Most important, Yeats infused his poetry with a rich sense of Irish culture. Even poems that do not deal explicitly with subjects from myth retain powerful tinges of indigenous Irish culture. Yeats often borrowed word selection, verse form, and patterns of imagery directly from traditional Irish myth and folklore.
THE ETHOS OF YEATS LOVE POETRY
We know from his poetic output that Yeats was more than simply a love poet. He also wrote elegies, self-elegies, epitaphs, curses, dramatic monologues, and verse plays, as well as poems of tragedy, joy, prophecy, the sublime and the esoteric.
But is this wholly accurate? If we examine in some detail his remarkable contributions, this conclusion however understandable, may be seen to be somewhat superficial and trite bearing in mind the complexities and depth of our subject. Let me explain:
Consider: "We are at our Tower and I am writing poetry as I always do here, and as always happens, no matter how I begin, it becomes love poetry before I am finished with it."
These are his own words in a letter. It seems to Yeats, all of his poetry is in sense love poetry! Could it be that he considers it as a fundament that love is both the subject of the love poem and also the stuff of all poetry, making love the genre closest to the psychological base of the poetic process? So we may perhaps realize that Yeats love poetry are for as much their own production as they are for Maud Gonne or any other woman for that matter. To understand Yeats Love Poetry aright, let us examine his methods.
THE STYLE OF YEATS LOVE POETRY
1. To Yeats, a male poet cannot achieve the two forms of love he ascribes to all love poetry, i.e., possession of the woman, and also possession of the poem itself.
He approached all his love poetry from the perspective that these two goals are mutually exclusive. Consequently, the price that must be paid to inspire and sustain his poetry is the physical loss of the beloved.
2. He implied often that the beloved must be dead, absent, or incapable of reciprocation, in order for the poet to generate the passion or desire to produce the language necessary for the love poetry. Some kind of quid pro quo or trade-off, a condition precedent without which the master baker cannot bake his sumptuous fare!
When we recollect his doomed obsessions with his most famous muse, Maud Gonne, is it any wonder that this theme of unattainable love as the incendiary for gripping love verse is a feature of Yeats Love Poetry? I think not!
To quote from his famed work, "The Tower" - "Does the imagination dwell the most/upon a woman won or woman lost?"
Yeats often enough in his love poetry illustrated that the answer lay in the latter.
3. In striving to give effect to this viewpoint, Yeats Love Poetry reflects not only the women they address, but also the ways and means through which they are addressed. Consequently at a deeper level we can appreciate Yeats Love Poetry as being largely about the poetic construct itself within which even the subject, the beloved, is subsumed as a side plot. Almost a by- product therein!
So Yeats Love Poetry is not merely a personal voyage showcasing his romantic experiences with the fairer sex simplicities, its objective was also to show love as a theme in itself, as the genre fundamental to the creative base of the entire poetic process.
This all-embracing nature of Yeats Love Poetry is an inevitable conclusion you arrive at in delving into them. Reviewer Kerry Fried agrees with this assessment... "At his best, Yeats extends the meaning of love poetry beyond the obviously romantic: love becomes a revolutionary emotion, attaching the poet to friends, history, and the passionate life of the mind."
4. The female principle for Yeats Love Poetry often takes two forms: The absent beloved who only becomes attainable after the catharsis of some cataclysm or quest attained, or a mournful dirge. Some elegy wherein the poet mourns his aching loss as an epitaph for lost love.
It is as if threatened by the growing social and cultural power of women of his time, Yeats and other male poets manufactured a compensatory model of womankind for their literary purposes, wherein an opposite of the unmistakable "new woman" emerged, over which they could retain the traditional social control.
Castiglione's advice on this, well known to Yeats, was literally taken to heart. The courtier must create an image of the beloved in his "his imagination as an abstraction distinct from any material form, and thus ... enjoy it there always ... without fear of ever losing it." Thus an imaginative picture of femininity that resists social change was created, replacing the activist, political woman with traditional poetic images of a passive or dead beloved. Early Yeats love poetry as we shall shortly see is redolent of this feature.
Let us look at an example of this feature of Yeats Love Poetry which showcases all we have dwelt on above, and which also illustrate Yeast’s dense and self-absorbed poetry in its somber majesty.
THE SECRET ROSE
Far-off, most secret, and inviolate Rose,
Enfold me in my hour of hours; where those
Who sought thee in the Holy Sepulchre,
Or in the wine-vat, dwell beyond the stir
And tumult of defeated dreams; and deep
Among pale eyelids, heavy with the sleep
Men have named beauty. Thy great leaves enfold
The ancient beards, the helms of ruby and gold
Of the crowned Magi; and the king whose eyes
Saw the Pierced Hands and Rood of elder rise
In Druid vapour and make the torches dim;
Till vain frenzy woke and he died; and him
Who met Fand walking among flaming dew
By a grey shore where the wind never blew,
And lost the world and Emer for a kiss;
And him who drove the gods out of their liss,
And till a hundred morns had flowered red
Feasted, and wept the barrows of his dead;
And the proud dreaming king who flung the crown
And sorrow away, and calling bard and clown
Dwelt among wine-stained wanderers in deep woods;
And him who sold tillage, and house, and goods,
And sought through lands and islands numberless years,
Until he found, with laughter and with tears,
A woman of so shining loveliness
That men threshed corn at midnight by a tress,
A little stolen tress. I, too, await
The hour of thy great wind of love and hate.
When shall the stars be blown about the sky,
Like the sparks blown out of a smithy, and die?
Surely thine hour has come, thy great wind blows,
Far-off, most secret, and inviolate Rose?
W.B.Yeats died at the height of his creative powers and at the summit of his career in 1939. His latter works were by now recognized in his lifetime as timeless masterpieces, and the earlier doubts about his genius, long since quelled. It was said of him that he had the unique ability to take fantasy, mysticism and the unknown and use it as an analogy to examine and explain the human condition. Soon after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, he himself recognized that when he was young, his muse was old; now he was old but his muse is young.
Confirming this assertion, critic Stanley Kunitz, had this to say: He is perhaps the only poet in history whose last work was his best. The taut bareness of the phrases, the stark beauty, the sharpness, the simplicity, the objectivity, he had never achieved in youth came to him in old age.
Life and work of
Thomas Stearns Eliot (September 26, 1888–January 4, 1965) was an Anglo-American poet, playwright, and literary critic, arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. His first notable publication, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, begun in February 1910 and published in Chicago in June 1915, is regarded as a masterpiece of the modernist movement. It was followed by some of the best-known poems in the English language, including Gerontion (1920), The Waste Land (1922), The Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930), Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), and Four Quartets (1945). He is also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935) and The Cocktail Party (1949). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Order of Merit in 1948.
Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and was educated at Harvard University. After graduating in 1909, he studied philosophy at the University of Paris for a year, then won a scholarship to Merton College, Oxford in 1914, becoming a British citizen when he was 39. "[M]y poetry has obviously more in common with my distinguished contemporaries in America than with anything written in my generation in England," he said of his nationality and its role in his work. "It wouldn't be what it is, and I imagine it wouldn't be so good ... if I'd been born in England, and it wouldn't be what it is if I'd stayed in America. It's a combination of things. But in its sources, in its emotional springs, it comes from America."
Eliot was born into the Eliot family, a bourgeois family, originally from New England, who had moved to St. Louis, Missouri. His father, Henry Ware Eliot (1843–1919), was a successful businessman, president and treasurer of the Hydraulic-Press Brick Company in St. Louis. His mother, Charlotte Champe Stearns (1843–1929), wrote poems and was a social worker. Eliot was the last of six surviving children; his parents were both 44 years old when he was born. His four sisters were between 11 and 19 years older than him; his brother was eight years older. Known to family and friends as Tom, he was the namesake of his maternal grandfather Thomas Stearns.
From 1898 to 1905, Eliot attended Smith Academy, where he studied Latin, Ancient Greek, French, and German. He began to write poetry when he was 14 under the influence of Edward Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a translation of the poetry of Omar Khayyam, though he said the results were gloomy and despairing, and he destroyed them. The first poem that he showed anyone was written as a school exercise when he was 15, and was published in the Smith Academy Record, and later in The Harvard Advocate, Harvard University's student magazine.
After graduation, he attended Milton Academy in Massachusetts for a preparatory year, where he met Scofield Thayer, who would later publish The Waste Land. He studied philosophy at Harvard from 1906 to 1909, earning his bachelor's degree after three years, instead of the usual four. Frank Kermode writes that the most important moment of Eliot's undergraduate career was in 1908, when he discovered Arthur Symons's The Symbolist Movement in Poetry (1899). This introduced him to Jules Laforgue, Arthur Rimbaud, and Paul Verlaine, and without Verlaine, Eliot wrote, he might never have heard of Tristan Corbière. He wrote that the book affected the course of his life. The Harvard Advocate published some of his poems, and he became lifelong friends with Conrad Aiken, the American novelist.
