The waste land


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The waste land

  1. 1. Modern Critical Interpretations The Orcsteia Beowulf The General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales The Pardoner's Tale The Knight's Tale The Divine Comedy Exodus Genesis The Gospels The Iliac! The Book of Job Volpone Doctor Faustus The Revelation of St. John the Divine The Song of Songs Oedipus Rex The Aeneid The Duchess of Malfi Antony and Cleopatra As Y o u Like It Coriolanus Hamlet Henry I V , Part I Henry I V , Part [I Henry V Julius Caesar King Lear Macbeth Measure for Measure The Merchant of Venice A Midsummer Night's Dream Much Ado About Nothing Othello Richard II Richard III The Sonnets Taming of the Shrew The Tempest Twelfth Night The Winter's Tale E m m a Mansfield Park Pride and Prejudice The Life of Samuel Johnson Moll Flanders Robinson Crusoe T o m Jones The Beggar's Opera Gray's Elegy Paradise Lost The Rape of the Lock Tristram Shandy Gulliver's Travels Evelina The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Songs of Innocence and Experience Jane Eyre Wuthcring Heights Don Juan The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Bleak House David Copperficld Hard Times A Talc of T w o Cities Middlemarch The Mill on the Floss Judc the Obscure The Mayor of Casterbridge The Return of the Native Tess of the D'Urbcrvilles The O d e of Keats Frankenstein Vanity Fair Barchester Towers The Prelude The Red Badge of Courage The Scarlet Letter The Ambassadors Daisy Miller, T h e T u r n of the Screw, and Other Talcs The Portrait of a Lady Billy Budd, Benito C e r - eno, Bartleby the S c r i v - ener, and Other Talcs Moby-Dick T h e Tales of Poc Walden Adventures of Huckleberry Finn T h e Life of Frederick Douglass Heart of Darkness Lord Jim Nostromo A Passage to India Dubliners A Portrait of the Artist as a Y o u n g Man Ulysses K i m T h e Rainbow Sons and Lovers Women in Love 1984 Major Barbara Man and Superman Pygmalion St. Joan The Playboy o f the Western World The Importance of Being Earnest Mrs. Dalloway T o the Lighthouse M y Antonia An American Tragedy Murder in the Cathedral The Waste Land Absalom, Absalom! Light in August Sanctuary The Sound and the Fury The Great Gatsby A Farewell to Arms The Sun Also Rises Arrowsmith Lolita The Iceman Cometh Long Day's Journey Into Night The Grapes of Wrath Miss Lonelyhearts The Glass Menagerie A Streetcar Named Desire Their Eyes Were Watching G o d Native Son Waiting for Godot Herzog All M y Sons Death of a Salesman Gravity's Rainbow All the King's Men The Left Hand of Darkness The Brothers Karamazov Crime and Punishment Madame Bovary The Interpretation of Dreams The Castle The Metamorphosis The Trial Man's Fate The Magic Mountain Montaigne's Essays Remembrance of Things Past The Red and the Black Anna Karenina War and Peace These and other titles in preparation Modern Critical Interpretations T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land Edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom Sterling Professor of the Humanities Yale University 690435 Chelsea House Publishers NEW YORK 0 PHILADELPHIA
  2. 2. 4 ^ h e Death o f Europe Hugh Kenner " A Game o f Chess" is a convenient place to start our investigations. Chess is played with Queens and Pawns: the set o f pieces mimics a social hierarchy, running from "The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne," to "Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goo- night." It is a silent unnerving warfare "Speak to me. W h y do you never speak. Speak. What are you thinking of? What thinking? What? I never k n o w what you are thinking. T h i n k . " in which everything hinges on the welfare o f the King, the weakest piece on the board, and in this section o f the poem invisible (though a "barbarous k i n g " once forced Philomel). Our attention is focused on the Queen. The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne, Glowed on the marble, where the glass Held up by standards wrought w i t h fruited vines From which a golden Cupidon peeped out (Another hid his eyes behind his wing) Doubled the flames o f sevenbranched candelabra Reflecting light upon the table as The glitter o f her jewels rose to meet it, From satin cases poured in rich profusion. From The Invisible Poet: T. S. Eliot. © 1959 by Hugh Kenner. Methuen & C o . , Ltd., 1959. Originally entitled "The Death of Europe: The Waste Land." 9
  3. 3. 10 / H U G H K E N N E R This isn't a M i l t o n i c sentence, brilliantly contorted; it lacks nerve, forgetting after ten words its confident opening ("The Chair she sat i n " ) to dissipate itself among glowing and smouldering sensa- tions, like a progression o f Wagner's. Cleopatra "o'erpicturing that Venus where we see / The fancy o u t w o r k nature") sat o u t - doors; this Venusberg interior partakes o f "an atmosphere o f J u - liet's t o m b , " and the human inhabitant appears once, in a perfunctory subordinate clause. Pope's Belinda conducted "the sa- cred rites o f p r i d e " — This casket India's glowing gems unlocks, And all Arabia breathes from yonder box. The woman at the dressing table in The Waste Land, implied but never named or attended to, is not like Belinda the moral centre o f an innocent dislocation o f values but simply the implied sensibility in which these multifarious effects dissolve and find congruence. ^All things deny nature^the fruited vines are carved, the Cupidons golden, the light not o f the sun, the perfumes synthetic, the candelabra (seven- branched, as for an altar) devoted to no rite, the very colour o f the firelight perverted by sodium and copper salts. The dolphin is carved, and swims in a,"sad light," not, like Antony's delights, "showing his back above the element he lives i n . " N o will to exploit new sensations is present; the will has long ago died; this opulent ambience is neither chosen nor questioned. The "sylvan scene" is not Eden nor a w i n d o w but a painting, and a painting o f an unnatural event: The change o f Philomel, by the barbarous king So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale Filled all the desert w i t h inviolable voice And still she cried, and still the w o r l d pursues, "Jug Jug" to dirty ears. Her voice alone, like the voice that modulates the thick fluid o f this sentence, is "uxvicdabje"; like Tiresias in Thebes, she is prevented from identifying the criminal w h o m only she can nameJohn L y l y wrote d o w n her song more than t w o centuries before Keats (who wasn't interested in what she was saying): What bird so sings yet so dos wayle? O 'Tis the ravishd Nightingale. The Death of Europe / 11 Jug, Jug, Jug, tereu, shee cryes, And still her woes at Midnight rise. Brave prick song! Lyly, not being committed to the idea that the bird was pouring forth its soul abroad, noted that it stuck to its script ("prick song") and himself attempted a transcription. Lyly o f course is perfectly aware o f what she is trying to say: "tereu" comes very close to "Tereus." It remained for the nineteenth century to dissolve her plight into a symbol o f diffuse angst, indeed to impute "ecstasy" amid human desolation, "here, where men sit and hear each other groan"; and for the twentieth century to hang up a painting o f the event on a dressing r o o m wall, as pungent sauce to appetites jaded with the narrative clarity o f mythologies but responsive to the v i s - ceral thrill and the pressures o f "significant f o r m . " The picture, a "withered stump o f time," hangs there, one item in a collection that manages to be not edifying but sinister: staring forms Leaned out, leaning, hushing the r o o m enclosed. Then the visitor, as always in Eliot, mounts a s t a i r w a y — Footsteps shuffled on the stair. — a n d we get human conversation at last: "What is that noise?" The wind under the door. "What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?" Nothing again nothing. Do You k n o w nothing? D o you see nothing? D o you remember Nothing?" I remember Those are pearls that were his eyes. " M y experience falls within m y o w n circle, a circle closed o n the outside; and, w i t h all its elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the other which surround i t . " What is there to say but "nothing"? He remembers a quotation, faintly apposite; in this room the Eu-
  4. 4. 12 / H U G H K E N N E R ropean past, effects and objets d'art gathered from many centuries, has suffered a sea-change, into something rich and strange, and s t i - fling. Sensibility here is the very inhibition o f life; and activity is reduced to the manic capering o f "that Shakespeherian Rag," the past imposing no austerity, existing simply to be used. "What shall we do tomorrow? What shall we ever do?" The hot water at ten. A n d i f it rains, a closed car at four. A n d we shall play a game o f chess, Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door. I f we move from the queens to the pawns, we find lowlife no more free or natural, equally obsessed w i t h the denial o f nature, artificial teeth, chemically procured abortions, the speaker and her interlocutor battening fascinated at secondhand on the life o f L i l and her Albert, L i l and Albert interested only in spurious ideal images of one another. He'll want to k n o w what you done w i t h that money he gave you T o get yourself some teeth. He said, I swear, I can't bear to look at you. A n d this point—nature everywhere denied, its ceremonies simplified to the brutal abstractions o f a chess game He's been in the army four years, he wants a good time, A n d i f you don't give it h i m , there's others will, I said. O h is there, she said. Something o'that, I said. Then I'll k n o w w h o to thank, she said, and give me a straight look. — t h i s point is made implicitly by a device carried over from Whispers of Immortality, the juxtaposition without comment or copula o f t w o levels o f sensibility: the world o f one who reads Webster w i t h the world o f one w h o knows Grishkin, the world o f the inquiring w i n d and the sense drowned in odours w i t h the w o r l d o f ivory teeth and hot gammon. I n Lil and Albert's milieu there is fertility, in the milieu where golden Cupidons peep out there is not; but L i l and Albert's T h e Death of Europe / 13 breeding betokens not a harmony o f wills but only Albert's i m - provident refusal to leave Lil alone. The chemist w i t h commercial impartiality supplies one w o m a n w i t h "strange synthetic p e r - fumes" and the other w i t h " t h e m pills I took, to bring it o f f , " a p h - rodisiacs and abortifacients; he is the tutelary deity, uniting the offices o f C u p i d and H y m e n , o f a w o r l d w h i c h is under a universal curse. From this vantage point we can survey the methods o f the first section, which opens w i t h a denial o f Chaucer: Whan that Aprille w i t h his shoures soote The droughte o f March hath perced to the roote A n d bathed every veyne in swich licour O f which vertu engendred is the flour. Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages. In the twentieth-century version we have a prayer book heading, "The Burial o f the Dead," w i t h its implied ceremonial o f dust thrown and o f souls reborn; and the poem begins, April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out o f the dead land, mixing M e m o r y and desire, stirring Dull roots w i t h spring rain. N o " v e r t u " is engendered amid this apprehensive reaching forward of participles, and instead o f pilgrimages we have European tours: we stopped in the colonnade, A n d went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, A n d drank coffee, and talked for an hour. U p out o f the incantation breaks a woman's voice, giving tongue to the ethnological confusions o f the new Europe, the subservience o f partria to w h i m o f statesmen, the interplay o f immutable fact and national pride: Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch. — a mixing o f memory and desire. Another voice evokes the vanished Austro-Hungarian Empire, the inbred malaise o f Mayerling, r e - gressive thrills, objectless travels:
