T.S. Eliot

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Leaving Certificate English (Poetry) Note on T.S. Eliot, created by Aoibheann Tighe on 22/05/2016.
Aoibheann Tighe
Note by Aoibheann Tighe, updated more than 1 year ago
Aoibheann Tighe
Created by Aoibheann Tighe almost 8 years ago
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T.S. Eliot His Life Born in 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA His full name is Thomas Stearns Eliot Described as “One of the twentieth century’s major poets” First moved to England in 1914 First published in 1915 – ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ – attracted widespread attention Won the Order of Merit and awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948 His father was a successful businessman; his mother was a social worker and wrote poetry He had four sisters and one brother – he was the youngest Overcame many physical limitations as a child – hernia – this meant that he couldn’t take part in physical activities, preventing him from socialising and interacting with his peers – Eliot often felt isolated – this may be where his love for literature developed from Became obsessed with books and tales of savages & the Wild West Attended Smith Academy from 1898 to 1905 Eliot began to write poetry at the age of 14 – originally influenced by Edward Fitzgerald (19th century English poet) Studied philosophy at Harvard University from 1906 to 1909 – greatly influenced by professors of poetry, philosophy & literary criticism Served as philosophy assistant for a year after graduating Deepened his knowledge from 1911-1914 at Harvard, reading Indian philosophy and studying Sanskrit He planned to do a summer programme in Germany but World War I broke out so he went to Oxford instead – never returned to Harvard to complete oral exam for his Ph.D. Took job as school teacher in London – later became bank clerk until 1925 Employed by Faber and Faber publishing house in 1925 Married Vivienne Haigh-Wood in 1915 – unhappily married – she was mentally unstable – his marriage to her inspired him to write ‘The Waste Lands’ They separated in 1933 – she was committed to a lunatic asylum in 1938 – she remained there until her death – Eliot did not visit her Eliot married Esmé Valerie Fletcher in 1957 – she was 40 years younger than him – she was his secretary at Faber and Faber – they kept the wedding secret – Esmé dedicated her time to preserving his legacy after his death – she died in 2012 Eliot died on the 4th January 1965 of emphysema – he was cremated Psychology Freud – exploration of the unconscious mind revealed a complexity that required complete expression Interested in the workings of the mind and how it perceived the world Wrote in dramatic monologue, a.k.a. stream of consciousness, a.k.a. interior monologue Advances – Post World War I Showed human beings were capable of great barbarity & great nobility Technology Social change Emancipation (freedom) of women Rapid expansion of knowledge Religion From 1927, after joining the Anglican Church, Eliot’s poems became less experimental Religious themes and philosophical themes dominated his work In his later poetry, Eliot turned from spiritual desolation to hope for human salvation Eliot was an extraordinarily influential critic, rejecting Romantic notions of unfettered originality, and arguing for the impersonality of great art His plays attempt to revitalise verse drama and usually treat the same themes as in his poetry – most important is ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ Style Eliot attempted to produce “pure imagery” with no added meaning or symbolism He began adding one image to another in such a way that his attitude and mood became clear In his best works, the image, his own philosophy and the music of words are all brilliantly blended although he mingled grand images with commonplace ones – combined trivial and tawdry (flashy, gaudy) images with traditional poetic subjects – mock heroism Eliot rarely made his meaning explicit The internal logic of his poems is carried out by swiftly accumulating images, suggestions and echoes, depending for their interpretation upon the imagination of the reader Use of literary allusion is common – hinting or referring to another text – allude = to hint at/refer to Themes Contemplation of the past and an examination of the new in relation to the past (‘Jouney of the Maji’) Sense of disgust for urban society – it is an emotional and cultural wasteland (‘Preludes’) 20th century man condemned to a living death /death-in-life / life-in-death; humanity may have to suffer, but can be cured (‘Journey of the Maji’; ‘East Coker IV’) Sexual disappointment, frustration and longing (‘Prufrock’) Appearance vs reality (‘Prufrock’) Devine love & rebirth (‘East Coker IV’) Time (‘Journey of the Maji’; ‘Prufrock’)

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1. ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ by TS Eliot S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse A persona che mai tornasse al mondo, Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse. Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero, Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo. Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, The muttering retreats Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells: Streets that follow like a tedious argument Of insidious intent To lead you to an overwhelming question…. Oh, do not ask, “What is it?” Let us go and make our visit. In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo. The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes, The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening, Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains, Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys, Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap, And seeing that it was a soft October night, Curled once about the house, and fell asleep. And indeed there will be time For the yellow smoke that slides along the street, Rubbing its back upon the window panes; There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; There will be time to murder and create, And time for all the works and days of hands That lift and drop a question on your plate; Time for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and revisions, Before the taking of a toast and tea. In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo And indeed there will be time To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair — (They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”) My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin — (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”) Do I dare Disturb the universe? In a minute there is time For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. For I have known them all already, known them all: Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons; I know the voices dying with a dying fall Beneath the music from a farther room. So how should I presume? And I have known the eyes already, known them all — The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, Then how should I begin To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? And how should I presume? And I have known the arms already, known them all— Arms that are braceleted and white and bare (But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!) Is it perfume from a dress That makes me so digress? Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl. And should I then presume? And how should I begin? . . . . . . . . Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? ... I should have been a pair of ragged claws Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. . . . . . . . . And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully! Smoothed by long fingers, Asleep ... tired ... or it malingers, Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me. Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis? But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed, Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter, I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter; I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, And in short, I was afraid. And would it have been worth it, after all, After the cups, the marmalade, the tea, Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me, Would it have been worth while, To have bitten off the matter with a smile, To have squeezed the universe into a ball To roll it toward some overwhelming question, To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead, Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”— If one, settling a pillow by her head, Should say: “That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.” And would it have been worth it, after all, Would it have been worth while, After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets, After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor— And this, and so much more?— It is impossible to say just what I mean! But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen: Would it have been worth while If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl, And turning toward the window, should say: “That is not it at all, That is not what I meant, at all.” . . . . . . . . No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do To swell a progress, start a scene or two, Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool, Deferential, glad to be of use, Politic, cautious, and meticulous; Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse; At times, indeed, almost ridiculous— Almost, at times, the Fool. I grow old … I grow old ... I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me. I have seen them riding seaward on the waves Combing the white hair of the waves blown back When the wind blows the water white and black. We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown Till human voices wake us, and we drown. Background · Written around 1910 / 1911 · Published in 1915 – helped Eliot to attract worldwide attention · This poem is a dramatic monologue – deals with Prufrock’s isolation and the difficulty he has in life reconciling the needs of his romantic self/soul with the fears of his conventional/reserved outer self – the inner turmoil that influenced Eliot · Includes an extract from Dante’s Inferno – where Guido (a corrupt friar) is being tortured in hell and can speak freely as no one can return and bring whatever he says back to the living – he can admit everything as no one in Hell can tell anyone in the living world Poem Analysis S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse "If I but thought that my response were made A persona che mai tornasse al mondo, To one perhaps returning to the world, Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse. This tongue of flame would cease to flicker.Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo But since, up from these depths, no one has yet Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero, Returned alive, if what I hear is true, Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo. I answer without fear of being shamed.” · ‘Prufrock’ is a pun on the word ‘prudish’, which means restrained or conscious · It is written as a dramatic monologue – there is only one person speaking · Poem starts with a literary allusion from Dante’s Inferno – where the friar, Guido, is talking freely in Hell · Although it is a love song, love plays only a marginal role – it is a lyric poem · Mock heroic poem – treats a trivial matter in an inflated manner – exaggeration of little, insignificant things – ‘drama-queen’ · Is Prufrock like Guido, trapped in a sort of hell or is it an ironic contrast between Dante’s awful inferno and Prufrock’s trivial suffering? – Hell of endless indecision, low self-esteem & fear of rejection · Poem is an interior monologue – speaker discusses his innermost thoughts and feelings – the inner ramblings of Prufrock · Structure: 3 sections separated by lines of 8 dots · Section 1: Stanza One: “Let us go then, you and I” – an invitation – “you” and “I” seem to be a part of the one consciousness (“you” = the public side of Prufrock; “I” = the inner, private man) “When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table” – simile – the sunset is compared to a patient under anaesthetic – both are hazy and inactive – the light leaving the eyes if someone ‘going under’ is compared to the light seeping out of the world at the sunset – also shows the setting, sets the scene – in a city on a foggy October evening “half-deserted streets” – setting – little bit of activity “The muttering retreats” – verb “Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels” – city depicted as a sordid, shabby place – an unattractive, urban world “Streets that follow like a tedious argument / Of insidious intent” – simile – personification of streets and evening – feels drugged, has no enthusiasm or energy (“tedious”) – “insidious”: negative connotations “To lead us to an overwhelming question…. / Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”” – the streets are leading him to an overwhelming question that looms so large it cannot be asked The images in Stanza One suggest Prufrock is feeling inertia and unease, and a desire for action coupled with an inability to act · Refrain: “In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo.” – are they refined or pretentious? – couplet – full of irony – is culture taken seriously or is it trivialised – “come and go”: shows the transient nature of society· Stanza Two: “The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes” – this stanza is made up of the extended metaphor of a cat – comparison to the “yellow fog” as a cat Verbs: “rubs” “Licked” “Lingered” “Let fall” “Slipped” “Curled once” – alliterative ‘L’ “Made a sudden leap” – bit of movement – looks like the cat is going to do something “Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.” – however, instead of doing something, the cat just ends up falling asleep – lack of energy · Stanza Three: “And indeed there will be time” – future tense “For the yellow smoke that slides along the street” – the