He worked as a philosophy assistant at Harvard from 1909–1910, then from 1910–1911, he lived in Paris, studying philosophy at the Sorbonne, where he attended lectures by Henri Bergson and read poetry with Alain-Fournier. From 1911–1914, he was back at Harvard studying Indian philosophy and Sanskrit. He was awarded a scholarship to Merton College, Oxford in 1914. He visited Marburg in Germany first, where he planned to take a summer program, but when the First World War broke out, he went to Oxford instead. There were so many American students at Merton at the time that the Junior Common Room proposed a motion "that this society abhors the Americanization of Oxford," defeated by two votes after Eliot reminded the students how much they owed American culture. But he didn't settle at Merton, and left after a year. He wrote to Conrad Aiken on New Year's Eve 1914: "I hate university towns and university people, who are the same everywhere, with pregnant wives, sprawling children, many books and hideous pictures on the walls ... Oxford is very pretty, but I don't like to be dead." By 1916, he had completed a PhD dissertion for Harvard on Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley, about F. H. Bradley but he failed to return for the viva voce.
Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot (left), with Peter Stainer and Mildred Woodruff, photographed by Lady Ottoline Morrell
In a letter to Aiken late in December 1914, Eliot, aged 26, wrote, "I am very dependent upon women (I mean female society)," and then added a complaint that he was still a virgin. Less than four months later, Thayer introduced Eliot to Vivienne Haigh-Wood, a Cambridge governess. They were married at Hampstead Register Office on June 26, 1915.
After a short, unaccompanied visit to his family in the United States, he returned to London and took several teaching jobs such as lecturing at Birkbeck College, University of London. The philosopher Bertrand Russell took an interest in Eliot's wife while the newlyweds stayed in his flat. Some scholars have suggested that she and Russell had an affair, but the allegations were never confirmed. In a private paper written in his sixties, Eliot confessed: "I came to persuade myself that I was in love with Vivienne simply because I wanted to burn my boats and commit myself to staying in England. And she persuaded herself also under the influence of Pound that she would save the poet by keeping him in England. To her, the marriage brought no happiness. To me, it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land." Their relationship was the subject of a 1984 play Tom and Viv, which in 1994 was made into a film.
After leaving Merton, Eliot worked as a schoolteacher, most notably at Highgate School, a private school in London, where he taught French and Latin his students included the young John Betjeman—and later at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe a state school in Buckinghamshire. To earn extra money, he wrote book reviews and lectured at evening extension courses. In 1917, he took a position at Lloyds Bank in London, working on foreign accounts. On a trip to Paris in August 1920, he met the writer James Joyce and artist Wyndham Lewis. Eliot said he found Joyce arrogant—Joyce doubted Eliot's ability as a poet at the time—but the two soon became friends, with Eliot's visiting Joyce whenever he was in Paris. In 1925, he left Lloyds to join the publishing firm Faber and Gwyer, later Faber and Faber, where he remained for the rest of his career, eventually becoming a director. Wyndham Lewis and Eliot became close friends, a friendship leading to Lewis's well-known painting of Eliot in 1938.
By 1932, Eliot had been contemplating a separation from his wife for some time. When Harvard offered him the Charles Eliot Norton professorship for the 1932-1933 academic years, he accepted and left Vivienne in England. Upon his return, he arranged for a formal separation from her, avoiding all but one meeting with her between his leaving for America in 1932 and her death in 1947. Vivien was committed to the Northumberland House mental hospital, Stoke Newington, in 1938, and remained there until she died. Although Eliot was still her husband, he never visited her.
From 1946 to 1957, Eliot shared a flat with his friend John Davy Hayward, who gathered and archived Eliot's papers, styling himself "Keeper of the Eliot Archive". Hayward also collected Eliot's pre-Prufrock verse, commercially published after Eliot's death as Poems Written in Early Youth. When Eliot and Hayward separated their household in 1957, Hayward retained his collection of Eliot's papers, which he bequeathed to King's College, Cambridge in 1965.
Eliot's second marriage was happy. On January 10, 1957, he married Esmé Valerie Fletcher, 37 years younger than he. In contrast to his first marriage, Eliot knew Fletcher well, as she had been his secretary at Faber and Faber since August 1949. They kept their wedding secret; the ceremony was held in a church at 6.15 a.m. with virtually no one in attendance other than his wife's parents. Since Eliot's death, Valerie has dedicated her time to preserving his legacy; she has edited and annotated The Letters of T. S. Eliot and a facsimile of the draft of The Waste Land.
In the early 1960s, by then in failing health, he served as an editorial consultant to the Wesleyan University Press, Connecticut, seeking out new poets in Europe for publication.
Eliot died of emphysema in London on January 4, 1965. For many years he had had health problems caused by his heavy smoking, and had often been laid low with bronchitis or tachycardia. His body was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. According to Eliot's wishes, the ashes were taken to St Michael's Church in East Coker, the village from which his ancestors had immigrated to America. There, a simple wall plaque commemorates him with a quotation from his poem "East Coker": "In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning." On the second anniversary of his death, he was commemorated by the installation of a large stone in the floor of Poets' Corner in London's Westminster Abbey. The stone is inscribed with his dates, his Order of Merit, and a quotation from his poem, "Little Gidding": "the communication / Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond / the language of the living."
The Waste Land (1922)
The Hollow Men (1925)
Ariel Poems (1927–1954)
The Journey of the Magi (1927)
Ash Wednesday (1930)
The Marching Song of the Pollicle Dogs and Billy M'Caw: The Remarkable Parrot (1939) in The Queen's Book of the Red Cross
Four Quartets (1945)
Sweeney Agonistes (published in 1926, first performed in 1934)
The Rock (1934)
Murder in the Cathedral (1935)
The Family Reunion (1939)
The Cocktail Party (1949)
The Confidential Clerk (1953)
The Elder Statesman (first performed in 1958, published in 1959)
Christianity & Culture (1939, 1948)
The Second-Order Mind (1920)
The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1920)
Homage to John Dryden (1924)
Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca (1928)
For Lancelot Andrewes (1928)
Selected Essays, 1917–1932 (1932)
The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933)
After Strange Gods (1934)
Elizabethan Essays (1934)
Essays Ancient and Modern (1936)
The Idea of a Christian Society (1939)
Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948)
Poetry and Drama (1951)
The Three Voices of Poetry (1954)
The Frontiers of Criticism (1956)
On Poetry and Poets (1957)
To Criticize the Critic (1965)
The Waste Land: Facsimile Edition (1974)
Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917 (1996)
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, Illustrated Edition (1982) excerpt and text search
Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot ed. by Frank Kermode (1975) excerpt and text search
The Waste Land (Norton Critical Editions) ed. by Michael North (2000) excerpt and text search
Selected essays (1932); enlarged (1960)
The letters of T. S. Eliot, ed. Valerie Eliot, vol. 1: 1898-1922 (1988)
The letters of T. S. Eliot, ed. Valerie Eliot, vol. 2: 1923-1925 (2009)
Officier de la Legion d'Honneur (1951)
Dante Medal (Florence, 1959)
13 honorary doctorates (including Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne, and Harvard)
Tony Award in 1950 for Best Play: The Broadway production of The Cocktail Party.
Celebrated on commemorative postage stamps
A star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame
Reflection of science:
The imagery and vocsbulary of the modern poet reflects the influence of science and scientific inventions. Realism in subject matter has led the modern poet to reject the highly ornate and artificial poetic style of the romantics in favoure of the language which resembles closely the language of everydau life.
Delight in nature:
This does not mean that the ugliness and murkiness of the machine age have lessened mans joy in the beauty of nature. For the modern poet, nature is a box of toys which delights his heart and which is very dear to him. The modern poet does not love nature alone, he also loves and feels for the lower animals living in the lap of nature. He is moved by treatment of the dump creation.
The new poetry is realistic and the poets conciousness of the grim of life has shattered all illusions and romantic dreams. The tragedy of everyday life has induced in the poet a mood of disillusionment and so the poetry today is bitter and pessimistic. The pessimism of the modern poet is more poignant and heart-rending, because it arises out of the contimentation of the strak realities of life.
Impersonality of poetry:
Departing from the romantic tradition, which regarded poetry as continuous outburst of personal feelings, Eliot emphasized the impersonal nature of poetry. He regards subjectivity as the source of eccentricity and chaos. He the poet as an actor playing the role.
Importance of classicism:
Eliot is pre-eminentlt a classicist. He belives in tradition because it stood the test of the time. While writing he keeps certain ideals before himself. These ideals are objectively discipline, impersonality, constant revision, reference to tradition and readers response.
imagery implys pictures or other sense impressions, conveyed in words. An image in poetry is a word or expression which appeals directly to the eye, the ear, or the sense of taste, touch and smell.
Eliot’s images are drawn from various sources and they can be categorized as under:
months and seasons of the year
flowers and garden
images of stairs
images of fire and thunder
images based upon ancient literature and philosophy
images dealing with paraphernalia of the city
images derived from components of human body
The style of the work in part grows out of Eliot's interest in exploring the possibilities of dramatic monologue. This interest dates back at least as far as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
Eliot also enjoyed the music hall, and something of the flavor of this popular form of entertainment gets into the poem. It follows the pattern of the musical fugue, in which many voices enter throughout the piece re-stating the themes
Above all perhaps it is the disjointed nature of the poem, the way it jumps from one adopted manner to another, the way it moves between different voices and makes use of phrases in foreign languages, that is the most distinctive feature of the poem's style. Interestingly, at the same time as Eliot was writing The Waste Land, Robert Bridges was working on the first of his Neo-Miltonic Syllabics, a poem called 'Poor Poll', which also includes lines in several different languages.