  5. 5. 1 4 / H U G H K E N N E R A n d when wc were children, staying at the archduke's, M y cousin's, he took me out on a sled, A n d I was frightened. He said, Marie, Marie, hold on tight. A n d down we went. In the mountains, there you feel free. I read, much o f the night, and go south in the winter. "In the mountains, there you feel free." We have only to delete "there" to observe the collapse o f more than a rhythm: to observe how the line's exact mimicry o f a fatigue which supposes it has reached some ultimate perception can telescope spiritual bankruptcy, ^deracinated ardour, and an illusion o f liberty which is no more than impatience with human society and relief at a temporary change. It was a restless, pointless world that collapsed during the war, agitated out o f habit but tired beyond coherence, on the move to avoid itself. The memories in lines 8 and 18 seem spacious and precious now; then, the events punctuated a terrible continuum o f boredom. The plight o f the Sibyl in the epigraph rhymes w i t h that o f Marie;jhe...terriblejthing is to be compelled to stay alive. "For I w i t h these m y o w n eyes havel;rcn""the~Cu^ in a jar; and when the boys said, 'What do you want, Sibyl?' she answered, 'I want to die.' " The sentence is in a macaronic Latin, posterior to the best age, pungently sauced with Greek; Cato would have c o n - templated with unblinking severity Pctronius' readers'jazz-age c r a v - ing for the cosmopolitan. The Sibyl in her better days answered questions by flinging from her cave handfuls o f leaves bearing letters which the postulant was required to arrange" in a suitable order; the wind commonly blew half o f them away.^Like Tiresias, like P h i l - omel, like the modern poet, she divulged forbidden knowledge only in riddles, fitfully. (Tiresias wouldn't answer Oedipus at all; and he put o f f Odysseus with a puzzle about an oar mistaken for a w i n - nowing fan.) The Waste Land is suffused with a functional obscurity, sibylline fragments so disposed as to yield the utmost in connotative power, embracing the fragmented present and reaching back to "that vanished mind o f which our mind is a continuation. 'f~As for the Sibyl's present exhaustion, she had foolishly asked Xpbllo for as many years as the grains o f sand in her hand; which is one layer in the multilayered line, " I w i l l show you fear in a handful o f dust."^ She is the prophetic power, no longer consulted by heroes but t o r - mented by curious boys, still answering because she must; she is The Death of Europe / 15 Ma^dajrne^Sospstris, consulted by dear Mrs. Eguitone and harried by police ("One must be so careful these days")^she is the image o f the late phase_ofRoman civilization,, n o w vanished; she is also "the mind of Europe," a mind more important than one's o w n private mind, a mind which changes but abandons nothing _en_ route, not super- annuating either Shakespeare, or Homer, or the rock drawing o f the Magdalenian draughtsmen; but now very nearly exhausted by the effort to stay interested in its o w n contents. Which brings us to the "heap o f broken images": not only desert ruins o f some past from which life was withdrawn with the failure of the water supply, like the Roman cities in N o r t h Africa, or A u - gustine's Carthage, but also the manner in which Shakespeare, H o - mer, and the drawings o f Michelangelo, Raphael, and the Magdalenian draughtsmen coexist in the contemporary cultivated consciousness: fragments, familiar quotations: poluphloisboio thalasse, to be or not to be, undo this button, one touch o f nature, etc., God creating the Sun and M o o n , those are pearls that were his eyes. For one man w h o knows The Tempest intimately there are a thousand who can identify the lines about the cloud-capp'd towers; painting is a miscellany o f reproductions, literature a potpourri o f quotations, history a chaos o f theories and postures (Nelson's telescope, W a s h - ington crossing the Delaware, government of, for and by the people, the Colosseum, the guillotine). A desert wind has blown half the leaves away; disuse and vandals have broken the m o n u m e n t s — What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow Out o f this stony rubbish? Son o f man, Y o u cannot say, or guess, for you k n o w only A heap o f broken images, where the sun beats, And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, And the dry stone no sound o f water. Cities are built out o f the ruins o f previous cities, as The Waste Land is built out o f the remains o f older poems. But at this stage no building is yet in question; the "Son o f man" (a portentously generalizing phrase) is moving tirelessly eastward, when the speaker accosts h i m w i t h a sinister "Come in under the shadow o f this red rock," and offers to show h i m not merely horror and desolation but something older and deeper: fear. Hence the hyacinth girl, w h o speaks w i t h urgent hurt simplicity, like the mad Ophelia:
  6. 6. 1 6 / H U G H K E N N E R " Y o u gave me hyacinths first a year ago; They called me the hyacinth g i r l . " They are childlike words, self-pitying, spoken perhaps in memory, perhaps by a ghost, perhaps by a wistful woman n o w out o f her mind. The response exposes many contradictory layers o f feeling: — Y e t when we come back, late, from the Hyacinth garden, Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not Speak, and m y eyes failed, I was neither Living nor dead, and I knew nothing, Looking into the heart o f light, the silence. The context is erotic, the language that o f mystical experience: plainly a tainted mysticism. "The Hyacinth garden" sounds queerly like a lost cult's sacred grove, and her arms were no doubt full o f flowers; what rite was there enacted or evaded we can have no means o f knowing. But another level o f meaning is less ambiguous: perhaps in f a n - tasy, the girl has been drowned. Five pages later " A Game o f Chess" ends w i t h Ophelia's words before her death; Ophelia gathered flow- ers before she tumbled into the stream, then lay and chanted snatches o f old t u n e s — Frisch weht der Wind Der Heimat zu while her clothes and hair spread out on the waters. "The Burial o f the Dead" ends w i t h a sinister dialogue about a corpse in the g a r d e n — Has it begun to sprout? W i l l it bloom this year? O r has the sudden frost disturbed its bed? — t w o Englishmen discussing their tulips, w i t h a note o f the terrible intimacy w i t h which murderers imagine themselves being taunted. The traditional British murderer—unlike his American counterpart, w h o in a vast land instinctively puts distance between himself and the corpse—prefers to keep it near at hand; in the garden, or behind the wainscoting, or bones cast i n a little l o w dry garret, Rattled by the rat's foot only, year to year. The Death of Europe / 17 "The Fire Sermon" opens w i t h despairing fingers clutching and s i n k - ing into a wet bank; it closes w i t h Thames-daughters singing from beneath the oily waves. The drowned Phlebas in Section I V varies this theme; and at the close o f the poem the response to the last c h a l - lenge o f the thunder alludes to something that happened in a boat: your heart would have responded Gaily, when invited, beating obedient T o controlling hands — b u t what in fact did happen we are not told; perhaps nothing, or perhaps the hands assumed another sort o f control. In The Waste Land as in The Family Reunion, the guilt o f the protagonist seems coupled w i t h his perhaps imagined responsibility for the fate o f a perhaps ideally drowned woman. One thinks to escape By violence, but one is still alone In an over-crowded desert, jostled by ghosts. (Ghosts that beckon us under the shadow o f some red rock) It was only reversing the senseless direction For a momentary rest on the burning wheel That cloudless night in the mid-Atlantic When I pushed her over It must give this man an unusual turn when Madame Sosostris spreads her pack and selects a card as close to his secret as the Tarot symbolism can come: Here, said she, Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor, (Those are pearls that were his eyes. L o o k ! ) — and again: this card, Which is blank, is something he carries on his back, Which I am forbidden to see. (In what posture did they come back, late, from the Hyacinth Garden, her hair wet, before the planting o f the corpse?) It is not clear whether he is comforted to learn that the clairvoyante does not find the Hanged Man.
  7. 7. 1 8 / H U G H K E N N E R Hence, then, his inability to speak, his failed eyes, his stunned movement, neither living nor dead and knowing nothing: as Sweeney later puts it, He didn't k n o w i f he was alive and the girl was dead He didn't k n o w i f the girl was alive and he was dead He didn't k n o w i f they both were alive or both were dead. The heart o f light, the silence, seems to be identified w i t h a waste and empty sea, Oed' und leer das Meer; so Harry, Lord Monchensey gazed, or thought he remembered gazing, over the rail o f the liner: Y o u would never imagine anyone could sink so quickly. . . . That night I slept heavily, alone. . . . I lay t w o days in contented drowsiness; Then I recovered. He recovered into an awareness o f the Eumenides. A t the end o f "The Burial o f the Dead" it is the speaker's ac- quaintance Stetson w h o has planted a corpse in his garden and awaits its fantastic blooming "out o f the dead land": whether a hyacinth bulb or a dead mistress there is, in this phantasmagoric cosmos, no knowing. A n y man, as Sweeney is to put it, has to, needs to, wants to Once in a lifetime, do a girl in. Baudelaire agrees: Si le viol, le poison, le poignard, l'incendie, N ' o n t pas encore brode de leurs plaisants dessins Le canevas banal de nos piteux destins, C'est que notre ame, helas! n'est pas assez hardie. This is from the poem which ends with the line Eliot has appropriated to climax the first section o f The Waste Land: You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frere! Part T w o , " A Game o f Chess" revolves around perverted n a - ture, denied or murdered offspring; Part Three, "The Fire Sermon," The Death of Europe / 19 the most explicit of the five sections, surveys w i t h grave denunciatory candour a world o f automatic lust, in which those barriers between person and person which so troubled Prufrock are dissolved by the suppression o f the person and the transposition o f all human needs and desires to a plane o f genital gratification. The river's tent is broken: the last fingers o f leaf Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed. Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end m y song. The "tent," now broken w o u l d have been composed o f the o v e r - arching trees that transformed a reach o f the river into a tunnel o f love; the phrase beckons to mind the broken maidenhead; and a line later the gone harmonious order, by a half-realizable metamorphosis, struggles exhausted an instant against drowning. "The nymphs are departed" both because summer is past, and because the w o r l d o f Spenser's Prothalamion (when nymphs scattered flowers on the water) is gone, i f it ever existed except as an ideal fancy o f Spenser's. The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers, Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends O r other testimony o f summer nights. The nymphs are departed. From the " b r o w n land," amorists have fled indoors, but the river is not restored to a sixteenth-century purity because the debris o f which it is n o w freed was not a sixteenth-century strewing o f petals but a discarding o f twentieth-century impedimenta. The nymphs w h o have this year departed are not the same nymphs w h o departed in autumns k n o w n to Spenser; their friends are "the loitering heirs o f city directors," who, unwilling to assume responsibility for any u n - toward pregnancies, Departed, have left no addresses. Spring will return and bring Sweeney to Mrs. Porter; Mrs. Porter, introduced by the sound o f horns and caressed by the moonlight while she laves her feet, is a latter-day Diana bathing; her daughter perhaps, or any o f the vanished nymphs, a latter-day Philomel So rudely forc'd. Tereu.