extended metaphor of the fog from the previous stanza is carried through into this stanza – sibilance Repetition of the phrase “There will be time” – repeated 3 times in this stanza – is Prufrock trying to convince himself that there will be plenty of time to ask his question in the future? “To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet” – describes Prufrock’s public face, the mask that we all put on when we are in public compared to our own face “There will be time to murder and create” – he can change this outer face into a new confident man – murder person he has (the private, self-conscious man) & create a new one to face the world “That lift and drop a question on your plate” – embarrassment? – how will you respond to my question? “Time for you and time for me, / And time yet for a hundred indecisions, / And for a hundred visions and revisions” – indecisive language – he is holding himself back and making excuses, thinking there will be plenty of time later – he is aware that he is putting it off and making excuses (“there will be time”) Prufrock is afflicted by chronic indecision, going on and on endlessly about the question – he is procrastinating – tone is agonising “Before the taking of a toast and tea” – mock heroic tone – after all the talk of big change and saying there will be plenty of time to ask his question later, there is comical undertones to this trivial mention of tea and toast · Refrain is then repeated · Stanza Four: “And indeed there will be time” – what else will there be time for? “To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”” – does he dare to what? Ask the question? “Time to turn back and descend the stair” – going to enter the room containing the women from the refrain – has he the courage to enter the room or will he turn around and “descend the stair”? “With a bald spot in the middle of my hair – / (They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)” – he is talking about his outer self & the comments that these women will make about his appearance – he is self-conscious & insecure “My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, / My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin – / (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”) – his outer self fits into the society – but his self-consciousness holds him back – even though he physically fits into the same society as these women, he does not feel confident enough to walk into the room, isolating him from society – he thinks about the comments that will made about him when he enters – he is afraid of people talking about him, like all of us are “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” – alliteration – by entering the room, it will change everything – he is standing at the door contemplating whether or not to go in and disturb the room with his entrance – he feels out of place – perhaps this is not his world even though his appearance fits into it? “In a minute there is time / For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.” – he is about to make his decision but then, in a minute, he changes his decision – he is ultimately a coward – has no self-confidence or self-esteem This stanza highlights Prufrock’s extreme self-consciousness – he is isolated from society even though his outer self fits in and looks the part · Stanza Five: “For I have known them all already, known them all” – hypnotic language – he knows how they will react – he has seen it all before and knows that what these women do is judge others on their appearances “Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons” – bored language – shows the boredom of society – he doesn’t feel as though he is a part of this society “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” – shows how trivial his, and our, lives are “Beneath the music from a farther room” – he is in a large house as rooms as distant and music is faint “So how should I presume?” – what gives me the right to enter the room? – how can I presume that I am so important that my presence could change/disturb the universe? · Stanza Six: “And I have known the eyes already, known them all” – he knows that he is being commented on – tells of his own experience with this society – speaks of their physical attributes and body parts in this and the next stanza (“the eyes”, “the arms”) “The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase” – as soon as someone enters or speaks, they make a decision about that person – judgemental society “And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin” – metaphorical language – Prufrock feels like a bug who has been pinned onto a board by a collector – he is then, like the insect, on display for everyone to look at and judge him – comparing himself to an insect trapped under the eyes of the collector & viewers – self-conscious, self-disgust – violent metaphor “When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, / Then how should I begin / To spit out the butt-ends of my days and ways?” – when he has been judged by this society, it is a humiliating experience – society has labelled him – “spit out” : feeling of distaste in himself – self-disgust – he is nothing, considers his life as worthless, comparable to a tiny insect “And how should I presume?” – repetition – by asking the infamous question, he could mark the beginning of a new, fresh, meaningful life · Stanza Seven: Sensuous imagery – there is a romantic feel to this stanza – shows a man who is capable of intense romantic feeling “And I have known the arms already, known them all” – these people are only described by their body parts – there is no intimacy – perhaps a fear of intimacy in this society? “Arms that are braceleted and white and bare” – they are a distraction to him – the cause of his digression (straying off point) “(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)” – use of brackets like in Stanza Four where the women’s judgemental comments were bracketed – now Prufrock is being the judgemental one, judging the women by their appearance – the brackets provide a link between the women’s judgement and his – irony – the ‘!’ shows attraction, but also repulsion “Is it perfume from a dress / That makes me so digress?” – sexual smell? – acts as a distraction for Prufrock “Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl” – bordering on erotic, arms wrapped around etc. “And should I then presume? / And how should I begin?” – isolation of modern society – showing Prufrock’s own personal isolation – his fear of failure almost ensures his failure This stanza is full or irony – Prufrock complained about being scrutinised in previous stanzas and yet here he is scrutinising the women – he is watching them – the brackets provide a link between the judgement of the women and his own judgements towards these women The 8 dots between this stanza and the next add a visual aspect to the poem · Section 2: Stanza Eight: This section of the poem is the crisis of the poem “Shall I say” – ‘this is how I might begin’ – discusses ways of approaching his own loneliness “I have gone at dusk through narrow streets” – description of the lonely urban life – will he face up to the task of asking the question that will change his life? “Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?” – the “lonely men” suggest that it is futile, there is no point in facing up to the question – it cannot bridge the gap between society and his private world “I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” – very strong language – pure self-disgust – Prufrock is comparing himself to a crab – this is the lowest of the low in the sea world – by comparing himself to a crab, Prufrock claims that he is not good enough for society – very strong metaphor – crabs scuttle sideways; they never move forward – symbolic of Prufrock always going back and forth, never making a decision – perhaps “scuttling” away in fear? – shows the uselessness of fear “silent seas” : sibilance – we cannot express ourselves when it is silent – onomatopoeia · Section 3: Stanza Nine: In this stanza, we see who Prufrock really is “And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!” – personification – the tension from the previous stanzas slackens almost straight away – there is now a lethargic feel to the poem – no more activity or movement (“sleeps”) “malingers” – drags on “Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, / Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?” – mock heroic – reminder of the triviality of his life – will he have the wherewithal to ask the question? “But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed” – he is anguished – has put a lot of thought into it “Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter” – biblical allusion – John the Baptist was humiliated when his head was brought in on a platter after his execution – Prufrock feels this same humiliation – sense of fear of humiliation is evident – Prufrock is scared of being open to ridicule “I am no prophet – and here’s no great matter” – almost admitting defeat – he no longer talks of the question as an important one “I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker” – he is picturing it – going to be sacrificed on the altar of society “And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker” – Footman could be the personification of death – is this the only end that Prufrock will have? – even the Footman laughs at him – humiliating departure from the world “And in short, I was afraid” – admission (finally!) – he finally admits to his fear – he is afraid of the rejection and mockery of society · Stanza Ten: “And would it have been worth it, after all” – if he had asked the question, would it have been worthwhile – sense of regret? “After the cups, the marmalade, the tea” – mock heroic – the trivial things that makes up his life “among some talk of you and me” – romantic couple? – was the big question a proposal of marriage? “Would it have been worth while” – repetition – sense of regret is evident – questioning himself – sense of sadness “To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead, / Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all” – Prufrock is mocking himself – biblical allusion: link to Guido – someone did return from the dead even though Guido was bragging about no one on earth being able to hear his admissions – both Lazarus and Prufrock have hidden lives – we don’t know what they are really like · Stanza Eleven: The first half of this stanza is full of mock heroism to portray the triviality of Prufrock’s life “Would it have been worth while” – this phrase is repeated 5 times between these two stanzas “sprinkled sheets” – sibilance “It is impossible to say just what I mean!” – Prufrock cannot put his feelings into words “But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen” – metaphor – reference to the screen placed in front of a fire – the shadows dancing on the screen from the light of the fire – there is no substance to a shadow – Prufrock compares himself to a shadow, saying he has no substance – “magic lantern” : flickering of a fire “If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl / And turning toward the window” – could it have ended in rejection? Or misunderstanding? ““That is not it at all, / That is not what I meant, at all.”” – a quote from the person he was going to ask the question of? – did they not give him that impression? (that they wanted to get married?) – Prufrock’s worry of misinterpreting social cues is clear · Final Section of poem: Stanza Twelve: “No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was I meant to be” – exclamation mark adds drama – choice of comparison to the play ‘Hamlet’ – Prufrock’s resemblance to Hamlet’s indecisiveness at the beginning of Shakespeare’s play – but Prufrock does not think himself worthy of the same title ‘Prince’ – he is not a central character, but more of an “attendant lord” – perhaps referring to the character Polonius in ‘Hamlet’ “To swell a progress, start a scene or two, / Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool” – he is a number, only good enough to start a scene but not be the central character – “easy” to manipulate perhaps? “Deferential, glad to be of use” – bow to other people’s opinions, always give in – always happy to please “Politic, cautious, and meticulous” – always doing what people want to do rather than what is right “Full of high sentence” – good language/speech/English “but a bit obtuse” – thick/stupid – great description of how Prufrock sees himself “Almost, at times, the Fool.” – reference to the Fool in King Lear who was very insightful, wise and caring, giving Lear great advice during the duration of the play Reference to 3 Shakespeare characters in this stanza – Hamlet, Polonius and the Fool · Stanza Thirteen: “I grow old … I grow old … / I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.” – monotonous tone – Prufrock didn’t ask the question – he failed – so this is now his life – back to the trivialities of life· “Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?” – mock heroic – these are now the questions that he has to deal with because he didn’t ask the important question · “I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.” – analogy – reference to the sea again, sense of isolation – except this time the sea is a place of beauty and magic – mermaids compared to women in salons – all self-interest – the mermaids song is an enchanting sound · “I do not think that they will sing to me.” – although the sea has changed into a thing of beauty, Prufrock has not changed – he is not good enough for them to sing to him · The poem could end here if Eliot wanted · Stanza Fourteen: “Combing the white hair of the waves blown back / When the wind blows the water white and black.” – metaphor describing the foam on the sea – same colour – there is an element of Prufrock’s own feelings in this metaphor of the sea – we get the feeling that he wants to retreat from the world like the waves – he is inadequate – leaves us with the image of Prufrock as a very unhappy man· Stanza Fifteen: “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea” – comparison to tea rooms & salons