T. S. Eliot has a definite style which can be easily quantified, despite the difficulty of reading and interpreting his work. His sentences tend to be long and oblique, extending a metaphor or a philosophical reflection over the course of a verse or even more. A good example is the opening of Burnt Norton, below:
present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
Given Eliot's predilection for English culture, his use of long descriptive sentences is predictable, though it remains a signature and very special trait of his work.
Eliot's diction also shows a high level of erudition, and he makes no attempt to lower it to reach a wider audience. He is particularly fond of using phrases and verses quoted from works in languages other than English--many verses in "The Waste Land" are in German, for example, while the opening verses of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" are the original Latin version of verses from Dante's Inferno:
S'io credessi che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tomasse al mundo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per cio che giammai di questo fondo
non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.
He chooses his words carefully, especially when he has a particular auditory effect in mind--"remaining a perpetual possibility / only in a world of speculation." The flow of prose is of paramount importance in Eliot's prose because the length of his works would otherwise make them extremely clumsy, and he goes through a great deal of effort to maintain this flow even between verses. Where necessary, he breaks this flow with terminal sentences that are meant to remain with the reader longer than the rest--"Thus, in your mind."
As with most poets, Eliot makes liberal use of short metaphors and similes, particularly metaphors, in his work, when he avoids his more characteristic extended metaphors. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is a prime example; in this selection, the protagonist Prufrock is comparing his life and his recent experiences to a number of less than complementary ideas:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
Eliot's metaphors tend to serve as particularly poignant images. Though they are not often delivered in the form of epigrams, they serve the same function--to quickly and effectively crystallize and perpetuate the idea that Eliot is discussing in the piece. When they are delivered so, it is most often at the conclusion of a poem--the conclusion of "Prufrock" is just such a verse:
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
Overall, T. S. Eliot's style is lengthy and laden with literary devices of one sort or another. He uses his knowledge of literature and of the English language expertly to develop poetry with an amazing flow despite its length and use of elevated diction, and his figurative language has a profound effect on the reader no matter its nature or significance.
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
--"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
For a poet of his stature, Eliot produced a relatively small amount of poetry. He was aware of this early in his career. He wrote to J. H. Woods, one of his former Harvard professors, that, "My reputation in London is built upon one small volume of verse, and is kept up by printing two or three more poems in a year. The only thing that matters is that these should be perfect in their kind, so that each should be an event."
Typically, Eliot first published his poems individually in periodicals or in small books or pamphlets, and then collected them in books. His first collection was Prufrock and Other Observations (1917). In 1920, he published more poems in Ara Vos Prec (London) and Poems: 1920 (New York). These had the same poems (in a different order) except that "Ode" in the British edition was replaced with "Hysteria" in the American edition. In 1925, he collected The Waste Land and the poems in Prufrock and Poems into one volume and added The Hollow Men to form Poems: 1909–1925. From then on, he updated this work as Collected Poems. Exceptions are Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), a collection of light verse; Poems Written in Early Youth, posthumously published in 1967 and consisting mainly of poems published 1907–1910 in The Harvard Advocate, , and Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909–1917, material Eliot never intended to have published, which appeared posthumously in 1997.
In 1915 Ezra Pound, overseas editor of Poetry magazine, recommended to Harriet Monroe, the magazine's founder, that she publish "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". Although the character Prufrock seems to be middle-aged, Eliot wrote most of the poem when he was only 22. Its now-famous opening lines, comparing the evening sky to "a patient etherised upon a table," were considered shocking and offensive, especially at a time when Georgian Poetry was hailed for its derivations of the 19th century Romantic Poets. The poem follows the conscious experience of a man, Prufrock (relayed in the "stream of consciousness" form characteristic of the Modernists, lamenting his physical and intellectual inertia, the lost opportunities in his life and lack of spiritual progress, with the recurrent theme of carnal love unattained. Critical opinion is divided as to whether the narrator leaves his residence during the course of the narration. The locations described can be interpreted either as actual physical experiences, mental recollections, or even as symbolic images from the sub-conscious mind, as, for example, in the refrain "In the room the women come and go." The poem's structure was heavily influenced by Eliot's extensive reading of Dante Alighieri, in the Italian, and refers to a number of literary works, including Hamlet and those of the French Symbolists.
Its reception in London can be gauged from an unsigned review in The Times Literary Supplement on June 21, 1917: "The fact that these things occurred to the mind of Mr Eliot is surely of the very smallest importance to anyone, even to himself. They certainly have no relation to poetry…"
In October 1922 Eliot published The Waste Land in The Criterion. It was composed during a period of personal difficulty for Eliot—his marriage was failing, and both he and Vivien were suffering from nervous disorders. The poem is often read as a representation of the disillusionment of the post-war generation. That year Eliot lived in Lausanne, Switzerland to take a treatment and to convalesce from a break-down. There he wrote the final section, "What the Thunder Said," which contains frequent references to mountains. The poem's original draft was submitted to Ezra Pound, who persuaded Eliot to shorten it considerably. Before the poem's publication as a book in December 1922, Eliot distanced himself from its vision of despair. On November 15, 1922, he wrote to Richard Aldington, saying, "As for The Waste Land, that is a thing of the past so far as I am concerned and I am now feeling toward a new form and style." The poem is known for its obscure nature—its slippage between satire and prophecy; its abrupt changes of speaker, location, and time; its elegiac but intimidating summoning up of a vast and dissonant range of cultures and literatures. Despite this, it has become a touchstone of modern literature, a poetic counterpart to a novel published in the same year, James Joyce's Ulysses. Among its best-known phrases are "April is the cruellest month", "I will show you fear in a handful of dust"; and "Shantih shantih shantih," the Sanskrit word that ends the poem.
The Hollow Men appeared in 1925. For the critic Edmund Wilson, it marked "the nadir of the phase of despair and desolation given such effective expression in The Waste Land." It is Eliot's major poem of the late twenties. Similar to other work, its themes are overlapping and fragmentary: post-war Europe under the Treaty of Versailles which Eliot despised: compare Gerontion; the difficulty of hope and religious conversion; and Eliot's failed marriage.
Allen Tate perceived a shift in Eliot's method, writing that, "The mythologies disappear altogether in The Hollow Men." This is a striking claim for a poem as indebted to Dante as anything else in Eliot’s early work, to say little of the modern English mythology—the ‘Old Guy’ of the Gunpowder Plot—or the colonial and agrarian mythos of Joseph Conrad and James George Frazer, which, at least for reasons of textual history, echo in The Waste Land. The "continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity" that is so characteristic of his mythical method remained in fine form. The Hollow Men contains some of Eliot's most famous lines, most notably its conclusion:
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Ash Wednesday is the first long poem written by Eliot after his 1927 conversion to Anglicanism. Published in 1930, it deals with the struggle that ensues when one who has lacked faith acquires it. Sometimes referred to as Eliot's "conversion poem," it is richly but ambiguously allusive, and deals with the aspiration to move from spiritual barrenness to hope for human salvation, inspired by Dante's Purgatorio. The style is different from the poetry that predates his conversion. Ash Wednesday and the poems that followed had a more casual, melodic, and contemplative method.
Many critics were particularly enthusiastic about it. Edwin Muir maintained that it is one of the most moving poems Eliot wrote, and perhaps the "most perfect," though it was not well-received by everyone. The poem's groundwork of orthodox Christianity discomfited many of the more secular literati.
In 1930, he published a book of light verse, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, "Old Possum" being Ezra Pound's nickname for him. This first edition had an illustration of the author on the cover. In 1954, the composer Alan Rawsthorne set six of the poems for speaker and orchestra, in a work entitled Practical Cats. After Eliot's death, it became the basis of the musical, Cats, by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Eliot regarded Four Quartets as his masterpiece, and it is the work that led to his being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. It consists of four long poems, each first published separately: Burnt Norton (1936), East Coker (1940), Dry Salvages (1941) and Little Gidding (1942). Each has five sections. Although they resist easy characterizations, each begins with a rumination on the geographical location of its title, and each meditates on the nature of time in some important respect—theological, historical, physical—and its relation to the human condition. Each poem is associated with one of the four classical elements: air, earth, water, and fire.
Burnt Norton asks what it means to consider things that might have been. We see the shell of an abandoned house, and Eliot toys with the idea that all these merely possible realities are present together, invisible to us. All the possible ways people might walk across a courtyard add up to a vast dance we can't see; children who aren't there are hiding in the bushes.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
East Coker continues the examination of time and meaning, focusing in a famous passage on the nature of language and poetry. Out of darkness, Eliot offers a solution: "I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope".
The Dry Salvages treats the element of water, via images of river and sea. It strives to contain opposites: "... the past and future/Are conquered, and reconciled".
Little Gidding the element of fire is the most anthologized of the Quartets. Eliot's experiences as an air raid warden in The Blitz power the poem, and he imagines meeting Dante during the German bombing. The beginning of the Quartets had become a violent everyday experience; this creates an animation, where for the first time he talks of Love as the driving force behind all experience. From this background, the Quartets end with an affirmation of Julian of Norwich: "all shall be well and/All manner of thing shall be well".
The Four Quartets cannot be understood without reference to Christian thought, traditions, and history. Eliot draws upon the theology, art, symbolism and language of such figures as Dante, and mystics St. John of the Cross and Julian of Norwich. The "deeper communion" sought in East Coker, the "hints and whispers of children, the sickness that must grow worse in order to find healing," and the exploration which inevitably leads us home all point to the pilgrim's path along the road of sanctification.