  8. 8. 20 / H U G H K E N N E R Next M r . Eugenides proposes what appears to be a pederastic assig- nation; and next the typist expects a visitor to her flat. The typist passage is the great tour de force o f the poem; its gentle lyric melancholy, its repeatedly disrupted rhythms, the automa- tism o f its cadences, in alternate lines aspiring and falling n e r v e l e s s l y — The time is n o w propitious, as he guesses, The meal is ended, she is bored and tired, Endeavours to engage her i n caresses Which still are unreproved, i f undesired. —constitute Eliot's most perfect liaison between the self-sustaining gesture o f the verse and the presented fact. Some twenty-five lines in flawlessly traditional iambic pentameter, alternately rhymed, sus- tain w i t h their cadenced gravity a moral context in which the dreary business is played out; the texture is lyric rather than dramatic because there is neither doing nor suffering here but rather the mutual c o m - pliance of a ritual scene. The section initiates its flow w i t h a sure and per- fect line composed according to the best eighteenth-century models: A t the violet hour, when the eyes and back which, if the last w o r d were, for instance, "heart," we might suppose to be by a precursor o f Wordsworth's. But the harsh sound and incongruous specification o f "back" shift us instead to a plane o f prosodic disintegration: when the eyes and back Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits Like a taxi throbbing waiting, The upturned eyes and b a c k — n o t h i n g else, no face, no torso—recall a Picasso distortion; the "human engine" throws pathos d o w n into mechanism. In the next line the speaker for the first time in the poem identifies himself as Tiresias: I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between t w o lives, O l d man w i t h wrinkled female breasts, can see There are three principal stories about Tiresias, all o f them relevant. In Oedipus Rex, sitting " b y Thebes below the w a l l " he knew w h y , and as a consequence o f what violent death and what illicit amour, the pestilence had fallen on the unreal city, but declined to tell. In The Death of Europe / 21 the Odyssey he "walked among the lowest o f the dead" and evaded predicting Odysseus' death by water; the encounter was somehow necessary to Odysseus' homecoming, and Odysseus was somehow satisfied with it, and did get home, for a while. In the Metamorphoses ^ he underwent a change o f sex for watching the coupling o f snakes: presumably the occasion on which he "foresuffered" what is tonight "enacted on this same divan or b e d j ^ H e is often the prophet w h o knows but withholds his knowledge, just as Hieronymo, w h o is mentioned at the close o f the poem, knew h o w the tree he had planted in his garden came to bear his dead son, but was compelled to w i t h - hold that knowldge until he could write a play which, like The Waste Land, employs several languages and a framework o f allusions i m - penetrable to anyone but the "hypocrite lecteur." It is an inescapable shared guilt that makes us so intimate w i t h the contents o f this strange deathly poem; it is also, in an age that has eaten o f the tree o f the knowledge o f psychology and anthropology ("After such k n o w l - edge, what forgiveness?"), an inescapable morbid sympathy w i t h everyone else, very destructive to the coherent personality, that (like Tiresias' years as a woman) enables us to j o i n w i t h h i m in "fore- suffering a l l . " These sciences afford us an illusion o f understanding other people, on which we build sympathies that in an ideal era would have gone out w i t h a less pathological generosity, and that are as likely as not projections o f our self-pity and self-absorption, vices for which Freud and Frazer afford dangerous nourishment. Tiresias is he w h o has lost the sense o f other people as inviolably other, and w h o is capable neither o f pity nor terror but only o f a fascination spuriously related to compassion, which is merely the twentieth century's special mutation ofjnjdiffexeqce. Tiresias can see A t the violet hour, the evening hour that strives Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea, The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights Her stove, and lays out food in tins. Syntax, like his sensibility and her routine, undergoes total collapse. A fine throbbing line intervenes: Out o f the w i n d o w perilously spread and bathos does not wholly overtopple the completing Alexandrine: Her drying combinations touched by the sun's last rays.
  9. 9. 22 / H U G H K E N N E R "Combinations" sounds a little finer than the thing it denotes; so does "divan": O n the divan are piled (at night her bed) Stockings, slippers, camisoles and stays. Some transfiguring w o r d touches with glory line after line: He, the young man carbuncular, arrives, If he existed, and i f he read those words, h o w must he have m a r - velled at the alchemical power o f language over his inflamed skin! As their weary ritual commences, the diction alters; it moves to a plane o f Johnsonian dignity without losing touch w i t h them; they are never "formulated, sprawling on a p i n . " "Endeavours to engage her in caresses" is out o f touch w i t h the small house agent's clerk's speech, but it is such a sentence as he might write; Eliot has noted elsewhere h o w "an artisan w h o can talk the English language beautifully while about his work or i n a public bar, may compose a letter painfully written in a dead language bear- ing some resemblance to a newspaper leader and decorated w i t h words like 'maelstrom' and 'pandemonium.' " So it is w i t h the d i c - tion o f this passage: it reflects the words w i t h which the participants might clothe, during recollection in tranquillity, their o w n notion of what they have been about, presuming them capable o f such self- analysis; and it maintains simultaneously Tiresias' fastidious i m p e r - sonality. The rhymes come w i t h a weary inevitability that parodies the formal elegance o f Gray; and the episode modulates at its close into a key to which Goldsmith can be transposed: When lovely w o m a n stoops to folly and Paces about her r o o m again, alone, She smoothes her hair w i t h automatic hand, A n d puts a record on the gramophone. With her music and her lures "perilously spread" she is a London siren; the next line, "This music crept by me upon the water," i f it is lifted from the Tempest, might as well be adapted from the twelfth book o f the Odyssey. After the Siren, the violated Thames-daughters, borrowed from Wagner, the "universal artist" w h o m the French Symbolists d e - lighted to honour. The opulent Wagnerian pathos, with its harmonic rather than linear development and its trick o f entrancing the atten- The Death of Europe / 23 tion w i t h leitmotifs, is never unrelated to the methods o f The Waste Land. One o f the characters in " A Dialogue on Dramatic Poetry," though he has railed at Wagner as "pernicious," yet would not w i l l - ingly resign his experience o f Wagner; for Wagner had more than a bag o f orchestral tricks and a corrupt taste for mythologies, he had also an indispensable sense o f his o w n age, something that partly sustains and justifies his methods. " A sense o f his o w n age"—the ability to "recognize its pattern while the pattern was yet i n c o m - plete"—was a quality Eliot i n 1930 was to ascribe to Baudelaire. One who has possessed it cannot simply be ignored, though he is exposed to the follies o f his age as well as sensitive to its inventions. A t the very least he comes to symbolize a phase in "the mind o f Europe" otherwise difficult to locate or name; at best, his methods, whether or not they merited his o w n fanaticism, are o f permanent value to later artists for elucidating those phases o f human sensibility to the existence o f which they originally contributed. This principle is quite different from the academic or counteracademic notion that art must be deliberately adulterated because its preoccupations are. Wagner, more than Frazer or Miss Weston, presides over the introduction into The Waste Land o f the Grail motif. In Wagner's opera, the Sangreal quest is embedded in an opulent and depraved religiosity, as in Tennyson's Holy Grail the cup, "rose-red, w i t h beatings in it, as i f alive, till all the white walls o f m y cell were dyed with rosy colours leaping on the w a l l , " never succeeds in being more than the reward o f a refined and sublimated erotic impulse. Again Eliot notes o f Baudelaire that " i n much romantic poetry the sadness is due to the exploitation o f the fact that no human relations are adequate to human desires, but also to the disbelief in any further object for human desires than that which, being human, fails to satisfy them." The Grail was in mid-nineteenth-century art an attempt to postulate such an object; and the quest for that vision unites the poetry o f baffled sadness to "the poetry o f flight," a genre which Eliot distinguishes in quoting Baudelaire's "Quand partons-nous vers le bonheur?" and characterizes as "a d i m recognition o f the direction of beatitude." So in Part V o f The Waste Land the journey eastward among the red rocks and heaps o f broken images is fused w i t h the journey to Emmaus ("He who was living is n o w dead. We who were living are n o w dying") and the approach to the Chapel Perilous. The quester arrived at the Chapel Perilous had only to ask the
  10. 10. 2 4 / H U G H K E N N E R meaning o f the things that were shown h i m . U n t i l he has asked their meaning, they have none; after he has asked, the king's w o u n d is healed and the waters commence again to flow. So in a civilization reduced to "a heap o f broken images" all that is requisite is sufficient curiosity; the man w h o asks what one or another o f these fragments means—seeking, for instance, "a first-hand opinion about Shake- speare"—may be the agent o f regeneration. The past exists in frag- ments precisely because nobody cares what it meant; it w i l l unite itself and come alive i n the mind o f anyone w h o succeeds in caring, who is unwilling that Shakespeare shall remain the name attached only to a few tags everyone half-remembers, in a w o r l d where "we know too much, and are convinced o f too little." Eliot develops the nightmare journey w i t h consummate skill, and then manoeuvres the reader into the position o f the quester, presented w i t h a terminal heap o f fragments which it is his business to inquire about. The protagonist in the poem perhaps does not inquire; they are fragments he has shored against his ruins. O r per- haps he does inquire; he has at least begun to put them to use, and the "arid plain" is at length behind h i m . The journey is prepared for by t w o images o f asceticism: the brand plucked from the burning, and the annihilation o f Phlebas the Phoenician. "The Fire Sermon," which opens by Thames water, closes w i t h a burning, a burning that images the restless lusts o f the nymphs, the heirs o f city directors, M r . Eugenides, the typist and the young man carbuncular, the Thames-daughters. They are u n - aware that they burn. " I made no comment. What should I resent?" They burn nevertheless, as the protagonist cannot help noticing when he shifts his attention from commercial London to commercial C a r - thage (which stood o n the N o r t h African shore, and is n o w utterly destroyed). There human sacrifices were dropped into the furnaces of Moloch, in a frantic gesture o f appeasement. There Augustine burned w i t h sensual fires: "a cauldron o f unholy loves sang all about mine ears"; and he cried, " O Lord, Thou pluckest me out." The Buddhist ascetic on the other hand does not ask to be plucked out; he simply turns away from the senses because (as the Buddhist Fire Sermon states) they are each o f them on fire. As for Phlebas the Phoenician, a trader sailing perhaps to Britain, his asceticism is e n - forced: " A current under sea picked his bones in whispers," he forgets the benisons o f sense, "the cry o f gulls and the deep sea swell" as well as "the profit and loss," and he spirals d o w n , like Dante's The Death of Europe / 25 Ulysses, through circling memories o f his age and youth, "as A n - other chose." (An account o f a shipwreck, imitated from the Ulysses episode in Dante, was one o f the long sections deleted from the original Waste Land.) Ulysses in hell was encased in a tongue o f flame, death by water having in one instance secured not the baptismal renunciation o f the O l d Adam, but an eternity o f fire. Were there some simple negative formula for dealing w i t h the senses, suicide would be the sure way to regeneration. Part V opens, then, in Gethsemane, carries us rapidly to G o l - gotha, and then leaves us to pursue a nightmare journey in a w o r l d now apparently deprived o f meaning. Here is no water but only rock Rock and no water and the sandy road The road winding above among the mountains Which are mountains o f rock without water I f there were water we should stop and drink. The whirling, obsessive reduplication o f single words carries the travellers through a desert, through the phases o f hallucination in which they number phantom companions, and closes w i t h a synoptic vision o f the destruction o f Jerusalem ( " M u r m u r o f maternal l a m - entation" obviously recalling "daughters o f Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for yourselves and your children") which becomes sub specie aeternitatis the destruction by fire o f civilization after civilization. Jerusalem Athens Alexandria Vienna London Unreal. The w o m a n at the dressing table recurs: A w o m a n drew her long black hair out tight A n d fiddled whisper music on those strings; her "golden Cupidons" are transmogrified: A n d bats w i t h baby faces in the violet light Whistled, and beat their wings A n d crawled head downward d o w n a blackened wall and where towers hang "upside d o w n in air" stability is imaged by a deserted chapel among the mountains, another place from which the life has gone but in which the meaning is latent, awaiting only