of women – similarity of the talking, exclusion, etc. “By the sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown / Till human voices wake us, and we drown.” – the ideal world would be a place where his inner and outer self are reconciled – this place exists in his dreams; this is the only place that it exists – this man has all of this vitality, but has no confidence – he feels as though he is drowning The final, powerful image suggests that the beauty and possibility that the mermaids represent is lost in the waking humdrum, monotonous human world and in this, something vital is lost This poem ends by not just being a portrait of a man, but what it is to be human “Human voices” could be reality breaking through or the women from earlier in the poem “We” – struggles to survive in the city Poem ends on a despairing note – he drowns in a sea of loneliness and isolation, his inner self is forever silenced by his extreme self-consciousness and fear of rejection Themes · Isolation & loneliness of modern man Negative view of urbanisation: he describes an unpleasant urban environment The squalor (unpleasantness) of a modern city is also evident (“cheap hotels”) No evidence of human happiness anywhere in this poem · Disgust at, and superficiality of, upper classes Upper classes are seen as dull and shallow, materialistic and only interested in appearances and possessions They live in a world of pretence; are judgemental; their lives lack substance – they sit around drinking tea · Failure of love Very unusual love song because the hero lacks the confidence to approach and ask the overwhelming question His fear of rejection ensures his inaction (fear of failure ensures failure) The big question that he wants to ask may be a proposal of marriage, but he is afraid to ask it in case he has picked up on the situation wrong, and the girl is not interested in him romantically (“That is not it at all”)

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2. ‘Aunt Helen’ by TS Eliot Miss Helen Slingsby was my maiden aunt, And lived in a small house near a fashionable square Cared for by servants to the number of four. Now when she died there was silence in heaven And silence at her end of the street. The shutters were drawn and the undertaker wiped his feet – He was aware that this sort of thing had occurred before. The dogs were handsomely provided for, But shortly afterwards the parrot died too. The Dresden clock continued ticking on the mantelpiece, And the footman sat upon the dining-table Holding the second housemaid on his knees – Who had always been so careful while her mistress lived. Background · Written in 1917 · A comment on Eliot’s feelings towards the sophisticated, genteel society in which his aunt lived · In this satirical poem conveying the cultural deadness and smug righteousness of this society, Eliot comments on the emotional shallowness of people such as his aunt Helen · Aunt Helen is a symbol of a world that should be mocked, a world which Eliot himself called “quite uncivilised, but refined beyond the point of civilisation.” · Written in imagist style – with clear, sharp language and images · There is a personal note in the opening line which is immediately dropped in favour of a more formal tone, almost like a newspaper story – banal tone – objective details described · This poem shows Eliot’s contempt of the upper classes, which is unsurprising as he was raised in a religious environment where the selfishness associated with high society was frowned upon Poem Analysis · Tone: monotonous throughout, to reflect the monotonous life of Aunt Helen · Poem is satirical, yet not judgemental – this is just how society is/was – gently mocking a way of life · “Miss Helen Slingsby was my maiden aunt” – she was not married – we are told this fact twice – very formal language (“Miss”) – formality established between nephew and aunt in the opening line · “And lived in a small house near a fashionable square” – she lived in a small house yet she needed “servants to the number of four” – genteel, but not too showy – tried to be a part of high society, but lived on edge; “near” the upper class, fashionable area but not quite a part of their world · “Now when she died there was silence in heaven” – tone: almost like a story being told – no rejoicing that she has arrived in heaven – we are normally told that when someone dies, there is some element of celebration that their soul has arrived in heaven – however, in Aunt Helen’s case, there was “silence” – element of contempt – an air of indifference to her death – do people really care? · Another interpretation is that this line could mean that Miss Slingsby was a kind woman and was well-respected, so much so that even the angels in heaven fall silent upon her arrival · “And silence at her end of the street” – shows respect – conventional and expected when someone dies · “The shutters were drawn and the undertaker wiped his feet” – politeness – fitting in with society – we are almost given the impression that it was the undertaker who drew the shutters – where was the family to do these jobs? · “He was aware that this sort of thing had occurred before.” – factual – no sense of mourning/loss in this poem, yet it is not judgemental · “The dogs were handsomely provided for” – talking of the business of her estate – her dogs were looked after her death but what about her family and relations – by not mentioning her family, it implies that they weren’t close · “But shortly afterwards the parrot died also.” – touch of sadness in this line – normally, when an elderly person dies, their spouse passes away shortly afterwards – however, in this case, Aunt Helen was a single woman – her parrot was the only one that missed her in the end – there was no husband who misses her and mourns her loss – the death of the woman and the death of the parrot are of equal significance – she had limited human contact, possibly with only her servants to interact with – commenting on modern society · “The Dresden clock continued ticking on the mantelpiece” – symbolic – life went on without Aunt Helen – the clock kept going even after her death – life doesn’t stop for anyone · “Holding the second housemaid on his knees – / Who had always been so careful while her mistress lived.” – sibilance: adds a sense of mystery to the poem, mimic the sound of whispering – adds to the whole idea of them having to keep their relationship a secret when Aunt Helen was alive · The implication in these final few lines is that now the maid is released from the slavery of convention and the rules of the household – the servants can now behave as they wish – she is free of her inhibitions · Without restrictions like Aunt Helen in life, how would society act? – we need these restrictions in life/society · Coldly factual and satirical portrait of a type of a woman Eliot knew well – the poem lacks regret or emotion of any kind · Uses gentle irony and is amusing · Her lifestyle is fixed for us in a few, well-chosen images · Language: sound patterns such as that in “cared for”, “four” and “before” add to the