With the important exception of his magnum opus Four Quartets, Eliot directed much of his creative energies after Ash Wednesday to writing plays in verse, mostly comedies or plays with redemptive endings. He was long a critic and admirer of Elizabethan and Jacobean verse drama; witness his allusions to Webster, Thomas Middleton, William Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd in The Waste Land. In a 1933 lecture he said: "Every poet would like, I fancy, being able to think that he had some direct social utility. ... He would like to be something of a popular entertainer, and be able to think his own thoughts behind a tragic or a comic mask. He would like to convey the pleasures of poetry, not only to a larger audience, but to larger groups of people collectively; and the theatre is the best place in which to do it."
After The Waste Land (1922), he wrote that he was "now feeling toward a new form and style." One project he had in mind was writing a play in verse with a jazz tempo featuring Sweeney, a character who had appeared in a number of his poems. Eliot did not finish it. He did publish separately two pieces of what he had written. The two, Fragment of a Prologue (1926) and Fragment of an Agon (1927) were published together in 1932 as Sweeney Agonistes. Although Eliot noted that this was not intended to be a one-act play, it is sometimes performed as one.
A pageant play by Eliot called The Rock was performed in 1934 for the benefit for churches in the Diocese of London. Much of it was a collaborative effort; Eliot accepted credit only for the authorship of one scene and the choruses. George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester, had been instrumental in connecting Eliot with producer E. Martin Browne for the production of The Rock, and later asked Eliot to write another play for the Canterbury Festival in 1935. This one, Murder in the Cathedral, concerning the death of the martyr, Thomas Becket, was more under Eliot's control. After this, he worked on commercial plays for more general audiences: The Family Reunion (1939), The Cocktail Party (1949), The Confidential Clerk, (1953) and The Elder Statesman (1958). The Broadway production in New York of The Cocktail Party received the 1950 Tony Award for Best Play.
Eliot also made significant contributions to the field of literary criticism, strongly influencing the school of New Criticism. While somewhat self-deprecating and minimizing of his work—he once said his criticism was merely a “by-product” of his “private poetry-workshop”—Eliot is considered by some to be one of the greatest literary critics of the 20th century. The critic William Empson once said, "I do not know for certain how much of my own mind invented, let alone how much of it is a reaction against him or indeed a consequence of misreading him. He is a very penetrating influence, perhaps not unlike the east wind."
In his critical essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” Eliot argues that art must be understood not in a vacuum, but in the context of previous pieces of art: “In a peculiar sense ... must inevitably be judged by the standards of the past.” This essay was one of the most important works of the school of New Criticism. Specifically, it introduced the idea that the value of one work of art must be viewed in the context of all previous work, a “simultaneous order” or works. Also important to New Criticism was the idea—as articulated in Eliot’s essay "Hamlet and His Problems”—of an “objective correlative,” which posits a connection among the words of the text and events, states of mind, and experiences. This notion concedes that a poem means what it says, but suggests that there can be a non-subjective judgment based on different readers’ different—but perhaps corollary—interpretations of a work.
More generally, New Critics took a cue from Eliot in regards to his “‘classical’ ideals and his religious thought; his attention to the poetry and drama of the early seventeenth century; his deprecation of the Romantics, especially Shelley; his proposition that good poems constitute ‘not a turning loose of emotion but an escape from emotion'; and his insistence that ‘poets…at present must be difficult.’”
Eliot’s essays were a major factor in the revival of interest in the metaphysical poets. Eliot particularly praised the metaphysical poets' ability to show experience as both psychological and sensual, while at the same time infusing this portrayal with—in Eliot's view—wit and uniqueness. Eliot's essay "The Metaphysical Poets," along with giving new significance and attention to metaphysical poetry, introduced his now well-known definition of "unified sensibility," which is considered by some to mean the same thing as the term "metaphysical."
His 1922 poem The Waste Land—which at the time of its publication, many critics believed to be a joke or hoax—also can be better understood in light of his work as a critic. He had argued that a poet must write “programmatic criticism"; that is, a poet should write to advance his own interests rather than to advance “historical scholarship". Viewed from Eliot's critical lens, The Waste Land likely shows his personal despair about World War I rather than an objective historical understanding of it.
In 1958, the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed Eliot to a commission that produced The Revised Psalter (1963). A harsh critic of Eliot's, C. S. Lewis, was also a member of the commission, where their antagonism turned into a friendship.
Eliot's poetry was first criticized as not being poetry at all. Many critics attacked his practice of widespread interweaving of quotations from other authors into his work. "Notes on the Waste Land," which follows the poem, gives the source of many of these, but not all. Eliot defended this as a necessary salvaging of tradition in an age of fragmentation, and completely integral to the work, adding richness through unexpected juxtaposition. Other critics have condemned the practice as showing a lack of originality, and for plagiarism. The prominent critic F. W. Bateson published an essay called "T. S. Eliot: The Poetry of Pseudo-Learning". Eliot wrote in The Sacred Wood: "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different."
Canadian academic Robert Ian Scott pointed out that the title of The Waste Land and some of the images had previously appeared in the work of a minor Kentucky poet, Madison Cawein (1865–1914). Bevis Hillier compared Cawein's lines "… come and go/Around its ancient portico" with Eliot's "… come and go/talking of Michelangelo". This line actually appears in Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", and not in The Waste Land. Cawein's "Waste Land" had appeared in the January 1913 issue of the Chicago magazine Poetry (which contained an article by Ezra Pound on London poets). But scholars are continually finding new sources for Eliot's Waste Land, often in odd places.
Many famous fellow writers and critics have paid tribute to Eliot. According to poet Ted Hughes, "Each year Eliot's presence reasserts itself at a deeper level, to an audience that is surprised to find itself more chastened, more astonished, more humble." Hugh Kenner commented, "He has been the most gifted and influential literary critic in English in the twentieth century." However, other writers have not supported this view. In one of his criticisms, Samuel Beckett suggests that Eliot's work belongs in what the reverse of "T. Eliot" spells.
C. S. Lewis thought Eliot's literary criticism "superficial and unscholarly". In a 1935 letter to a mutual friend of theirs, Paul Elmer More, Lewis wrote that he considered the work of Eliot to be "a very great evil." In a 1943 letter to Eliot, Lewis expressed both admiration along with antagonism toward his views when he wrote: "I hope the fact that I find myself often contradicting you in print gives no offence; it is a kind of tribute to you—whenever I fall foul of some widespread contemporary view about literature I always seem to find that you have expressed it most clearly. One aims at the officers first in meeting an attack!"
The depiction of Jews in some of Eliot's poems has led several critics to accuse him of anti-Semitism. Gerontion contains a depiction of a landlord referred to only as the "jew [who] squats on the window sill." Another much-quoted example is the poem, Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar, in which a character in the poem implicitly blames the Jews for the decline of Venice: "The rats are underneath the piles/ The Jew is underneath the lot." In A Cooking Egg, Eliot writes, "The red-eyed scavengers are creeping/ From Kentish Town and Golder's Green". On the other hand, commentators note that the publisher of Gerontion and Burbank was John Rodker, himself Jewish. Additionally, Eliot mailed a draft of Gerontion to his friend Sidney Schiff, also a Jew, for pre-publication editing and commentary. A third "anti-Semitic" poem, Sweeney Among the Nightingales, was published by Eliot's Jewish friend Leonard Woolf. None of these men considered the poems anti-Semitic.
Eliot wrote a letter to the Daily Mail in January 1932, congratulating the newspaper for a series of laudatory articles on the rise of Benito Mussolini, and in a series of lectures delivered at the University of Virginia in 1933, later published under the title After Strange Gods: A Primer of Modern Heresy (1934), he said, regarding a homogeneity of culture, "What is still more important is unity of religious background, and reasons of race and religion combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable." He later disavowed the book, and refused to allow any part of it to be reprinted. In The Idea of a Christian Society (1940) he writes, "totalitarianism can retain the terms 'freedom' and 'democracy' and give them its own meaning: and its right to them is not so easily disproved as minds inflamed by passion suppose."
One of the first protests against Eliot on the subject of anti-Semitism came in the form of a poem from the Anglo-Jewish writer and poet Emanuel Litvinoff, read out during an inaugural poetry reading for the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1951, attended by Eliot. Only a few years after the Holocaust, Eliot had republished lines originally written in the 1920s about "money in furs" and the "protozoic slime" of Bleistein's "lustreless, protrusive eye" in his Selected Poems of 1948, angering Litvinoff. Litvinoff read out his poem, entitled "To T. S. Eliot," to a packed but silent room, ending with the lines, "Let your words/tread lightly on this earth of Europe/lest my people's bones protest".
There was an absolute shocked silence. When I finished reading it Herbert Read said to me "if I had known that you were going to read such a poem I would never have allowed it" and I thought "eh and you're an anarchist?" Then hell broke loose and I remember particularly Stephen Spender getting up and saying "as a poet as Jewish as Litvinoff, I'm outraged by this unwanted, undeserved attack on my friend T.S. Eliot" and so on and so forth ... Apparently Eliot was heard to mutter, he had his head down leaning on a chair, to his entourage "it's a good poem."