  11. 11. 26 / H U G H K E N N E R pilgrim's advent. The cock crows as it did when Peter wept tears '-of penitence; as in Hamlet, it disperses the night spirits. Then a damp gust Bringing rain. There the activity o f the protagonist ends. Some forty remaining lines in the past tense recapitulate the poem in terms o f the oldest w i s d o m accessible to the West. The thunder's D A is one o f those primordial Indo-European roots that recur in the Oxford Dictionary, a random leaf o f the Sibyl's to which a thousand derivative words, n o w a u t o - matic currency, were in their origins so many explicit glosses. I f the race's most permanent wisdom is its oldest, then D A , the voice o f the thunder and of^he-44iad4isag£s^_is the cosmic voice not yet dissociated into echoes. It underlies the Latin infinitive "dare," and all its R o - mance derivatives; by a sound change, the Germanic "geben," the English "give." It is the root o f "datta," "dayadh-vam," "damyata": give, sympathize^contmhjhree sorts o f givingJTo sympathize is to give oneself; to control is to give governance^ ( Then spoke the thunder I D A Datta: what have we given? I M y friend, blood shaking my heart l The awful daring o f a moment's surrender Which an age o f prudence can never retract ^ B y this, and this only, we have existed. The first surrender was our parents' sexual consent; and when we are born again it is by a new surrender, inconceivable to the essentially satiric sensibility w i t h which a Gerontion contemplates De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled Beyond the circuit o f the shuddering Bear, and requiring a radical modification o f even a Tiresias' negative compassion. The awful daring o f a moment's surrender Which is not to be found in our obituaries O r in memories draped by the beneficent spider Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor In our empty rooms. The Death of Europe / 27 The lean solicitor, like the inquiring w o r m , breaks seals that in life- time were held prissily inviolate; the w i l l hp is about to read registers not things given but things abandoned.The thunder is telling us what Tiresias did not dare tell Oedipus, the reason for the universal curse: "What have we given?" As for "Dayadhvam," "sympathize": D A Dayadhvam: I have heard the key Turn in the door once and turn once only We think o f the key, each in his prison Thinking o f the key, each confirms a prison — a prison o f inviolate honour, self-sufficiency, like that in which Coriolanus locked himself away. Coriolanus' city was also under a curse, in which he participated. His energies sufficed in wartime (Eliot's poem was written three years after the close o f the Great War), but in peacetime it becomes clear that "he did it to please his mother, and to be partly proud." He is advised to go through the forms o f giving and sympathy, but [Not] by the matter which your heart prompts you, But w i t h such words that are but rooted in Your tongue. After his banishment he goes out "like to a lonely dragon," and plots the destruction o f Rome. His final threat is to stand As i f a man were author o f himself A n d knew no other kin. He is an energetic and purposeful Prufrock, concerned with the figure he cuts and readily humiliated; Prufrock's radical fault is not his lack of energy and purpose. Coriolanus is finally shattered like a statue; and i f Only at nightfall, aethereal rumours Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus, it may be only as the H o l l o w M e n in Death's dream kingdom hear voices " i n the wind's singing," and discern sunlight on a broken column. D o the rumours at nightfall restore h i m to momentary life, or restore his memory to the minds o f other self-sufficient unsym- pathizing men?
  12. 12. 28 / H U G H K E N N E R D A Damyata: The boat responded Gaily, to the hand expert w i t h sail and oar The sea was calm, your heart would have responded Gaily, when invited, beating obedient T o controlling hands. Unlike the rider, w h o may dominate his horse, the sailor survives and moves by cooperation w i t h a nature that cannot be forced; and this directing, sensitive hand, feeling on the sheet the pulsation o f the wind and on the rudder the momentary thrust o f waves, becomes the imagined instrument o f a comparably sensitive human relation- ship. I f dominance compels response, control invites it; and the r e - sponse comes "gaily." B u t — " w o u l d have": the right relationship was never attempted. I sat upon the shore Fishing, w i t h the arid plain behind me. The journey eastward across the desert is finished; though the king's lands are waste, he has arrived at the sea. Shall I at least set m y lands in order? Isaiah bade King Hezekiah set his lands in order because he was destined not to live; but Candide resolved to cultivate his o w n garden as a way o f living. We cannot set the whole w o r l d in order; we can rectify ourselves. A n d we are destined to die, but such order as lies in our power is nevertheless desirable. London Bridge is falling d o w n falling d o w n falling d o w n Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli ajfina Quando jiam uti chelidon—O swallow swallow Le Prince d'Aquitaine a la tour abolie These fragments I have shored against m y ruins. A n English nursery rhyme, a line o f Dante's, a scrap o f the late Latin Pervigilium Veneris, a phrase o f Tennyson's ("O swallow, swallow, could I but follow") linked to the fate o f Philomel, an image from a pioneer nineteenth-century French visionary w h o hanged himself on a freezing January morning: "a heap o f broken images," and a fragmentary conspectus o f the mind o f Europe. Like the Knight in The Death of Europe / 29 the Chapel Perilous, we are to ask what these relics mean; and the answers will lead us into far recesses o f tradition. The history o f London Bridge (which was disintegrating in the eighteenth century, and which had symbolized, with its impractical houses, a communal life n o w sacrificed to abstract t r a n s p o r t a t i o n — A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many.) is linked by the nursery rhyme w i t h feudal rituals ("gold and silver, m y fair lady") and festivals older still. Dante's line focuses the t r a - dition o f Christian asceticism, in which "burning" is voluntarily undergone. Dante's speaker was a poet: leu sui Arnaut, que plor e vau cantan; Consiros vei la passada folor, E vei jausen lo j o r n , que'esper, denan. "Consiros vei la passada folor": compare " W i t h the arid plain behind me." "Vau cantan": he goes singing in the fire, like the children in the Babylonian furnace, not quite like Philomel whose song is pressed out o f her by the memory o f pain. The Pervigilium Veneris is another rite, popular, postpagan, pre-Christian, welcoming in the spring and inciting to love: "Cras amet qui numquam amavit"; he w h o has never loved, let h i m love tomorrow; secular love, but its trajectory leads, via the swallow, aloft. Tennyson's swallow nearly t w o t h o u - sand years later ("Could I but follow") flies away from an earthbound poet, grounded in an iron time, and meditating "la poesie des d e - parts." That poem is a solo, not a folk ritual. As for the Prince o f Aquitaine with the ruined tower, he is one o f the numerous personae Gerard de Nerval assumes in El Desdichado: "Suis-je A m o u r ou Phe- bus, Lusignan ou Biron?" as the speaker o f The Waste Land is Tiresias, the Phoenician Sailor, and Ferdinand Prince o f Naples. He has l i n - gered in the chambers o f the sea J'ai reve dans la grotte ou nage la sirene and like Orpheus he has called up his love from the shades: Et j ' a i deux fois vainqueur traverse 1'Acheron Modulant tour a tour sur la lyre d'Orphee Les soupirs de la sainte et les cris de la fee.
  13. 13. 3 0 / H U G H K E N N E R So The Waste Land contains Augustine's cries and the song o f the Thames-daughters; but de Nerval, the pioneer Symbolist, is enclosed in a mood, in a poetic state, surrounded by his o w n symbols ("Je suis le tenebreux,—le veuf,—1'inconsole"), offering to a remembered order, where the vine and the rose were one, only the supplication of a dead man's hand, "Dans la nuit du tombeau," where "ma seule etoile est morte": under the twinkle o f a fading star. It is some such state as his, these images suggest, that is to be explored in "The H o l l o w M e n " ; he inhabits death's dream kingdom. The mind o f Europe, some time in the nineteenth century, entered an uneasy phase o f sheer dream. These fragments I have shored against m y ruins Why then He fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe. Here Eliot provides us w i t h a final image for all that he has done: his poem is like Hieronymo's revenge play. Hieronymo's e n e m i e s — the public for the poet in our time—commission an entertainment: It pleased you, At the entertainment o f the ambassador, To grace the king so much as with a show. N o w , were your study so well furnished, As for the passing o f the first night's sport To entertain m y father with the like Or any such-like pleasing motion, Assure yourself, it would content them well. H t E R : Is this all? B A L . : A y , this is all. HIER: W h y then, I ' l l fit you. Say no more. When I was young, I gave my mind And plied myself to fruitless poetry; Which though it profit the professor naught, Yet is it passing pleasing to the world. It profits the professor naught, like Philomel's gift o f song; and pleases those w h o have no notion o f what it has cost, or what it will ultimately cost them. Hieronymo goes on to specify: Each one o f us Must act his part in unknown languages, That it may breed the more variety: The Death of Europe / 31 As you, m y Lord, in Latin, I in Greek, You in Italian, and for because I k n o w That Bellimperia hath practised the French, In courtly French shall all her phrases be. Each o f these languages occurs in The Waste Land; all but Greek, in the list o f shored fragments. Balthasar responds, like a critic in The New Statesman, But this will be a mere confusion, And hardly shall we all be understood. Hieronymo, however, is master o f his method: It must be so: for the conclusion Shall prove the invention and all was good. Hieronymo's madness, in the context provided by Eliot, is that o f the Platonic bard. I f we are to take the last t w o lines o f The Waste Land as the substance o f what the bard in his sibylline trance has to say, then the old man's macaronic tragedy appears transmuted into the thunder's three injunctions, Give, Sympathize, Control, and a triple "Peace," "repeated as here," says the note, "a formal ending to an Upanishad."