monotonous nature of the poem · What is not said is just as important as what is · The final image is amusing and light-hearted – very clear image of sexuality – very much at odds with the reserved older woman · This poem is one line short of a sonnet – perhaps Eliot didn’t think his aunt was worthy of a full sonnet? · Portrait of a convention-bound woman · Lifeless nature of the poem is suggestive of his aunt’s lifeless existence · Poem contrasts the values of the upper- and working-class · Humour at the end lifts the mood of the poem – it is clear that the society she lived in attached great importance to being civilised and behaving in a refined manner · Imagery is all about her being dead, her possessions; the only other people mentioned are all workers, who were paid to be there with her · Similar to Prufrock, this poem illustrates the meaningless lives of the upper class who appear to be just going through the motions of life – there is a distinct lack of passion Themes · Disgust at upper class Her life had no significance; she lived a safe life in a safe place & the only other people referred to are servants who were paid to care for her / be civilised to her and they change as soon as she dies· Emptiness of modern societyDefinite disconnect between family members

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3. ‘Journey of the Magi’ by TS Eliot ‘A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of the year For a journey, and such a long journey: The ways deep and the weather sharp, The very dead of winter.’ And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory, Lying down in the melting snow. There were times we regretted The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces, And the silken girls bringing sherbet. Then the camel men cursing and grumbling and running away, and wanting their liquor and women, And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters, And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly And the villages dirty and charging high prices: A hard time we had of it. At the end we preferred to travel all night, Sleeping in snatches, With the voices singing in our ears, saying That this was all folly. Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley, Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation; With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness, And three trees on the low sky, And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow. Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel, Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver, And feet kicking the empty wine-skins. But there was no information, and so we continued And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory. All this was a long time ago, I remember, And I would do it again, but set down This set down This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, But had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, With an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death. Background · Written in 1927, around the same time that Eliot converted to Anglicanism · The Magi (singular = Magus) were the 3 wise men in the Bible who visited the baby Jesus upon his birth in the manger – this poem is a biblical allusion based on the gospel of St. Matthew · T.S. Eliot’s dramatic monologue focuses upon the famous biblical story of the three kings from the East travelling to Bethlehem to pay homage to the baby Jesus (the nativity) – Eliot imagines one of the kings giving an account of the journey · Within the Christian tradition, the journey of the Magi is associated with celebration and wonder and gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. However, this seems like an arduous journey – this hard journey is described in the first stanza of Eliot’s poem · The Magi were rich kings, travelling on camels – they had to travel a long journey over mountains on the back of their camels to reach the new baby – they did not know what they were travelling towards · Through the experience if the 3 kings, Eliot also reveals the trauma of his own personal, spiritual journey Poem Analysis · Structure: poem is made up of 3 stanzas to reflect the 3 stages of the Magi’s journey; the journey to Bethlehem; their arrival; the Magus’ reflection on the journey · This poem is a dramatic monologue – there is only one Magus talking – similar to Prufrock · Also a reflective monologue of an individual who has made his choice and has achieved belief in the incarnation (of God being made man) · Allegory – compares the Magi’s journey to a journey towards faith – doubts and obstacles to be overcome; its aftermath and the transformation it involves · Poem reflects Eliot’s state of mind in his transition between old and new faiths · Colloquial language is used to show the reality of their journey · Stanza One: The first stanza recounts the arduous journey of the Magi through the persona of an unnamed king – it seems to be the voice of an old man as he looks back on the difficult journey he and the other Magi took First few lines of the poem are a quote from the sermon of a bishop in the 17th century – a well-respected bishop who gave excellent sermons – this excerpt was from a sermon on Christmas Day – this is an allusion “The ways deep and the weather sharp” – description illustrates the hard journey made by these kings “The very dead of winter.” – sums up the lack of life along the path “And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory, / Lying down in the melting snow.” – again, show the difficulty of the trip – refractory = difficult to control – they lay down – wouldn’t go any further – galled = irritated “There were times we regretted” – they wish they were there now “The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces, / And the silken girls bringing sherbet.” – shows the opulent lifestyle of the Magi – sensuous: shows the tastes and smells Sibilance is evident in the next few lines with the repetition of the ‘s’ sounds – also contains very colloquial language Repetition of the word “and” shows the memories tumbling out of him – he can’t seem to get the words out fast enough – give this stanza an insistent rhythm Lists the difficulties faced by the Magi: “lack of shelters” “cities hostile” “towns unfriendly” “villages dirty” “charging high prices” – catalogues their hardships – strikingly familiar images – enjambment mimics the journey of the Magi – continuous, no breaks “Sleeping in snatches” – they “travelled all night” and barely slept on their arduous journey “With the voices singing in our ears, saying / That this was all folly.” – the voices are a metaphor for the Magi’s own moments of self-doubt – this is the only metaphor in the whole poem – the experience of the journey was possibly made worse by the uncertainty of the venture – in many ways, their difficult experience symbolises every individuals search for spiritual meaning – the final line is monosyllabic, highlighting his frustration – folly = madness · Stanza Two: This stanza is full of symbolism Denotes the arrival of the Magi at the stable “Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley” – dawn signifies a new day, a new religion, a new experience – temperate = pleasant, not too hot, not too cold, no extremes “Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation / With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness” – sensuous imagery – water is a symbol of rebirth, hope & positivity – vegetation is a symbol of growth, fertility & renewal “And three trees on the low sky” – these trees are a symbol of the 3 men on the crosses at the crucifixion of Jesus – positive ideas in previous lines followed by a symbol of the crucifixion – juxtaposition – positive images side by side with negative images “And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow” – the horse is a symbol for Jesus, who rode in on a white horse in a story in the Book of Revelations – biblical allusion – except this horse is running away: telling us that true faith is elusive? – it doesn’t run towards us but runs away – always out of our reach – white horse could also symbolise freedom here “Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel” – vines suggest growth – positive “Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver” – refers to the soldiers gambling for Jesus’ clothes before the crucifixion – the “silver” refers to the bounty that Judas was paid for betraying Jesus – biblical allusion – even though the Magus is describing their arrival at the birth of Jesus, he also makes reference to Jesus’ death “And feet kicking the empty wine-skins” – aggression – negative “And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon” – they have been travelling since dawn: all day – spoken matter-of-factly – colloquial, conversational “Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.” – there is no sense of joy in their arrival at this celebration (Jesus’ birth), just referring to it as “the place” – insensitive – all that he says about the arrival at this exciting, monumental event is that is “satisfactory” – image of a tired Magus who got to his destination and is now tired · Stanza Three: “All this was a long time ago, I remember” – this stanza shows an old man reflecting on this journey that he made with the other Magi – shows the impact that it had “And I would do it again, but set down” – he would go through the difficulties and hardships all over again – even though it was such an arduous journey, it was worth it “but set down / This set down / This” – repetition “were we led all that way for / Birth or Death?” – central paradox of the poem – the capitalisation signifies that he means the birth or death of something important – it is more than just a birth or a death – Birth of new religion? Death of old one? The birth of Christianity brought about the death of old religions – it also brought thousands of years of religious wars, which continue to this day “But had thought they were different; this Birth was / Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.” – having witnessed the Birth, they knew that this would change everything “We returned to our places, our Kingdoms, / But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation” – sense of alienation from all that they have known and indeed loved – may represent Eliot being uneasy in his new religion (Anglican) – dispensation = life “With an alien people clutching their gods” – grasping their false gods – the old religion is now going to be put down by the new Christian religion “I should be glad of another death.” – tone of resignation – the Magus has lived long enough in an alien, unsettled world There is an acceptance of a new destiny but they are still linked to a previous life Realisation that Christ’s birth has changed everything: end of the old pagan life – despite witnessing Christ’s birth, they are faced with the new, overwhelming mystery of a new faith · Open to metaphysical reading of the Magi’s arduous journey to Bethlehem – a metaphor for the poet’s spiritual voyage to Christ · Poem is clearly structured – 3 stanzas to represent the Magi’s journey, arrival and impact · Poem is rich in symbolism (“three trees”) · While the nativity is generally portrayed as a joyous event, this is a joyless poem with images of suffering & death predominant · Highly allusive poem full of biblical references Themes · Christ’s sacrifice A debt paid in blood and agony; Eliot focuses on the crucifixion as an extraordinary moment, one that forever changed the relationship between man & God Even as he witnesses the birth of Christ, the Magus senses the terrible “Death” and the “Hard and bitter agony” that is to come – “trees”, “hands” Eliot believes that the crucifixion went some way towards healing some fundamental flaw that existed in each human being; Eliot seems to regard Christ’s sacrifice as a repayment of debt · The Christian life of self-sacrifice Eliot’s view is that in order to fully escape sin’s clutches, we must live Christian lives – this means suffering like the Magi do We must give up/turn away from the pleasures of the world if we are to gain eternal reward Like the Magus felt isolated after his journey, so too does a true Christian – few live a truly Christian life, and so follow a path of self-denial · Religious doubt The Magi experience doubts on their gruelling journey – it may be for nothing (“voices singing”) Eliot then suggests that even the most devout Christians experience doubt on their journey of self-denial · The upheaval and bloodshed caused by the arrival/rise of Christianity There is a real sense that the world is on the verge of a great and terrible transformation – “Birth” of new civilisation, “Death” of the old one The Magus may well be one of the first victims of the upheaval that Christianity brings – after his journey, he doesn’t fit in at home, nor is Christianity yet established

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4. From Four Quartets. East Coker IV. – T. S. Eliot The wounded surgeon plies the steel That questions the distempered part; Beneath the bleeding hands we feel The sharp compassion of the healer's art Resolving the enigma of the fever chart. Our only health is the disease If we obey the dying nurse Whose constant care is not to please But to remind of our, and Adam's curse, And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse. The whole earth is our hospital Endowed by the ruined millionaire, Wherein, if we do well, we shall Die of the absolute paternal care That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere. The chill ascends from feet to knees, The fever sings in mental wires. If to be warmed, then I must freeze And quake in frigid purgatorial fires Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars. The dripping blood our only drink, The bloody flesh our only food: In spite of which we like to think That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood— Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good. Background · Written in 1939/1940 · East Coker is a village in Somerset which Eliot’s ancestors left in 1669, heading to America in search of religious freedom · This poem is not about a place, but