Leonard Woolf, husband of Virginia Woolf, who was himself Jewish and a friend of Eliot's, judged that Eliot was probably "slightly anti-Semitic in the sort of vague way which is not uncommon. He would have denied it quite genuinely." In 2003, Professor Ronald Schuchard of Emory University published details of a previously unknown cache of letters from Eliot to Horace Kallen, which reveal that in the early 1940s Eliot was actively helping Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria to re-settle in Britain and America. In letters written after the war, Eliot also voiced support for the state of Israel.
All around me are familiar faces, worn out places, worn out faces;
Bright and early for the daily races, going nowhere; going nowhere
Their tears are filling up their glasses, no expression; no expression
Hide my head; I wanna drown my sorrow, no tomorrow; no tomorrow
And I find it kind've funny, find it kind've sad
That the dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.
And I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
That when people run in circles, it's a very, very mad world."
From "Mad World" by Gary Jules
Imagine, if you will, a desolate wasteland of broken dreams, shattered beliefs, and blank, isolated figures. Populate this gray world with the jagged edges of a hundred forgotten rituals and the slow death of a pointless existence. This is a world of trickling sand and thorny brush filled with blind, lonely souls, drifting aimlessly from one moment to the next. This is the fractured reality of T.S. Eliot's classic, complex, and chilling "The Hollow Men."
It is possible that never before or after was Eliot's dry, flowing style better combined with the inner meaning of a poem than it was in "The Hollow Men," where Eliot's somber verse perfectly portrayed the haunting limbo that housed the titular lost souls. Moreover, few works have ever sparked so much furious debate amongst scholars of literature as they search for meaning in this, perhaps the most central of Eliot's works.
Published by T.S. Eliot in 1925, "The Hollow Men" has since become one of the most influential poems in modern history. Many would say that Eliot was responsible for breaking down the conventional barriers set up around poetry in earlier ages and changing the face of modern poetry completely and utterly. This, he accomplished through a brilliant process of using older methods and juxtaposing them against modern dilemmas and mechanics. "The Hollow Men" is one of the very best examples of this duality of nature, combining numerous allusions to older works while still facing off against the apathy of Eliot's post-World War I world and being an example of some of Eliot's more modern poetic devices and techniques. If one is able to dig through this thorny nest of overlapping styles and meanings, then the deeper themes of "The Hollow Men" slowly become clear, even if Eliot himself would have preferred readers limit themselves to a study of the work's method and structure.
Indeed, it has been said that Eliot was not always the most clear of poets. In fact, according to the short essay, "T.S. Eliot 1888-1965," he preferred to simply reveal his feelings rather than explain them within his prose. A better example could not be found outside of "The Hollow Men."
According to the short essay "A Lament for the Weary," the two lines that precede the poem each call to mind a plethora of sights, sounds, and emotions for any reader cultured enough to catch the allusions offered within, allowing said readers to begin the poem feeling exactly as Eliot likely did as he wrote it.
To many, "Mista Kurtz He's a dead" would merely be worthy of looking at the footnote for a moment before continuing on. However, for anyone who has read Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness, the line calls to mind an entire novelette, and all the emotions that the read evoked. The tale of an amoral British man losing his self and center in the African wilderness, committing unspeakable acts therein, and then, upon his deathbed, realizing what he has become is remembered in an instant, and the thought ends with the powerful final words of the main character, Kurtz," "The horror, the horror!"
In the very next line, Eliot continues to use allusions to evoke emotional responses by recalling to the minds of readers the legendary exploits and final hours of Guy Fawkes, the famous traitor to the English crown who is burned in effigy to this day in Britain. To most non-Englishmen reading the poem, the line would, again, mean nothing, but to anyone familiar with British custom, childhood memories of collecting money for fireworks to shoot off whilst burning straw look-alikes of Fawkes would come reeling back from the inner passages of the mind.
According to M.C. Bradbrook, throughout this piece and many others, Eliot uses such allusions to convey entire subplots and levels of meaning that would have otherwise extended his works by dozens, if not hundreds, of lines. Thus, it is more than a little handy to be familiar with the events and works that influenced Eliot in order to best understand his poetry.
As such, a familiarity with various older works, from surrealist French texts to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, does much to change one's perspective on this poem. With his heavy usage of allusions and distinct lack of explanation, Eliot leaves much of "The Hollow Men" up to interpretation. Some passages, such as the one which refers to a "multifoliate rose" mentioned in section IV of the poem, are clear (For instance, this refers to a passage in Dante's Divine Comedy describes his visions of the heavens and the angels residing therein). Others, however, are much vaguer. To some critics, the misquoted lyrics of the old children's rhyme, "The Mulberry Bush," signifies that the poem's narrator is attempting to come to terms with the perversion of childhood beliefs.
This is a small part of the lingual support for a popular theory that much of the poem is about faith and religion, and especially the pain of Godless existence. To others, however, the insertion of "prickly pear" into this passage instead signifies an emphasis on locked away lust, as mulberry bushes were once a common symbol for fertility and cacti one for chastity. Yet others are able to read the poem in such a way as to think it no more than a 100-line diatribe on Eliot's highly personal quest through poetic progression, citing numerous vague allusions to older works within and the fact that the apparent spiritual journey of the narrator closely mirrors the literary one taken by Eliot himself.
Regardless of precise interpretation of the poem's more complicated, there are things that can be agreed upon. For instance, the interpretations of the poem as a spiritual quest and poetic journey find middle ground in the fact that this poem marks a perfect midpoint in Eliot's vast body of work.
In mechanics, it holds onto some of his old habits, such as a reliance on numerous allusions to not only older works, but older styles as well. However, it also begins a marked progression toward the very complex, at times nearly pompously so, and convoluted nature of his later works.
Spiritually, the narrator finds him or herself locked in an indecisive miasma between a painful past and an uncertain future, and the narrator thus begins to question nearly everything, from belief to very existence. Thus, the narrator's quest is largely an internal, spiritual one. Much the same, Eliot himself was on the verge of conversion to the Anglican Church of England at the time of this writing, and this conversion would mark his later work in a very real and noticeable way.
Furthermore, it would be difficult to fail to notice Eliot's common usage of juxtapositions and opposing phrases and themes to convey a point. Many critics agree that the central pivot of "The Hollow Men" is the maddening, groping immobility of the hollow men themselves as they quest for the resolution of some deep internal conflict.
As such, many parts of the poem lay in stark contrast with one another, yet no single one ever wins out above the others, just as the hollow men do not manage to choose their own fate by the poem's end, instead opting to sink into maddened apathy. The bleak world and mood portrayed in the poem's opening and ending is contrasted heavily with the glimpse of hope found in the mentions of angelic grace and possible forgiveness in section IV.
The final section's string of opposing expands this motif of contrasting elements, and even goes on to illustrate the lost, confused nature of the titular "hollow men" by using words carefully chosen to suggest that either extreme is as good or bad as the next when it comes to accomplishing anything.
The need of the hollow men to find some way out of their current situation is further explored by the careful usage of poetic method and allusion to show that often, neither extreme offered them is necessarily bad, or at least not nearly as much as the ground that lies between. Indeed, the "Shadow" which falls "Between the motion and the act . . . the conception and the creation" seems much more menacing than any of the surrounding terms. Moreover, the whispering middle ground of indecision in which the hollow men are trapped seems to be even more torturous than either the final judgment of death's "other kingdom" and the piercing eyes it contains or the glimpsed hope of redemption in the angelic light of the Dantean rose.
These hollow men are caught at the point in which they know that their current path will conclude only in damnation and despair, yet they are too fearful of the possibility of unfortunate consequences to leave the unbearable, yet somehow comfortable, middle ground in order to seek forgiveness. Indeed, the most bitter and depressing part of the poem is that, by it's end, the narrator has been overwhelmed by the hand of apathy again, his mental journey silenced by the old despair.The world may not truly be coming to a close, but any hope of forward motion for these unfortunate souls, forever trapped in purgatory, is lost to inaction. Just as soon as the narrator is able to grab onto some hope that may well lead him toward the sort of action required to brave the dangers of progression, he is dragged back down by his own inner demons and trapped once more, and perhaps forever, as he slowly segues back into the old, fractured apathy and ends his quest, not with the bang of change, but the whimper of immobility.
Indeed, according to Troy Urquhart, the theme of inaction is one final area in which the poem truly seems to open itself to agreeable interpretation. Throughout the work are scattered carefully placed verbs and adjectives that create an image of constantly restrained motion. The hollow men exist in a world where taking any action whatsoever would bring to an end their suffering, yet they are held back by their fear of the unknown even as they realize it may be their salvation.
This opposition of desired change and feared consequences locks the hollow men in place, and this translates into their very movement. From their twisting, "groping" movements to their furtive, fearful eyes, they are living examples of kinetic energy tied down. One of the very best examples of this image of barely contained action comes in their description of "leaning" together. As such, they are truly trapped. Should one move away toward something new and distant, all others would collapse, the precarious balance of their existence lost. Thus, they are trapped by their position, whether it is spiritual, mental, or literal.
Each longs to leave the pack of dejected faux-scarecrows he finds himself with, yet is trapped in the "shadow" betwixt desire and acquisition. Indeed, the section of the poem dealing with the many extremes between which "falls the Shadow" is a very clear example of this near-movement: the hollow men are caught at the very moment before they go forth with whatever action they know to be necessary to move on, yet are unable to take that final step.