  14. 14. 6 6 / R I C H A R D E L L M A N N pletely altered. It appears, from the revised versions, that he objected to the elaborate windup, and urged a more direct confrontation o f the reader and the material. A similar theory is at w o r k in Pound's changes in The Waste Land. Chiefly by excision, he enabled Eliot to tighten his form and get "an outline," as he wrote in a complimentary letter of January 24, 1922. The same letter berated himself for "always exuding m y deformative secretions in m y o w n stuff. . . " and for "going into nacre and objets d'art." Yet i f this was necessity for Pound, he soon resolved to make a virtue o f it, and perhaps partially in reaction in Eliot's form, he studied out means o f loosening his o w n in the Cantos. The fragments which Eliot wished to shore and reconstitute Pound was willing to keep unchanged, and instead o f mending consciousness, he allowed it to remain "disjunct" and its experiences to remain "intermittent." Fits and starts, "spots and dots," seemed to Pound to render reality much more closely then the outline to which he helped his friend. He was later to feel that he had gone wrong, and made a botch instead o f a w o r k o f art. Notwithstanding his doubts, the Cantos, with their violent upheaval of sequence and location, stand as a rival eminence to The Waste Land in modern verse. e Waste Land and the Descensus ad Inferos Bernard F. Dick In m y t h and fairy tale, the descent to the underworld was the highest form o f the supernatural, surpassing omens, dreams, and prodigies by compelling belief in a mortal who entered the infernal portals and returned alive to the upper world. Originally the descensus ad inferos arose from the desire "to gain information about the future, or what is 'ahead' in terms o f the lower cycle o f life" by taking a trip to the lower w o r l d itself; but as the descent made the transition from Marchen, where it only satisfied man's penchant for the irrational, to epic, where it afforded a loftier vision o f reality, the knowledge o f the future became, in literary terms, the knowledge o f character and event. B y Homer's time, the descent or katabasis was clearly a literary technique which, like other epic conventions, retained some o f its ritual vestiges; it had ceased being merely an attempt to satisfy the audience's curiosity about the hereafter and instead had crystallized into a type o f dramatic foreshadowing. In classical epic, the two major descensus ad inferos, Odyssey x i and Aeneid v i , exhibit a common descent pattern which might be outlined as follows: (1) The descent is initiated by someone prophetically endowed, either a seer or a shade, w h o addresses the hero in direct and e x - hortative language, ordering h i m to embark on a journey designed to give h i m knowledge o f the future. This knowledge w i l l have a From Canadian Review of Literature 2, no. 1 (Winter 1975). © 1975 by the Canadian Comparative Literature Association. 6 7
  15. 15. 68 / B E R N A R D F . D I C K twofold function: it will clarify the hero's fate and at the same time will determine events occuring later in the epic, in much the same way as the witches' prophecies in Macbeth, by their gradual fulfil- ment, create a microcosmic unity within the tragic macrocosm. In the Odyssey, it is Circe who tells Odysseus he must sail across Ocean to meet Teircsias in the land o f the dead (x, 505-40). As the daughter o f Helios, Circe naturally possesses the foreknowledge Odysseus lacks. Therefore, she can speak to him in the language o f the epic command (lis ere K C A S W ) . It is also clear that Odysseus must make his voyage to gain information: xpeto) fie Kcxrqyayev els 'Aidao/iffvx'Q XPVar°fJLevov &y)f3aiov Tecpeaiao- [ " I came here, driven to the land of death/in want o f prophecy from Teiresias' shade," tr. Fitzgerald] (xi, 164-65). In the Aeneid, Anchises' shade appears to Aeneas, demanding a meeting in the underworld where his son will acquire knowledge o f the nation he will found: "turn genus omnc tuum et quae dentur moenia disces" ["Then you will hear o f your whole race to come/and what walled t o w n is given y o u , " tr. Fitzgerald] (v, 737). His mys- tagogue will be the Cumaean Sibyl, who proposes three ritual i m - peratives (vi, 145—53)—plucking the golden bough ("carpc manu"), burying Miscnus ("conde sepulchro"), and sacrificing black cattle ("due nigras pecudes")—before the descent can begin. The knowledge the initiate acquires foreshadows subsequent events in the epic. In the Odyssey, Elpenor's shade predicted that Odysseus would return to Acaca (xi, 69-70): the prediction was fulfilled at the beginning o f Book xn. The return to Circe's island was dramatically necessary, since Odysseus required further i n f o r - mation about his nostos. This Circe provided by synopsizing his last three adventures—the Sirens, Scylla, and Charybdis, and the Oxen of the S u n — w h i c h occurred exactly in the order in which she foretold them. Teiresias prophesied Odysseus' return to Ithaca without his comrades and his vengeance on the suitors (xi, 110—18), both o f which came to pass in Books xin and x x n respectively. Prior to Aeneas' descent, the Sibyl delivered an extended p r o p h - ecy which was fulfilled in the later books o f the Aeneid: bclla, horrida bella et T h y b r i m multo spumantem sanguine cerno. non Simois tibi ncc Xanthus nec Dorica castra defucrint; alius Latio iam partus Achilles, The Waste Land and the Descensus ad Inferos I 69 natus et ipse dca; ncc Tcucris addita Iuno usquam abcrit, cum tu supplex in rebus egenis quas gentes Italum aut quas non oravcris urbes! causa mali tanti coniunx iterum hospita Teucris externiquc iterum thalami. tu ne cede malis, scd contra audentior ito, quam tua te Fortuna sinet. via prima salutis, quod minime reris, Graia pandetur ab urbe. (VI, 86-97) [Wars, vicious wars I see ahead, and Tiber foaming blood. Simois, Xanthus, Dorians e n c a m p e d — You'll have them all again, with an Achilles, Child of Latium, he, too, goddess-born. And nowhere from pursuit o f Teucrians Will Juno stray, while you do destitute, Begging so many tribes and towns for aid. The cause o f suffering here again will be A bride foreign to Teucrians, a marriage Made with a stranger. Never shrink from blows. Boldly, more boldly where your luck allows, Go forward, face them. A first way to safety Will open where you reckon on it least, From a Greek city. (tr. Fitzgerald)] The wars are those that will be waged in Latium, whose rivers, the Numicius and the Tiber, parallel the Xanthus and the Simois of Troy. The second Achilles is Tumus, and the foreign bride Lavinia. The urbs Graia that will come to Aeneas' aid is Pallanteum, which Evander founded on the Palatine Hill. (2) The foreknowledge o f the woman who prepares the hero for the descent is limited to the immediate future. Circe can instruct Odysseus only in the general details o f his voyage and in the ritual sacrifices he must make, but it is Teiresias w h o holds the key to the hero's future. It is Teiresias, not Circe, who prophesies Odysseus' return (Book xm), his revenge (Book x x u ) , and his death, which docs not occur in the Odyssey but in the Telegony, the last poem o f the Epic Cycle, o f which the Iliad and the Odyssey are part. Likewise
  16. 16. 7 0 / B E R N A R D F . D I C K the Sibyl knows o f events that will happen in Latium, but she is unaware o f the role Aeneas will play in the history o f Rome; it is Anchises w h o informs Aeneas o f his cosmic destiny. Within the mantic hierarchy, the prophetess (Circe, the Sibyl) yields to the prophet (Teiresias, Anchises); female yields to male. (3) In Hades, the hero sees, encounters, or learns about (a) a close friend seeking burial (Elpenor in the Odyssey, Palinurus in the Aeneid); (b) war heroes; (c) mythological heroines ill-fated in love; (d) the damned. (4) In both the Homeric and Vergilian underworlds there is an indifference to topography that would not be remedied until Dante. Strictly speaking, Odysseus does not make a katabasis; he merely digs a trench from which the dead arise at the smell o f the blood from the sacrificed animals. But through Homer's subtle narrative art, one feels Odysseus is travelling through certain regions o f the underworld while, in effect, the underworld has come to him. In the interpolated ending o f Book x i , Odysseus beholds the house of Hades, Orion in the field o f asphodel, Tityus lying on the ground, and Tantalus standing in a pool; yet he has not moved from the trench. O f course, no katabasis can withstand logical analysis, and one must conclude that Homer and his interpolator were not overly concerned about infernal topography. Vergil's hell is somewhat more specific; first o f all, it is a place ("domus"), with threshold ("limen") and doors ("fores") leading to an interior: "Vergil seems to conceive of Hades as an extensive region w i t h a spacious courtyard; leading to the court is a narrow entrance way; beyond the court are doors leading into the main quarters, and ultimately to the palace o f Pluto." [Henry W. Prcscott, The Devel- opment of Virgil's Art (1927; rpt N e w York: Russell & Russell 1963).] However, Vergil does not provide a one-to-one ratio between a Roman house and the underworld. Hades consists o f "inania regna," and while these "unsubstantial realms" comprise certain parts o f regions, they can have only the barest suggestion o f shape. "Hinc via, Tartarci quae fert Acherontis ad undas" ["Hence a road leads to the waters o f Tartarean Acheron," tr. Fairclough] (vi, 295). But from where does the road lead to Acheron? Presumably from the entrance court. Vergil's Hades, then, is a shell o f a house irrigated by subterranean rivers; it is a house which one enters through a volcanic cave and leaves through the gate o f false dreams. The Vergilian lacrimae rerum extend even to hell, enshrouding it with The Waste Land and the Descensus ad Inferos I 71 an oceanic sadness that makes its divisions as tenuous as human life itself. /(5) Time in the descensus is a fiction; the poet wishes to dispel human notions o f chronology, a characteristic o f a contingent u n i - verse, by having the hero see and experience what can never be seen and experienced in terms o f measured motion. Yet at the same time the mimetic tradition requires that the descent be narrated within some kind of continuum to which the poet can adhere when he wishes to achieve verisimilitude or from which he can depart when he chooses to depict infinity. Thus Odysseus travels from Aeaea across Ocean to the Land o f the Cimmerians and back again in literally epic time, which has no parallel in the real world. In the Aeneid (vi, 539), the Sibyl interrupts Aeneas' conversation with Deiphobus by r e - minding h i m that night is approaching and that they are wasting time ("ducimus horas"), although he is in a realm where the eternal has subsumed the temporal. However, he is also in the realm o f literature where a descent, although set sub specie aeternitatis, must be accomplished "on time." A l l o f these characteristics o f the descensus appear in The Waste Land. There is not, nor will there by, any one approach to Eliot's poem that is completely satisfying, and only the most humanistic scholars have studied it without growing to hate it. Its dualism (clas- sical past vs sullied present, West vs East, orchestration vs structure) grows into a pluralism, its fragments into contexts, and their inter- pretations into rebuttals. The Waste Land is a theorem w i t h an infinity o f corollaries. However, i f the poem is regarded as a descent to the underworld, many o f its problems, particularly the unstable t o p o g - raphy and the shifting chronology, can be resolved as conventions of the descensus where time and place are structural devices that make the spiritual intelligible in human terms. Some have claimed that The Waste Land is one day in a living h e l l — f r o m morning to evening, from the " b r o w n f o g " to the "violet hour." This is as true as saying that Aeneid V I covers a period from dawn to shortly before midnight or that The Divine Comedy covers a period o f seven days. It is equally true to say, as Eliot did later: I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where. And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time. ["Burnt Norton," II]