the associations this place brought to mind at a time of political and historical upheaval – during World War II · Poem is based on the analogy of the world as a hospital – patients represent mankind and the surgeon is Christ · Written shortly after the time when Eliot converted to Anglicanism Poem Analysis · Structure: 5 stanzas of 5 lines each · Definite rhyme scheme: ABABB · Written as an extended metaphor depicting a hospital as the world, and Christ as the surgeon · It is an allegory – a work that can be read both on a literal and symbolic level – the purpose of which is often to highlight a moral truth – in this case, the fact that we, as Christians, must suffer in order to be redeemed · Poem is full of imagery · Stanza One: “The wounded surgeon plies the steel / That questions the distempered part” – Christ is the “surgeon” – His wounds are those He received when He was crucified – He is probing the steel to find where the disease is “Beneath the bleeding hands we feel” – Christ’s hands – they could be bleeding from the wounds on His hands where He was nailed to the crucifix – could also depict a wartime hospital where the surgeon’s hands would be covered in patients’ blood, not having time to clean them with the volume of casualties “The sharp compassion of the healer’s art” – oxymoron: “sharp compassion” – the idea that Christ must be cruel to be kind – He must first be “sharp” and make us feel the pain before we feel the “compassion” as He heals us Human beings are like patients suffering and our only hope is the healing power of Christ Paradoxically, it is only by causing pain initially that He can heal us – our salvation will involve hardship We get the image of Christ on the cross on Good Friday – it is His “sharp compassion” that will solve the mystery of our existence and sinfulness – “enigma of the fever chart” – it was Christ’s sacrifice that removed the “enigma” and allowed us to live a life free of sin · Stanza Two: The hospital analogy continues into the second stanza “Our only health is the disease / If we obey the dying nurse” – the Christian Church is the “nurse” – only if we obey the Church and recognise our sinful natures, and that we are in need of redemption, can we then be saved – paradox “Whose constant care is not to please” – the role of the Church is not to please its followers – they say things that we do not want to hear – we cannot pick and choose what parts of religion to believe in, we must listen to, and obey, it all “But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse” – biblical allusion – reference to the ‘original sin’ of Adam when he picked an apple from the tree of knowledge, against God’s forbiddance The role of the Church is not to comfort but to remind us of our mortality and sinfulness – bleak view of religion “And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.” – we must suffer in order to achieve eternal happiness and spiritual rebirth · Stanza Three: Analogy further developed “The whole earth is our hospital” – everybody in the world is diseased – we all need to be absolved of our sins “Endowed by the ruined millionaire” – unusual verb used: “endowed” (to bestow with money or goods) – the “ruined millionaire” is Christ after his crucifixion – could also be Adam who was ruined by his sin Paradox – Adam left us with moral sickness and sin but also opened the way for our salvation, since Christ’s sacrifice was a direct result of Adam’s fall “Wherein, if we do well, we shall / Die of the absolute paternal care” – if we live good Christian lives, we shall die in God’s care and can anticipate Heaven – “paternal”: God “That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.” – archaic language – it will always be with us in life – we anticipate the salvation brought by a life with God/Christ · Stanza Four: Vividly describes the process of dying and subsequent cleansing of the soul in Purgatory “The chill ascends from feet to knees” – sensuous imagery compared to the abstract imagery used in first three stanzas: touch “The fever sings in mental wires” – sensuous: sounds – our sickness (sins) is in our head – startling metaphor – image suggests that our suffering results in the experience of love “If I be warmed, then I must freeze” – the “fever” must get worse before it gets better (Eliot’s doctrine) – in order to be cleansed, we must first suffer “And quake in frigid purgatorial fires” – oxymoron – Purgatory is the place that Christians go to where they atone for (make up for) the sins that they have committed in their lives – where they were purged of their sins – however long they spent in Purgatory depended on the multitude of their sins – suffered until they were ‘clean’ enough to go on to Heaven “Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.” – strange metaphor – “roses”: a symbol of love – “briars”: represent the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus when he was crucified (biblical allusion) · Stanza Five: “The dripping blood our only drink, / The bloody flesh our only food” – reference to the body and blood of Christ (Eucharist) – a symbol of God’s love for humankind – “dripping blood” and “bloody flesh” evoke images of the crucifixion “In spite of which we like to think / That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood – ” – implies we are fine without the Eucharist “Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.” – even though we say we do not need the restrictions of religion, and that we would be “sound” without the Eucharist, we still call Good Friday good – because, through Christ’s death on this day, we have been cleansed – Eliot’s final ‘dig’ at the end Final paradox: from Christ’s suffering and death, came something “good”– from death came life We still recognise the value of Christ’s sacrifice even by going along with our ordinary lives · Tone of the poem sees our human experience in rather negative terms; poem is didactic (instructive, moralistic) with Eliot tending to sermonise the reader · Poem opens in a very dramatic manner · Paradox of true spiritual health can only be achieved by suffering · Imagery is, once again, striking and unusual Themes · Eliot’s grim view of Christianity Throughout the poem, there is a strong emphasis on the idea of suffering and death as the only path to salvation· Man’s fundamental flaw There is a stain of sin in every person’s heart that could not be washed away: Adam defied God and created the breach between God and man· Christ’s sacrifice Poem recalls horror and violence of Christ’s suffering and death Memorable depiction of Christ as “wounded surgeon” – Christ’s death/crucifixion healed the breach, in some way, between God and man, therefore this poem highlights the importance of the Crucifixion · The Christian life of self-sacrifice In order to fully escape sin’s clutches, we must live Christian lives, which for Eliot, means a life of extreme self-denial – must forsake physical pleasure, comforts and amusements The Eucharist (bread and wine) should be “the only food” and “only drink” we need

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