Trapped forever in their shadowy, desert-like void of indecision, the hollow men are some of the most spellbinding figures in literature. Caught at the sort of crossroads modern man finds him at daily, between belief and damnation, between action and apathy, between life and death, they seize up and are forever trapped in the swirling inaction of some sick parody of Purgatory. They serve as a living example to modern man to be forever wary of stepping into that shadow between thought and action without a clear plan as to how to make it from one end to the other. Their final, failed struggle illustrates perfectly that, however terrifying the future may seem, anything it holds must be better than the pathetic whimpering of a life trapped in the scarecrow-filled nightmare of T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men."
"This is an impressive piece of literary criticism. Oser has produced the finest survey of Emersonian echoes in Eliot so far."—Louis Menand"Oser provides a distinctive and highly persuasive analysis of Eliot's American pedigree as well as his legacy to American poetry."—Sanford Schwartz, Written in a fine and lucid prose style, T. S. Eliot and American Poetry presents a critical study of Eliot's major poems as it examines what America means to its poets. Eliot's contribution to a poetic dialogue on this subject with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Robert Lowell, John Ashbery, and other literary figures plays a significant role in this groundbreaking study.
Investigating Eliot's literary inheritance through his familial traditions, represented particularly by his mother, Charlotte Eliot, and in terms of the American Renaissance, Lee Oser addresses all phases of Eliot's career as a poet. Following an introduction that reevaluates the importance of Poe and Whitman for Eliot and modernism, the discussion proceeds from Eliot's reaction against the progressive ethos of late Puritan culture, to the appearance in his writing of numerous figures of exile and disinheritance as an expression of lost American patrimony, to his flight from the realm of history, and his eventual return to the spiritual and cultural traditions of New England. A final chapter weighs Eliot's impact on Robert Lowell, John Ashbery, and Elizabeth Bishop.
Through its dialectical view of American literary and intellectual history, T. S. Eliot and American Poetry constructs a practical methodology for comparing Eliot with other American poets. Juxtaposing Eliot's poems, lectures, and essays (including generous excerpts from Eliot's uncollected prose) with landmark texts by Emerson, Poe, Whitman, and many others, Oser engages in a deeper analysis of Eliot's Americanness than has hitherto been possible. In addressing Eliot's treatment of America as symbol and topos, the work presents a multifaceted chronicle of Eliot's development that enriches formalist and historicist approaches alike.
T. S. Eliot and American Poetry makes numerous original contributions to the field of literary history. No previous work has so richly pursued Eliot's literary and familial inheritance, as well as his legacy to American poetry; the result is a highly nuanced perspective on contemporary debates about poetry, criticism, and culture
T.S. Eliot -Mood of poetry
Both Prufrock and Preludes are based in the same rootless world of sordid tedium. In Prufrock Eliot is conveying a theme a strong theme and is based heavily in the Persona of Prufrock himself. Preludes is a poem of changing moods, some subtle, some profound but this time conveyed primarily through diction and repetition. One theme of Eliot’s, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, is the exposure of the modern individual’s inability and refusal to address inadequacies that he sees in both him and his society. Two ways Eliot conveys his theme is through the persona of Prufrock and repetition. One method used by Eliot to expose this theme is his use of the persona of J Alfred Prufrock. Prufrock is in part a shallow conformist, 41 ....My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, 42 My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin- 43 They will say: ‘But how his arms and legs are thin!’...... However, almost tragically, Eliot has Prufrock aware of the shallowness of the society to which he conforms. 26 There will be time; there will be time 27 To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet. Prufrock observes his society’s ability to totally disregard any question of substance, that is, the “overwhelming” questions. Yet despite his observations Prufrock is not prepared to confront his society, more importantly, himself. In deeper tragedy Prufrock is defeated by his knowledge of his inadequacies and states quite sincerely, “And in short, I was afraid” Two of the minor themes of ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ concern the frustrations felt by the individual towards their society. Specifically the individual’s insignificance in their society and the individuals inability to express themselves and be understood as an individual within that society. Repetition plays a crucial role in conveying the theme of insignificance. The repetition of, “They will say:..”, conveys Prufrock’s feeling of insignificance and reveal a man totally absorbed in the judgments of others and not at all concerned with his worth as an individual. Eliot’s repetition of “Do I dare?” within the sixth stanza emphasises Prufrock’s feeling of insignificance. “Do I dare/ Disturb the universe?” Despite the superficial judgments his society passes on him, Prufrock is still hesitant in speaking out against their empty lives. Prufrock is an extraordinary character and one who, despite his struggles, could easily erode into world content with the futile pleasures of the society he scorns. Preludes are a series of four lyrics describing a modern city. The poem moves through four different time periods, beginning with one evening and continuing though to the following evening. Through these lyrics Eliot conveys the impression of a life that is soul destroying and meaningless. Preludes are used to explore the theme of the alienation of the individual from society. The mood is integral to understanding Eliot’s vision. It is the moods of desolation and despair, loneliness and struggle, affection and gentle care that reflect Eliot’s observations of the individual alienated from society. These moods are conveyed throughout the careful use of diction, imagery and repetition. Prelude I begins with an attractive, familiar setting, a winter evening. This however is short lived as we are immediately confronted with a decaying; suffocating world, 2 with smells of steaks in passageways... 4 The burnt-out ends of smoky days. Eliot creates a mood of desolation and loneliness through diction and imagery. The precise use of descriptive words composes this very mood. Words such as, “burnt out”, “gusty”, “grimy”, “vacant”, “broken”, and “lonely”, help set the mood for the remainder of the poem. In Prelude II the poem shifts to morning, but instead of the freshness and optimism normally associated with such a time, the morning is depicted, like a drunk awakening on the footpath, as coming “to consciousness”, vague and unsure of itself. Eliot creates a mood of desolation through sense-imagery: 14 the morning comes to consciousness 15 of faint stale smells of beer 16 from the sawdust-trampled street... Eliot’s repetition of ‘all’ and use ‘a thousand’ in his description of the masses as an anonymous herd the impersonal mood of emptiness. While through imagery Eliot develops a mood of despair and meaninglessness, the robotic movements of the occupancy of rented apartments lift ‘dingy shades’. 17 With all its muddy feet that press 18 To early coffee-stands. 21 ....One think of all the hands 22 That are raising dingy shades 23 In a thousand furnished rooms. In Prelude III the poem narrows its perspective from the masses down to a particular individual. Eliot creates a mood that lacks all human warmth through his repetition of ‘You’ in the first three lines. This mood continues throughout the lyric as every image presented, of souls filled with sordid images, of sparrows gathered in the gutter, of jaundiced yellow soles of feet and of soiled hands, all lack any trace of beauty. Prelude IV depicts the struggle of an individual to preserve his particular morals and values against those of modern society, symbolized by the street. Eliot achieves a mood of struggle through surrealist imagery depicting the individual’s agony as his morals and values are, “...stretched tight across the skies...” The unrelenting nature of city life is captured in the lines, 41... Trampled by insistent feet 42 At four and five and six o’clock; This mood of regimental movements contrasts with the reflective mood later in the lyric when Eliot addresses the reader. The second stanza in this lyric conveys a entirely distinct mood. It is here that Eliot compassionately observes scene. It could be said that the observer in this stanza was the person behind the masquerade mentioned earlier in the poem. The observer notices something, “infinitely gentle”, kind and sad about the suffering beings. This mood is expressed through the combination of sound and repetition. The humane quality of the phrases, “I am moved...” and “..That are curled/ Around these images,...” convey a considerably softer, more reflective mood. This mood is furthered in the repetition of such words as “infinitely” as their sympathetic appeal to time lulls the reader into a sense of security. The third stanza reverses this feeling of gentleness when the view point is again reversed, this time reverting to the impersonal observer seen earlier. Through this observer Eliot appears to scorn sentiment and deny any purpose at all to human suffering. Eliot ends Preludes by reaffirming his previous moods, leaving us with the sentiment that the actions of the world are desolation, despair and continuing struggle. 53 The worlds revolve like ancient women 54 Gathering fuel in vacant lots. Through the use of diction, imagery and repetition Eliot conveys an array of moods; from the desolation and despair in the majority of the poem to the flicker of soft, compassionate human touch felt briefly in the forth lyric. The three major methods Eliot utilizes to convey his moods and themes are the introduction of complex persona, precise diction and emphasizing repetition. It is through these tools the constant struggle between the individual and society is conveyed.
Theme of Eliot poetry
Like many modernist writers, Eliot wanted his poetry to express the fragile psychological state of humanity in the twentieth century. The passing of Victorian ideals and the trauma of World War I challenged cultural notions of masculine identity, causing artists to question the romantic literary ideal of a visionary-poet capable of changing the world through verse. Modernist writers wanted to capture their transformed world, which they perceived as fractured, alienated, and denigrated. Europe lost an entire generation of young men to the horrors of the so-called Great War, causing a general crisis of masculinity as survivors struggled to find their place in a radically altered society. As for England, the aftershocks of World War I directly contributed to the dissolution of the British Empire. Eliot saw society as paralyzed and wounded, and he imagined that culture was crumbling and dissolving. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” demonstrates this sense of indecisive paralysis as the titular speaker wonders whether he should eat a piece of fruit, make a radical change, or if he has the fortitude to keep living. Humanity’s collectively damaged psyche prevented people from communicating with one another, an idea that Eliot explored in many works, including “A Game of Chess” and “The Hollow Men.”