  17. 17. 7 2 / B E R N A R D F . D I C K It is a critical commonplace to regard Teiresias the androgyne as the poem's many-voiced speaker who, in remembering the past, becomes the past and those who formed it. Certainly one o f Teiresias' clearest voices is that o f a quester recalling his journey through hell in search o f knowledge both personal and cosmic. In the earlier drafts o f The Waste Land, there was a stage before Teiresias awoke from the lassitude o f winter to the cruelty o f spring; a stage before he was a suffering initiate making the rounds o f hell w i t h his Tarot card in lieu o f a golden bough. Before Teiresias was a quester, he was a picaro, as one learns from the original manuscript, which opened with a surrealistic night on the town, reminiscent o f the phantas- magoric wanderings o f the young trio in Petronius' Satyricon. In " H e D o the Police in Different Voices" (i), we see Teiresias before he discovered April was the cruellest month; we also see w h y winter kept h i m warm. The Waste Land originally began w i t h T e i r - esias remembering a winter evening in Boston when he was a dapper and carefree bachelor: some drinks, dinner, a show, an after-theatre gin at the Opera Exchange, an evening stroll where a friend gets lost and ends up in a brothel, a near-arrest, a Chaplinesque cab drive, and a walk home in the glow o f sunrise. Teiresias' first incarnation as a rogue was not terribly m e m o - rable, nor was the chatty vernacular o f his first voice: First we had a couple o f feelers at Tom's place, There was old T o m , boiled to the eyes, blind, (Don't you remember that time after a dance, Top hats and all, we and Silk Hat Harry, A n d old T o m took us behind, brought out a bottle o f fizz, W i t h old Jane, Tom's wife; and we got Joe to sing " I ' m pround o f all the Irish blood that's in me, "There's not a man can say a word agin me"). ("He D o the Police in Different Voices," I, 1-8) Teiresias is not yet a poet. However, between the time he walked home in the sunrise and the time he discovered that April was the cruellest month, he was transformed from an irresponsible gadabout to an introspective initiate and transferred from Boston to London. The logic o f the transition is the logic o f the dream, the same logic one finds in the Satyricon where the young men move like figures in an animated cartoon from a rhetoric class to a brothel, from an orgy The Waste Land and the Descensus ad Inferos I 73 to a banquet. One finds a similar logic in the cinema where a director can cut from one state o f mind to another and can manipulate g e o - graphy as i f time and space had no objective significance. One will never k n o w what happened to Teiresias en route, except that he underwent a change o f voice from garrulous undergraduate to r e - flective litterateur and a change o f personality from picaro to quester. He is now ready to play a role performed earlier by Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Aeneas, and Dante the pilgrim; but he requires guidance and thus visits Madame Sosostris, the archetypal female mystagogue; who, like Circe and the Sibyl, speaks to h i m in demonstrative and exhortative language: Here, said she, Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor, (Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!) Here is Belladonna, the Lady o f the Rocks, The lady o f situations. Here is the man w i t h three staves, and here the Wheel, And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card, Which is blank, is something he carries on his back, Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find The Hanged Man. Fear death by water. I see crowds o f people, walking around in a ring. (lines 46-56) Madame Sosostris' reading o f the Tarot forms the microcosm of the poem. She gives Teiresias the card o f the drowned Phoenician sailor whose fate is recorded in Part iv. Next comes Belladonna, the negative o f the Tarot Empress w h o rules the barren and synthetic kingdom depicted in " A Game o f Chess." In his notes, Eliot "quite arbitrarily" associates "the man w i t h three staves" w i t h the Fisher King into w h o m Teiresias merges in Part ill. The "one-eyed m e r - chant" is a variant o f the Tarot fool who appears as M r Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant, in Part ill. There is no blank card in the Tarot; perhaps the clairvoyant does not k n o w her trade as well as she should. The "Wheel" is the wheel o f fortune on which the crowd revolves. "The Hanged M a n " is missing from the deck; he is Christ w h o cannot inhabit a terre gaste and w h o appears in disguise as the hooded figure of Part v. "Fear death by water" is understandable advice from one w h o is ignorant o f its salvific power; it will not be until Part i v
  18. 18. 74 / B E K N A K D F . DIC:K that one realizes death by water can mean rebirth. "Crowds of people, walking round in a r i n g " are the crowds Teiresias sees crossing London Bridge. By her reading, Madame Sosostris has introduced the leading characters and major themes o f The Waste Land, just as by her prophecy the Cumacan Sibyl provided a context for the last six books o f the Aeneid. "* After Teiresias receives his card, he begins his descensus into the hell o f the living dead w h o make up in density what they lack in spiritual depth. Like Odysseus and Aeneas, he first sees the anony- mous dead, not any specific shade: A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many. (lines 62-63) Eliot's shades throng London Bridge like the umbrae o f the Aeneid pressing against the banks o f the infernal river. Interestingly, both poets use the same image o f the shades "flowing": Eliot's crowd over London Bridge, Vergil's crowd (vi, 305) to the banks o f the Styx ("hue omnis turba ad ripas effusa ruebat" ["Here a whole crowd came flowing to the banks"]). Next Teiresias encounters an individual umbra and addresses him with mock-heroic solemnity: There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: "Stetson! You who were w i t h me in the ships at Mylae! That corpse you planted last year in your garden, Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?" (lines 69-72) Stetson served with Teiresias, however anachronistically, at Mylae; their meeting recalls the confrontation in the classical underworld between the initiate and a warrior shade—Odysseus w i t h A g a m e m - non and Achilles, Aeneas with Deiphobus. The classical underworld, like classical rhetoric, is founded on the principle afgradatio: a continuous movement from the less specific toward the more specific to the climactically specific. Thus Aeneas moves from a formless entrance court into a realm that grows more defined as he advances toward Elysium, the climax o f his descensus ad inferos. So, too, does Teiresias move from the general " c r o w d " to those who compose it: Stetson, an old comrade-in-arms, and n o w The Waste Land and the Descensus ad Inferos I 75 Belladonna, an old amour, whose rococo boudoir is a hell o f history ignored and art misused. Belladonna's r o o m is a peculiar kind o f hell: a hell o f unheeded evocations o f the past. One should recall the beginning o f Aeneid V I which furnishes the necessary analogue. When Aeneas landed at C u - mae, his fancy was struck by the sculptured doors o f the temple o f Apollo which Daedalus adorned w i t h scenes from his bondage in Crete: the yearly tribute to the Minotaur, Pasiphae and the bull, and the fall o f Icarus which the artist's grief prevented his completing. In Vergil, art produces the lacrimae rerum; yet art can only produce this surge o f cosmic sadness when the beholder understands the l a - bour involved in forging fragments o f personal experience into panels of history. Belladonna's room is haunted by the past; actually, the room is a classical iconograph complete w i t h Dido's laquearia, a mural depicting the metamorphosis o f Philomela, and "other w i t h - ered stumps o f t i m e . . . told upon the walls" (lines 104—5). Belladonna does not realize she is surrounded by antiquity; u n - like Aeneas, she cannot view the past within a historical context since its meaning has evanesced like the smoke from her candles. The vision o f art that was the prelude to Aeneas' descent has become a meaningless trapping o f Belladonna's hell. Throughout most o f The Waste Land, hell is a city and thus allows for more diversity than either the trench Odysseus digs or the "inania regna" Aeneas traverses. Teiresias n o w finds himself in a new setting, a pub where Bill, Lou, and Mae listen to an anonymous woman (the speaker o f the poem in a feminine mode) relate the story o f Lil who spent her husband's army pay for an abortion instead o f false teeth. The narrator speaks like an umbra, someone totally oblivious to time ( " H U R R Y U P PLEASE ITS T I M E " ) . A S a shade, she k n o w s only the past (the abortion, the false teeth, the Sunday dinner to which she was asked) and the future (Albert's reaction to Lil's physical decline) but not the present. Significantly, the narrator and her story dissipate amid ghostly goodbyes. In "The Fire Sermon," where time and geography intermingle like memory and desire, we find Teiresias in a different part o f the city. N o w a Fisher King, he sits on the banks o f the Thames, antic- ipating a gathering o f the shades. Like Odysseus, he does not move; instead, the dead come to h i m :
  19. 19. 7 6 / B E R N A R D F . D I C K But at m y back from time to time I hear The sound o f horns and motors, which shall bring Sweeney to M r s Porter in the spring. O the moon shone bright on Mrs Porter And on her daughter They wash their feet in soda water Et O ces voix d'enjants, chantant dans la coupole! T w i t t w i t twit J " g j u g j u g j u g j u g j u g So rudely fore'd. Tereu Unreal City (lines 196-207) The entire sequence is a phantasmagoria. The horns and motors orchestrate a cacophonous prelude to the reunion o f Sweeney and Mrs Porter, whose penchant for hygiene evokes the infamous ballad about her and her daughter. Teiresias' subconscious associates the ballad w i t h the singing o f the children in Vcrlainc's Parsifal, where their youthful voices arouse pedcrastic desires in the knight. The song o f the children evokes the cry o f the nightingale and the m y t h of Philomela's metamorphosis after her rape by Tereus, n o w a mere vocative ("Tereu") whose terminal -u, almost a ululation, propels the protagonist to the unreal city where M r Eugenides is waiting with a pocket full o f currants and an ambiguous invitation to l u n c h - eon and a weekend in Brighton. As the wheel turns in accordance with Madame Sosostris' p r e - diction, next to revolve on it are a typist and a pimply clerk. After witnessing their automated intercourse, Teiresias is transported from the typist's dingy flat to the Church o f St Magnus the Martyr at the foot o f London Bridge. Here one o f the most familiar features o f the descensus appears: the infernal river. In an extended lyrical passage that is almost a Lied, the Thames is described in t w o different periods of history: the modern age when it "sweats oil and tar" and the Age of Elizabeth when "the brisk swell / rippled both shores" (lines 284- 85). The Thames that runs through the waste land is a river o f woe, an Acheron, a Rhine plundered o f its gold. The cry o f the Rhine Maidens from Die Gbtterdammerung ("Weialala leia") becomes the cry of the Thames Maidens w h o yearn for a past when the "gilded shell" The Waste Land and the Descensus ad Inferos I 77 of Elizabeth's barge graced their waters. The Thames Maidens constitute another element o f the descensus: the catalogue o f women. In the classical underworld, the hero sees women from mythology w h o suffered for love. Odysseus beheld T y r o , Alcmena, Megara, Jocasta, Chloris, Leda, Phaedra, Procris, and Ariadne among others. In the Lugentes Campi, Aeneas saw Phae- dra, Procris, Eriphyle, Evadne, Pasiphae, Laodamia, and last o f all, Dido. The Thames Maidens were