Eliot maintained great reverence for myth and the Western literary canon, and he packed his work full of allusions, quotations, footnotes, and scholarly exegeses. In “The Tradition and the Individual Talent,” an essay first published in 1919, Eliot praises the literary tradition and states that the best writers are those who write with a sense of continuity with those writers who came before, as if all of literature constituted a stream in which each new writer must enter and swim. Only the very best new work will subtly shift the stream’s current and thus improve the literary tradition. Eliot also argued that the literary past must be integrated into contemporary poetry. But the poet must guard against excessive academic knowledge and distill only the most essential bits of the past into a poem, thereby enlightening readers. The Waste Land juxtaposes fragments of various elements of literary and mythic traditions with scenes and sounds from modern life. The effect of this poetic collage is both a reinterpretation of canonical texts and a historical context for his examination of society and humanity.
Over the course of Eliot’s life, gender roles and sexuality became increasingly flexible, and Eliot reflected those changes in his work. In the repressive Victorian era of the nineteenth century, women were confined to the domestic sphere, sexuality was not discussed or publicly explored, and a puritanical atmosphere dictated most social interactions. Queen Victoria’s death in 1887 helped usher in a new era of excess and forthrightness, now called the Edwardian Age, from 1901 to 1910. World War I, from 1914 to 1918, further transformed society, as people felt both increasingly alienated from one another and empowered to break social mores. English women began agitating in earnest for the right to vote in 1918, and the flappers of the Jazz Age began smoking and drinking alcohol in public. Women were allowed to attend school, and women who could afford it continued their education at those universities that began accepting women in the early twentieth century. Modernist writers created gay and lesbian characters and re-imagined masculinity and femininity as characteristics people could assume or shrug off rather than as absolute identities dictated by society.
Eliot simultaneously lauded the end of the Victorian era and expressed concern about the freedoms inherent in the modern age. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” reflects the feelings of emasculation experienced by many men as they returned home from World War I to find women empowered by their new role as wage earners. Prufrock, unable to make a decision, watches women wander in and out of a room, “talking of Michelangelo” (14), and elsewhere admires their downy, bare arms. A disdain for unchecked sexuality appears in both “Sweeney Among the Nightingales” (1918) and The Waste Land. The latter portrays rape, prostitution, a conversation about abortion, and other incidences of nonreproductive sexuality. Nevertheless, the poem’s central character, Tiresias, is a hermaphrodite—and his powers of prophesy and transformations are, in some sense, due to his male and female genitalia. With Tiresias, Eliot creates a character that embodies wholeness, represented by the two genders coming together in one body.
Eliot used fragmentation in his poetry both to demonstrate the chaotic state of modern existence and to juxtapose literary texts against one another. In Eliot’s view, humanity’s psyche had been shattered by World War I and by the collapse of the British Empire. Collaging bits and pieces of dialogue, images, scholarly ideas, foreign words, formal styles, and tones within one poetic work was a way for Eliot to represent humanity’s damaged psyche and the modern world, with its barrage of sensory perceptions. Critics read the following line from The Waste Land as a statement of Eliot’s poetic project: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins”. Practically every line in The Waste Land echoes an academic work or canonical literary text, and many lines also have long footnotes written by Eliot as an attempt to explain his references and to encourage his readers to educate themselves by delving deeper into his sources. These echoes and references are fragments themselves, since Eliot includes only parts, rather than whole texts from the canon. Using these fragments, Eliot tries to highlight recurrent themes and images in the literary tradition, as well as to place his ideas about the contemporary state of humanity along the spectrum of history.
Eliot’s tremendous knowledge of myth, religious ritual, academic works, and key books in the literary tradition informs every aspect of his poetry. He filled his poems with references to both the obscure and the well known, thereby teaching his readers as he writes. In his notes to The Waste Land, Eliot explains the crucial role played by religious symbols and myths. He drew heavily from ancient fertility rituals, in which the fertility of the land was linked to the health of the Fisher King, a wounded figure who could be healed through the sacrifice of an effigy. The Fisher King is, in turn, linked to the Holy Grail legends, in which a knight quests to find the grail, the only object capable of healing the land. Ultimately, ritual fails as the tool for healing the wasteland, even as Eliot presents alternative religious possibilities, including Hindu chants, Buddhist speeches, and pagan ceremonies. Later poems take their images almost exclusively from Christianity, such as the echoes of the Lord’s Prayer in “The Hollow Men” and the retelling of the story of the wise men in “Journey of the Magi”.
Eliot envisioned the modern world as a wasteland, in which neither the land nor the people could conceive. In The Waste Land, various characters are sexually frustrated or dysfunctional, unable to cope with either reproductive or no reproductive sexuality: the Fisher King represents damaged, Tiresias represents confused or ambiguous sexuality, and the women chattering in “A Game of Chess” represent an out-of-control sexuality. World War I not only eradicated an entire generation of young men in Europe but also ruined the land. Trench warfare and chemical weapons, the two primary methods by which the war was fought, decimated plant life, leaving behind detritus and carnage. In “The Hollow Men,” the speaker discusses the dead land, now filled with stone and cacti. Corpses salute the stars with their upraised hands, stiffened from rigor mortis. Trying to process the destruction has caused the speaker’s mind to become infertile: his head has been filled with straw, and he is now unable to think properly, to perceive accurately, or to conceive of images or thoughts.
Imagery and Symbolism in T. S. Eliot’s Poetry
Century English Literature was shaped to a great extent by the genius
of T.S. Eliot. His towering personality illuminates the major genres
of English Literature. No study of the early twentieth century
British canonical literature is possible without encountering the
icon T.S. Eliot — Poet, Critic, Dramatist. Images and Symbols have
been always employed by writers of all literatures down the ages.
But, movements like Imagism and Symbolism gave an entirely new focus
to images and symbols. Archetypal criticism was a parallel emergence.
In an age torn by the anxiety of two world wars, and dissatisfied
with scientific and materialistic concept of man, the archetypal
approach sought to restore to man the entire humanity. The present
Volume offers an in-depth study of the major archetypes and how they
are interwoven in the imagery and symbolism in the poetry of T.S.
Eliot. The complexities of the Modern Age and their expression in
Eliot’s poetry cannot be understood without archetypes, myths and
legends. This domain had not been explored so far. Hence, this Volume
presents a systematic structuring and evaluation of archetypal
imagery and symbolism in Eliot’s major poems as well as other minor
poems. It is hoped that teachers, researchers and students of
literature will find the Volume to be of considerable interest and
Dr. Nidhi Tiwari is Assistant Professor of English and Head, Department of English at Government Post-Graduate College, Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh. She obtained the degree of Ph.D. in 1995 from the University of Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. She is Life Member of Indo-American Centre for International Studies, Hyderabad; Life Member of Forum on Contemporary Theory, Baroda; Member of Indian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, New Delhi and Member, Board of English Studies, Rani Durgavati University, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.
Modernism in T.S. Eliot’s the Wasteland
Modernism has been defined as a rejection of traditional 19th-century norms, whereby artists, architects, poets and thinkers either altered or abandoned earlier conventions in an attempt to re-envision society in flux. In literature this included a progression from objectivist optimism to cynical relativism expressed through fragmented free verse containing complex, and often contradictory, allusions, multiple points of view and other poetic devices that broke from the forms in Victorian and Romantic writing, as can be seen in T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land".
The varied perspectives or lack of a central, continuous speaker uproots "The Waste Land" from previous forms of poetry; however, it is not simply for the sake of being avant-garde, but to espouse the modernist philosophy, which posits the absence of an Absolute and requires the interpretation of juxtaposed, irreconcilable points of view in order to find meaning. The first stanza illustrates this point. Within the first seven lines, the reader is presented with a "normal" poem that conforms to an ordered rhyme and meter. Suddenly, the German words "Starnbergersee" and "Hofgarten" are introduced, readjustingthe reader’s own view of the poem, before throwing it completely off-course in line 12: "Bin gar keine...." Just as quickly, though, the lines revert to a previous pattern with the use of "And I...", "And down...", "And when...." "Discontinuity, in other words, is no more firmly established than continuity," writes Michael Levenson (A Genealogy of Modernism). In his analysis of the initial eighteen lines, it becomes apparent that no clear conclusion may be drawn as to who is speaking, or how many speakers are present. There are several methods of unifying the disjointed speaker(s), all of which conflict with each other although they may be equally true. Thus faced with this paradox,the reader is privy to one of the modernist themes in the work: individuals are permanently estranged, each bearing a unique identity, yet they are able to connect with each other to create a kind of coherence, however temporary. Of course, Matthew Arnold wrote something very similar in To Marguerite: Continued, but up until Eliot'sThe Waste Land, this "truth" was never illustrated in the lyrical construction itself.
Eliot also employs fragments in the work, further articulating his modernist ideas. These fragments are sometimes used to blur the lines between speakers, but also serve to blend opposing strands of knowledge. Trying to singularly categorize the usage of fragments is as difficult as finding a unified meaning in the poem and that is the entire point. Yet, in keeping with modernist thought, can there exist an "entire point"? The answer is inevitablyfragmented. In lines 307-311, "To Carthage then I came/ Burning burning burning burning/ O Lord Thou pluckest me out/ O Lord Thou pluckest/ burning", the words of St. Augustine from his Confessions and the Buddha's Fire Sermon are crammed together to form a new, incongruous whole. This synthesis hints at some sort of "truth" that may be discovered by joining these ancient bits of wisdom, two differingperspectives . However, if one assumes that something meaningful can be created from "These fragments I have shored against my ruins" in line 430, then an ultimate, final truth will never be reached since there will always be more fragments to append and assimilate. Note that this idea is derived from the content of the text in addition to the actualfragmented form it utilizes. What separates this, then, from Classical Hegelian philosophy (thesis, antithesis, synthesis)? Again, the "answer" is in fragments. Hegelian philosophy is objective and acts as an end-all, be-all answer to the workings of the universe. However, in keeping with its own ideas, there must be an antithesis to this mode of thought, which came forth in the Romantic and, later, modernist works. In this way, one is presented with the subjective core ofmodernism that truth will always be relative to the perspective from which it originates, be it Eastern religion, Catholicism, or any combination, the result is still a subjective fragment.
Looking on a more "superficial" level, though again it must be relative, Eliot's poem also describes the modern world, or in his own words, "the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history." ThroughoutThe Waste Land, the reader is affronted with seemingly banal verses. Line 426, "London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down", line 199, "O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter" and other quotes ripped straight from popular songs of the time are side by side with allusions to Tristan and Isolde and Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. That is the essence of modern life. All the trivialities of the era, a period of time still mired in war and pettiness, though it considered itself Enlightened, a hypocritical age, were infused intoThe Waste Land, a portrait of modern society . Furthermore, advances in anthropology fueled Eliot. Beforehand, myths were thought to be just the quaint byproduct of the cultures they sprang from. However, in the early 20th-century these myths took on a universal nature. They defied rationality, yet defined our humanity. Some have wondered, if Eliot deals with the profane, how can he point out the hypocrisy of the age when he suffers from it? Where does his authority lie? The modernist response is that the authority lies in the subrational or irrational, outside of modernsociety, which has strayed from its primitive roots, from its original myths and arts and cultures.
Perhaps no true conclusion may be made. The human experience is fragmented and defies logic, and in order to fully convey this, modernist poets such as Eliot had to bend and break conventions, and their own expressions may culminate in something which is not fully expressible within modernsociety, though modern society was used as an indirect means of getting at this "Inexpressible." A better way of putting it could be that Eliot's The Waste Land was a direct way of getting at something indirect from the modern world, for it required a reinvention of poetics and the very use and meaning of language. Since the modern period is said to extend to this, any final say on the matter is difficult. What can be said is that Eliot's poetry, as misinterpreted, misread, and misunderstood as it may be, is a quintessential cornerstone in modernist thought, a fragment in the puzzle, which may yield an emergent whole, though it may not be fully grasped.
Leaving the bubbling beverage to cool, Fresca slips softly to the needful stool, where the pathetic tale of Richardson eases her labour till the deed is done . . .
Ellmann notes "Pound warned Eliot that since Pope had done the couplets better, and Joyce the defecation, there was no point in another round."
Pound also excised some shorter poems that Eliot wanted to insert between the five sections. One of these, that Eliot had entitled 'Dirge', begins
Full fathom five your Bleistein lies
Under the flatfish and the squids.
Graves' Disease in a dead Jew's eyes!
Where the crabs have eat the lids
. . .
At the request of Eliot's wife, Vivien, a line in the A Game of Chess section was removed from the poem: "And we shall play a game of chess/The ivory men make company between us/Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door". This section is apparently based on their marital life, and she may have felt these lines too revealing. The "ivory men" line must have meant something to Eliot though; in 1960, thirteen years after Vivien's death, he inserted the line in a copy made for sale to aid the London Library.
In a late December 1921 letter to Eliot to celebrate the "birth" of the poem Pound wrote a bawdy poem of 48 lines titled "Sage Homme" in which he identified Eliot as the mother of the poem but compared himself to the midwife. Some of the verses are:
E. P. hopeless and unhelped
Enthroned in the marmorean skies
His verse omits realities,
Angelic hands with mother of pearl
Retouch the strapping servant girl,
Balls and balls and balls again
Can not touch his fellow men.
His foaming and abundant cream
Has coated his world. The coat of a dream;
Or say that the upjut of sperm
Has rendered his sense pachyderm.
Following the epigraph is a dedication that reads "For Ezra Pound: il miglior fabbro" Here Eliot is both quoting line 117 of Canto XXVI of Dante's Purgatorio, the second cantica of The Divine Comedy, where Dante defines the troubadour Arnaut Daniel as "the best smith of the mother tongue" and also Pound's title of chapter 2 of his The Spirit of Romance (1910) where he translated the phrase as "the better craftsman." This dedication was originally written in ink by Eliot in the 1922 Boni & Liveright paperback edition of the poem presented to Pound; it was subsequently included in future editions.
The five parts of The Waste Land are entitled:
The Burial of the Dead
A Game of Chess
The Fire Sermon
Death by Water
What the Thunder Said
The text of the poem is followed by several pages of notes, purporting to explain his metaphors, references, and allusions. Some of these notes are helpful in interpreting the poem, but some are arguably even more puzzling, and many of the most opaque passages are left unannotated. The notes were added after Eliot's publisher requested something longer to justify printing The Waste Land in a separate book.
There is some question as to whether Eliot originally intended The Waste Land to be a collection of individual poems additional poems were supplied to Pound for his comments on including them or to be considered one poem with five sections.
Allusions in "The Burial of the Dead"
"The Burial of the Dead" serves as the title of Eliot's first section and is an allusion to The Book of Common Prayer, the prayer book of the Church of England.
The second section of "The Burial of the Dead" shifts from the voice of the powerless Marie and becomes the voice of the narrator. The first twelve lines of this section include three Old Testament allusions, and the narrator finds himself in a summer drought that has transformed the land into a desert. He is referred to as the "Son of man," a title common in the Hebrew Bible, sometimes applied to denote any man - i.e. son of man = human, but sometimes also used to single out a specific man, for example Ezekiel, who was called upon by God to warn Israel to repent of their idolatry. It is also a title used in the New Testament, notably by Jesus when referring to himself, speaking of his coming death and apocalyptic return, or when making prophetic predictions of judgment to come.
In Ezekiel, God finally tells the prophet that Israel will not change; therefore, their altars will be desolate, images broken, and their cities will lie in waste. In the book of Ecclesiastes, God warns the Jewish people that they should remember the days of their youth, for in their old age "fears shall be in the way" and "then shall the dust return to the earth as it was". Gish analyzes these allusions by writing, "Dead land, broken images, fear and dust, all take on the significance of human failure". After such a depressing sequence of events, the narrator is offered shelter under a mysterious "red rock" which is an allusion to Isaiah's reference to the coming Messiah who will be "as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land".
The crowd marches in the "Unreal city" under the fog of a winter's dawn. There are so many people that the narrator exclaims, "I had not thought death had undone so many". This verse is a direct allusion to Dante's Inferno and the people that he witnessed in the vestibule of Hell. Dante writes, "An interminable train of souls pressed on, so many that I wondered how death could have undone so many”. Dante, describing one in the crowd whom he recognizes, writes, "I saw the shade of the one who must have been the coward who made the great refusal. The "great refusal" that Dante refers to is the lack of choosing either good or evil. They have died without ever living; furthermore, they may not enter either Hell or Heaven since they made no choice in life to be virtuous or to sin.
was the time period between 1865 and 1950 that consisted of a change
in the perspectives of how Americans examined themselves and their
role in society. Many things occurred during these eighty five years
that accounted for a great social change. Among these things were
World War I, the Civil Rights Movement, prohibition, women suffrage,
and the Great Depression. Particularly after World War I and during
women's suffrage, society's standpoint on certain issues changed
dramatically. After World War I, people's attitudes swung with high
expectations for themselves but were soon lowered after the economy's
fall. During women's suffrage, society's focus on simple traditions
shifted to concentrate on more of urban culture. The Great Depression
also caused major stress and hopelessness for the nation resulting in
a time of despair for much of the world. Meanwhile, many writers
emerged, such as Ezra Pound, i.e. Cummings, Langston Hughes, and
Wallace Stevens. These writers found themselves in a generation of
consecutive movements. While having to sustain their creativity, they
had to go forward with the seasons at the same time. Their works are
characterized as "breaking away from patterned responses and
predictable forms". Many of their pieces challenged tradition
against new manners. The outlook of society changed from a moral
perspective to fast times. Many people tended to look apart from
average events that occurred in their daily lives to find greater
T.S. Eliot is considered to be one of the most prominent poets and playwrights of his time and his works are said to have promoted to "reshape modern literature". He was born in 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri and studied at Harvard and Oxford. It was at Harvard where he met his guide and mentor Ezra Pound, a well-known modernist poet. Pound encouraged Eliot to expand his writing abilities and publish his work. Eliot became an England citizen in 1925 and received the Nobel Peace...
T .S Eliot’s the waste land has been treated as the epic the modern age. He remarked: “a great poet in writing of him writes his age”. This utterance of the poet is applicable to himself. He fulfils this dictum when we go through his works. Most of his poems are a panorama of the futility and anarchy of the contemporary civilization. His poetry can be understood by an understanding of his age.
On the other hand, we find that Yeats chose various themes for his poems. He patiently probed into different fields of learning to find the appropriate theme and the means of presenting in to his readers. Even if he took up personal themes he made it universal by relating it to the Irish folk lore and mythology. Like any true artist his aim was to reach the ultimate truth and he resorted it magic and mysticism in his poetry to us comes to this truth.