also badly used in the game o f love; one was seduced in the borough o f Richmond, another in Moorgate, the third at Margate. However, none o f them has the grandeur o f a Phaedra, a Dido, or even a Procris. They are little more than prostitutes lamenting their betrayal and lost virginity. The Thames Maidens' cry for their lost purity produces in T e i - resias an aversion to the flesh and the desire to transcend it. While Dante swooned at the realization that earthly passion could engender such boredom in eternity, Teiresias, a more cerebral figure, turned to contemplating the t w o ways o f Augustine and the Buddha, West and East; from his contemplation arises the complicated geography of Part V . Part iv ("Death by Water") bridges the two ways and their a t - tempted resolution in Part v ("What the Thunder Said"). Part iv o r i g - inally contained eighty-two lines describing a shipwreck off the N e w England coast. Pound excised the entire section, leaving intact the r e - maining ten lines—the epitaphion o f Phlebas the Phoenician, k n o w n today as "Death by Water," the shortest and least discussed part o f the poem. It is virtually impossible to read these ten verses without recalling t w o similar deaths: Palinurus and Miscnus in the Aeneid. When Palinurus fell into the sea, carrying the tiller with h i m , his folly occasioned a brief homily from Aeneas: " 'o nimium caelo et pelago confise sereno./nudus in ignota, Palinure, iacebis harena' [" 'For counting/over much on a calm world, Palinurus, / Y o u must lie naked on some unknown shore,' " tr. Fitzgerald] (v, 870—71). "Death by Water" ends on a similarly didactic note: " O you w h o turn the wheel and look to windward,/Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as y o u " (lines 320—21). A Christian writer often feels the need to reply to his pagan sources. Dante replied to the vague eschatology o f Aeneid v i w i t h an underworld that tempered scholasticism w i t h fancy; Milton a n - swered the nihilism o f the Lament for Bion with Lycidas. Eliot is replying to the epic convention o f the burial o f a comrade. The
  20. 20. 7 8 / B E R N A R D F . D I C K drowned Misenus will experience no rebirth, and the murdered P a l - inurus will be held by the waves and tossed by the w i n d (vi, 362). They w i l l give their names to promontories, and their immortality, such as it is, w i l l be the knowledge that Punta di Miseno and Punta di Palinuro bear their names. Eliot is offering an alternative to death by water in ancient epic; water can destroy, but it can also revivify. Phlebas, like Misenus and Palinurus, dies, but he was only the pseudo-Tarot counterpart o f Teiresias. In "Death by Water," Eliot kills o f f Phlebas, almost in the fashion o f melodrama, and produces in his place a new Teiresias whose Tarot veneer has been peeled away. N o w the full implications o f Madame Sosostris' warning, "Fear death by water," can be seen. The "famous clairvoyante," a waste- lander herself, would issue such an admonition, for she regarded death by water, or death by any means, as the ultimate reality, the total cessation o f life. Teiresias, w h o has come to the crossroads o f belief where not only t w o forms o f time (horizontal and vertical, man's and God's) intersect but t w o traditions as well (West and East), knows that death by water is merely death to the world. Teiresias is now ready to confront a higher power, just as Aeneas was prepared to meet his father in Elysium by his journey o f p u r - gation through Hades. "What the Thunder Said" is to The Waste Land what the hero's meeting with Anchises is to the Aeneid: the poetic as well as the historical climax where suffering becomes des- tiny and the odyssey o f an individual becomes the history o f a c i v - ilization. It is also in the last part o f the poem that Teiresias triumphs over space, a victory he shares w i t h Aeneas. A t the close o f Aeneid VI, the hero has been transported from Hades near Cumae to the Elysian Fields which the Romans identified w i t h the Canary Islands or the unexplored Atlantic. The geography o f the descensus is the geography o f the dream, and Teiresias now finds himself in another continent. The geographical transformation occurs in a series of p o w - erful inversions: A w o m a n drew her long black hair out tight And fiddled whisper music on those strings And bats w i t h baby faces in the violet light Whistled, and beat their wings And crawled head downward down a blackened wall The Waste Land and the Descensus ad Inferos I 79 And upside down in air were towers Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours And voices singing out o f empty cisterns and exhausted wells. (lines 378-85, italics mine) "What the Thunder Said" also fulfils one o f the essentials o f the descensus: the displacement o f the female (Madame Sosostris who speaks through cards) by the male (Prajapati w h o speaks through thunder). A similar situation occurred in the Aeneid where Anchises took over the prophetic function o f the Sibyl and unrolled for his son the pageant o f Roman history. Prajapati offers no historical r e - view to Teiresias, but only the tripartite command, "Give, S y m - pathize, Control." There are, o f course, literary alternatives to the waste land: a return to purgatory ("Poi s' ascose nel foco chegli affina'), metamorphosis ("Quando fiam ttti chelidon — O swallow swallow"), or the acceptance o f a ruined tradition ("Le Prince d'Aquitaine a la tour abolle''). But alternatives, as the verses from K y d suggest, may be little more than escapism through papyrology. The ambivalent ending o f The Waste Land where scraps of West- ern literature are blessed by the Upanishads is highly Vergilian. After his meeting with Anchises, Aeneas and the Sibyl left for the upper w o r l d through the gate o f ivory from which false dreams come to men. Generations o f readers have wondered w h y Vergil chose this gate and not the gate o f true dreams, the gate o f horn. Like Portia's gold casket in The Merchant of Venice, the gate o f ivory is deceptive: Vergil has Aeneas leave through the porta eburna to suggest that Roman history as yet has only the semblance o f greatness. Only in the underworld where memory and desire, past and future are m i n - gled can the true nature o f the Roman Empire be seen. Vergil's twin gates (geminaeportae) become Eliot's West and East. Eliot has again answered the Classics, but he does not ascribe truth to the East and illusion to the West; the way up and the way d o w n are the same.
  21. 21. ^ h e Structure and Mythical Method o f The Waste Land Grover Smith Eliot, devouring his experience o f the current cultural season, proved his point about poetry—that anything whatever might find a place in it (Selected Essays). His " l o n g " poem at all stages was made o f a great variety o f moments o f thought and feeling. The poem shown to Pound and preserved in the Facsimile included subordinate poems, afterwards removed, the material having occurred in various forms and at different times. Some commentators therefore deny the i n - tegrity o f the work which they choose to consider a mere assemblage. They assume that The Waste Land fails to combine its parts, and they criticise it on the superficial principle that a poem consisting only of scenes or vignettes or flashes o f imagery has no unified structure. Yet The Waste Land in its structure achieves t w o kinds o f unity, the one psychological, the other cultural or " m y t h i c . " N o r was it made of_random materials. O n the one hand its details focus intensities for a single point o f view, and on the other they were filtered and trans- formed. They passed through a mind, they expressed thereby a " p e r - sonal w o r l d " o f outward form. Critics w h o doubt the unity o f the poem but who acknowledge it as poetry (for example, Aiken, 1923, and less favourably Kenner, 1959) have produced descriptions o f it w i t h more than curiosity value, though impaired by an obstinately false conception o f i t — o n e impatient w i t h the poet and his donnee as well. The fallacy o f the notion that The Waste Land should be re- From The Waste Land. © 1983 by Grover Smith. Allen & U n w i n , 1983. Originally entitled "The Waste Land in the Making." 97
  22. 22. 9 8 / G R O V E R S M I T H garded, w i t h various shades o f implication, as a set o f diversities, is that it sidesteps the evidence. A l l art is in some measure heteroge- neously composed, and certainly it is possible for a w o r k to fall short o f unifying itself. But, though the structure o f The Waste Land p r e - sents the difficulty o f the unconventional, and is not obvious, it is certainly visible in the poem and is moreover explicit in the prose part o f the poem, the "Notes." The chief o f the critics to doubt the structural order o f The Waste Land was Eliot himself; but it is necessary to understand that the Eliot w h o repudiated it was the Eliot o f the 1950s, severing himself from his o w n past and yet not going so far as to amend the poetic text belonging to the past. Self-criticism which would substitute hindsight for past vision is like historical revisionism. In both cases a new historian appears, but the things that happened in the past happened nevertheless. In his Paris Review interview (1959) Eliot was asked whether The Waste Land was changed in "intellectual structure" by Pound's "excisions," and to this he replied: " N o , I think it was just as structureless, only in a more futile way, in the longer version." The answer did not do justice to the question; but it is not the questioner's dissociation o f "intellectual" from other structure that proves m y point but Eliot's dismissal o f all structure even in the original poem, which he had not seen in more than a third o f a century and would never see again. Neither "version," that is, had more or less or any kind o f structure. His refusal to compare cut discussion off. This may not have happened on purpose, but even so it served as a defence; and Eliot never liked to answer in depth for his poetic intentions. Also the question, as asked, could have involved on the one side, or its answer could have involved on the other, some criticism o f Pound's intervention. He would have wished to defend Pound. But it is possible to detect hyperbole in what he said. There certainly had been structure to The Waste Land, call it intellectual or not; but Eliot could no longer feel the structural idea in satisfactory terms. Once he would have defended in private the structure he had conceived, just as he would have defended his "Notes," which a few years earlier (1956) he derogated in "The Frontiers o f Criticism" as "bogus scholarship" (On Poetry and Poets). That structure, indeed, he modified insignificantly as he composed, but it endures. T o dismiss the structure was, in the interview, to evade it—because an alternative reply might have necessitated j u s - tifications o f what Eliot had come to think unjustifiable, a structure The Structure and Mythical Method of The Waste Land I 99 he could no longer sec. M y point, finally, is that his answer is e v i - dence, but that its strict inaccuracy makes it evidence for something contrary to what it says. Eliot had concluded that the structure o f The Waste Land was a failure. Whether he thought it a failure o f conception or o f execution is not clear and is not crucial. The nature o f the structure was explained in Eliot's "Notes" to The Waste Land, in the description o f Tiresias: Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a "char- acter," is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller o f currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince o f Naples, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance o f the poem. (Note to line 218) The structural order envisaged through the spectator—unifier func- tion, far from being vague, has a visible logic, and it is at least as cogent as most innovations o f modern art. This order is reinforced somewhat more in cancelled passages than in the shorter version o f The Waste Land, by an autobiographical parallel; the cancelled e p i - graph from Conrad's Heart of Darkness also hints at this. (See Preface, above.) The spectator function, but not the unifier effect, recalls what years ago I referred to as a Proustian element in The Waste Land, meaning the presence o f a consciousness engaged in sifting over the past, as in A la recherche du temps perdu. In strcam-of-consciousness writing, time in one or another way undergoes dislocation. Some- times different time segments are abruptly brought together, as in Ford Madox Ford's time-shift novels; sometimes they are c o m m i n - gled indiscriminately, as in M o l l y Bloom's soliloquy in Ulysses. When, by some convention o f temporal transcendence, the c o n - sciousness is made to dislocate or rearrange historical events, or es- pecially to blend together scenes or incidents from different ages, it becomes a literary Absolute, a cosmic consciousness. In The Waste Land Tiresias is the spectator o f his private past and also o f the universal past. The poem depicts a palimpsest or layered mixture o f historical times. It does this partly by means o f literary juxtapositions and sometimes by tricking out the present in a literary style imitated from the past. The time mixture fits neatly with the unifier function
  23. 23. 100 / G R O V E R S M I T H of Tiresias; for as he contemplates (and, being the poet, stylistically renders) various times he enters into the personages w h o populate them. Though a point o f resemblance between the Phoenician Sailor and Ferdinand Prince o f Naples is not immediately apparent (they both sail on ships?), one may accept such mergers o f identity on the principle that in a dreamlike vision people equal to the same people are equal to each other. N o w these several strategies w i t h time, literary style and p e r - sonalities have precedents in Joyce's Ulysses: the first in the parallel with the Odyssey, the next in the extravagant recapitulation o f style in "Oxen o f the Sun," and the last in the confused shape-shiftings o f "Circe." H u g h Kenner in his essay "The Urban Apocalypse" has suggested that Eliot, through a succession o f references to Virgil's Aeneid in the poem, may have thought at some point o f creating a >jnodern quest o£ lovce.had created that o f B l o o m — O d y s - ^eus^The. clue to this quest, which can be made to work in reading the poem mythologically, is the descent into hell, as has been d e m - onstrated by Bernard F. Dick in an article entitled "The Waste Land and the Descensus ad Inferos." Kenner connects Virgil with The Waste Land in a different way. He surmises that after reading Van Doren's John Dry den, w i t h its express comparison o f the London o f the 1660s and 1670s to the Rome o f O v i d , Eliot converted the familiar analogy "expressed by the term "Augustan" to the service o f a thematic and stylistic interplay between modern and Augustan London. For the theme o f the city in the original section o f his poem, "The Fire Sermon," the obvious epical parallels were those provided by the Aeneid, which Dryden translated, the epic that looks to the founding o f Rome. Kenner's hypothesis constricts Eliot's project unduly at its inception; Eliot had much more in mind, but he may also have had this. Van Doren would have been tickled to think that his book had affected The Waste Land. Whether Dryden's impact was so forcible, the hard evidence does not establish. N o r do the Augustan literary modes predominate in "The Fire Sermon." Eliot drew upon Van Doren's book for some details o f the section, these being from D r y - den indeed, as I [show elsewhere]; and he may have owed to it traces o f "the decorums o f urban satire" for which Kenner makes claims in "The Urban Apocalypse." Thus the fifteen-line passage beginning "London, the swarming life you kill and breed," ultimately rejected from the work, could have been suggested in part by the long apos- trophe to London in Dryden's "The Medal" (lines 167 ff.), a poem The Structure and Mythical Method of The Waste Land I 101 not cited by Van Doren or Kenner. Eliot's passage, however, was written in terza rima, and the interim cancellations do not show Eliot going over to Dryden's couplets definitely or anticipating the q u a - train form o f his o w n succeeding lines. Nothing in the passage sounds much like either Dryden or Dante. N o r despite Kenner, do the q u a - trains recall Dryden. The time mixture o f the original "Fire Sermon," like that o f the poem long familiar, presents dissolving views of a city that is basically modern London but melts into its past layers indiscriminately. As a counterpart o f Tiresias' consciousness, this has one structural value; as a treatmenLof.historical time, another. The time mixture however makes no sharp distinction in this~fespect. It and Tiresias himself are interdependent; they combine in expressing the moral " m y t h " — t h a t new and surprising distillation towards which the poem aspires as presaged by Eliot's critical hints o f 1921. This myth, to objectify its point o f view as a vision o f good and evil, employs the container as well as the contents, the former a structured identity to compensate for the looseness and variety o f the latter. In a solipsistic universe the mind and the external panorama would reduce to a single reality; in a Bradleyan context they could be described as experience experi- encing. But Eliot's poem, like Proust's vast novel, keeps the t w o at the arm's length o f contemplation. Yet in theory, like facing mirrors magically filled w i t h shadows, their private and social realities reflect each other. Each is the other's self-transformation, each the other's self-judgement. So conceived in the planning o f the "long poem" that began w i t h "The Fire Sermon," Eliot's myth did not depend upon t r a d i - tional mythology. The difference between making myth and using it is essential to the understanding o f The Waste Land as a w o r k o f art. The t w o concepts really involve different senses o f the term " m y t h , " which in neither sense unfortunately, whether in Eliot's vocabulary or in common usage, has a synonym. The traditional sense carries implications o f the primitive, the prelogical, the spell- bound and superstitious, interesting to the folklorist and anthropol- ogist. The new-sense implies a deliberate effort to reawaken the unconscious and intuitive powers o f the primitive myth-maker in the service o f poetic feeling; and to create, such poetic images o f human behaviour as to suggest for the quotidian rituals o f modern life a meaning like that provided for less self-conscious society by magic and myth. I f in effect the new myth-maker calls upon the
  24. 24. 102 / G R O V E R S M I T H same resources of the mind as the primitive one, then in the same sense the structure he presents w i l l mirror the workings o f the mind, its psychology. It will, however, conform to an up-to-date psycho- logical model. In The Waste Land the psyche is modern, the content miscellaneous, and the controlling mind transformational; all are nec- essary. The substance o f the poem forms a myth, something wholly new, generated by that mind in the semblance o f a timelessjpoint o f view or conLuxuujnrl, filled with images and echoes and diverse voices. The presence o f traditional mythic personages in the formal scheme is not the mythic principle but only an aspect o f it. Such is not what critics have generally understood by the m y t h in The Waste Land. Rather there has been a great to-do about t r a - ditional mythic images as formal and moral devices—Tiresias and the GraiLS^ notably those o f Virgil and Dante. This emphasis is natural and inevitable, and it w i l l not be neglected in the present account. For, along with modern liter- ature, traditional myths supplied Eliot with the time dimension for his mythic pattern. It is impossible to look at it without looking at them, except at the cost o f incomprehension. The received myths o f thwarted questing and fruitless psychological initiation (to cite one type o f modern reduction applied to them), with their social and religious perspectives, fit indispensably into the spiritual or rather the moral vision o f the poem, this also being formulated in traditional images. Thus what Eliot called, in his notes to lines 308-9, the " c o l - location" o f the Buddha and Saint Augustine gives to the title o f Part III, "The Fire Sermon,".its meaning o f hell exposed in the desires of the flesh. Thus too the "burning" metaphor applied by Augustine to sinful Carthage in his Confessions (111,1) reinforces the contrasting implication o f Eliot's line borrowed, in the original drafts, from the reference to the virtuous city in Plato's Republic (XI, 592): " N o t here, O Glaucon, but in another w o r l d . " Through Augustine, as Valerie Eliot comments in the Facsimile, Platonic conceptions o f the virtuous city were expressed as the City o f God. In "The Fire Sermon" as first written, the sinful or "burning" city, Plato's city o f the t y r a n - nical, has a visionary complement in the ideal city o f the just. These paradigms o f the actual and the transcendent afford, then, a moral framework; and the traditional material, mythic and otherwise, r e i n - forces this with its anthropological glosses o f fertility and drought. A l l the while, the framework or matrix is identified with the vision of Tiresias. It is Tiresias who gazes with Augustine upon the city o f The Structure and Mythical Method of The Waste Land I 103 tyrant demos, the populace hungering for sense-gratification and power; who entertains with Plato a dream o f wisdom; who, involved in illusion, fails at Buddhist Enlightenment. These experiences are not depicted but synthesised as the old strands are woven into a modern psyche, a m y t h containing the experiences o f a cultural past. M y t h made to the formula o f "The Romantic Englishman" can serve to point a moral or construct a morality. But the myths, the traditional legends that adorn the tale or furnish its matter, import uncontrollable significances. T o find mythic parallels is to explain nothing; it is to add implications that in their turn beg for explanation. The value of Jessie L . Weston or Sir James Frazer to The Waste Land is that each has a coherent system o f ritual and m y t h with which Eliot's may be compared and by which its coherence may be tested. In creating his image o f an interior world and projecting it as an outward landscape o f events, Eliot made a multiplicity o f details into m y t h different from all other myths. Since it is a point o f view it absorbs other points o f view into itself—the scholars' coherent inter- pretations especially, because they are structured as scattered legends are not. This blending process does not imply "taking over" the opinions expressed by scholars o f myth; as always when Eliot's p o - etry borrows, the adoptions form a new equilibrium. So The Waste Land is tentative where Weston is doctrinaire, diffuse where Frazer is organised. Even Frazer, Eliot noted in the Nouvelle Revue jrancaise of 1 November 1923 (vol. 21), tended as his work became more voluminous to avoid more and more explaining his material. This shunning o f hypotheses, Eliot commented, was a point o f view, a "vision." I do not think this fair to Frazer's scientific commitment, but it can profitably be transferred to The Waste Land. In the u n - published paper o f 1913 for Royce k n o w n as "The Interpretation o f Primitive Ritual" (see above), Eliot had criticised the interpretation Frazer offered at the conclusion o f The Dying God (The Golden Bough, vol. 4) o f primitive rites o f spring. Frazer says that early man c o n - ducted spring ceremonies with magical intent and in the belief, m i s - taken indeed, that by imitating the natural phenomena o f fertility he could ensure the annual renewal o f those processes upon which his life depended. Looking at the daily course o f the sun, the monthly growth and extinction o f the moon, the slow seasonal round o f the agricultural year, the primitive mind was beset with fears and w o r - ries: would the daylight return, would the moon wax again, would the spring blossom once more? "These and a thousand such misgiv-