John Carey asserts that the English literary intelligentsia of this era made a conscious effort to segregate literary fiction from the newly literate (or semi-literate) mass culture produced by the late nineteenth century educational reforms to which many of the intelligentsia opposed. The Education Act of 1871 introduced universal elementary education in England. When a newspaper called the Daily Mail emerged in 1896 it carried the slogan 'The Busy Man's Paper' and announced its intention to 'give the public what it wants' This was in direct conflict to the belief that the public should be given what the intellectuals say they should be given. T.S. Eliot wrote in an essay:
There is no doubt that our headlong rush to educate everybody, we are lowering our standards...destroying our ancient edifices to make ready the ground upon the barbarian nomads of the future will encamp in their mechanized caravans.
The 1879 novel Immaturity by George Bernard Shaw was turned down by nearly every London publisher, and he concluded that the reason for its rejection was the newly adopted Education Act, which he proclaimed 'was producing readers who have never before bought books.'
Publishers of the time also did not want the 'excessively literary' George Eliot, but preferred the adventure stories of Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde).
As populist newspapers like the Daily Mail prospered, European intellectual hostility to newspapers grew. In The Criterion in 1938, T.S Eliot declared that the effect of the daily newspapers on their readers was to 'affirm them as a complacent, prejudiced and unthinking mass'. Extensive campaigns against newspapers were abound. Critic F.R. Leavis wrote in Scrutiny of the mass media 'arousing the cheapest emotional responses,' declaring that 'Films, newspapers, publicity in all forms, commercially-catered fiction -- all offer satisfaction at the lowest level.' Evelyn Waugh satirised the new trend in popular culture in his novels Scoop and Vile Bodies.
To the highbrows of the time, it seemed that the masses were not fully alive. Many of the predominate literary icons of this period expressed clear hostility towards the explosive over-population of the third-world; and the triumph of hyperdemocracy and social power created by this newly created state. Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun's anti-democratic views are epitomized by his character Ivar Kareno, hero of the Kareno trilogy:
I believe in the born leader, the natural despot, the master, not the man who is chosen but the man who elects himself to be the ruler over the masses. I believe in and hope for one thing, and that is the return of the great terrorist, the living essence of human power, the Caesar.
Thomas Hardy wrote in 1887:
You may regard a throng of people as containing a certain small minority who have sensitive souls; these, and the aspects of these, being what is worth observing. So you divide them into the mentally unquickened, mechanical soulless; and the living, throbbing, suffering, vital, in other words into souls and machines, ether and clay.
D.H. Lawrence argues that only the elite truly live, while the proletariat merely survives:
Life is more vivid in the dandelion than in the green fern, or
than in the palm tree,
Life is more vivid in the snake than in the butterfly.
Life is more vivid in the wren than in the alligator...
Life is more vivid in me, than in the Mexican who drives the wagon for me.
Ezra Pound's complex Cantos are a good illustration of the fashion for obscurity in literature, a style that itself expressed contempt for the common man. In Pound's Cantos the multitudes and democratically elected leaders were a torrent of human excrement. The illustration of 'the great arse-hole' Pound contends, was a portrait of contemporary England.
A body of esoteric doctrine "defended from the herd" was adopted by a group of intellectuals who created a secret society called 'The Hermetic Students of the Golden Dawn' in 1890. This secret society fed the craving for power and distinction to soar the intellectual above the masses.
The contempt for the masses expressed by the literary icons of this period not only opposed universal education, but many also supported the ever-growing concept of eugenics as a means to control the overpopulation of inferior beings. Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection inadvertently led a new ethics most expressed in H. G. Wells' New Republic. Wells writes:
The new ethics will hold life to be a privilege and a responsibility, not a sort of night refuge for base spirits out of the void; and the alternative in right conduct between living fully, beautifully and efficiently will be to die. For a multitude of contemptible and silly creatures, fear driven and helpless and useless, unhappy or hatefully happy in the midst of squalor dishonor, feeble, ugly, inefficient, born of unrestrained lusts, and increasing and multiplying through the sheer incontinence and stupidity, the men of the New Republic will have little pity and less benevolence.
The entirety of John Carey's study is overwhelming, enlightening and extremely disturbing, especially as literary elitist tendencies may be an inevitable part of many intellectual communities, even today.
Since the last time I wrote about my experience reading this book, I've been busy. I got distracted by... things. And my reading time ended up falling by the wayside, which means that when I finally got un-distracted and picked the book back up, I had pretty much forgotten everything I'd read. I mean, I know what I read, but I lost the rhythm of it.
In short, I'm starting over.
I'm reminded of being 17 and being assigned A Tale of Two Cities to read before school started, and I'd begin the book, get distracted by life and put it down, rinse and repeat. By the end of July that summer I had the first chapter memorized. (I hated A Tale of Two Cities, by the way, and I've never tried picking it up again to see if I hated it because I was 17 or I hated it because, well, I hated it.) Though the beginning of Ulysses may be worth memorizing (my internal jury is out on this), here's hoping that I don't start over enough to memorize the beginning. Here's also hoping that I'm not still reading this in July.
So as not to be entirely pointless, I do have some things to say about the book. Having gotten through the first section of it (and being a bit of a nerd about Homer), I had a fun time looking for parallels between the beginning of Ulysses and the Telemachiad (the beginning of the Odyssey) -- no really -- and who knows? Maybe the second time around it'll be even better. I have a question, though. I remember a time when I used to be able to read books without constantly looking for symbols and allusions and other assorted what-nots, and I sort of wonder if the fact that I don't seem to be able to do this now is something of a hindrance. I mean, isn't there something to be said for just reading a book? Does working at literature make it more or less enjoyable? I'm not sure, but it's something I think about a lot.
Maybe if I'd spend less time thinking about the act of reading and more time actually reading I'd be further along. But then, thinking too much has always been one of my very favorite pastimes.
I guess I'll leave it there. Until next time (when I hope I'm not on my third beginning of Ulysses).
So, I started reading James Joyce's Ulysses a couple of weeks ago, and at the rate I'm going, I'll be reading it for awhile. Levi and I were emailing about what I was going to write about here this week, and I mentioned that I was thinking about doing an occasional series about my experience of reading the book, my odyssey through Ulysses, if you will (groan), because -- perhaps because it's so long, perhaps because there's an attitude of "Oh, you're reading Ulysses? You're not going to finish that!" surrounding the book -- reading this particular classic seems to be as much about the journey through its pages as it does about the book itself. And maybe, just maybe, if from time to time I write about reading the book, it will help propel me through it. So here we are at the first installment. How exciting.
I will admit that I haven't gotten very far with it yet. This is at least due in part to the fact that I usually read for about an hour at night before I go to sleep because I have a hard time fitting it into my day otherwise, and Ulysses seems to have the ability to knock me out almost immediately, leaving me to wake up five minutes or an hour later feeling completely disoriented and wondering what the hell is going on. So maybe I should try reading it in the afternoon, or something.
Despite the fact that it's apparently like a lullaby (at least to me), I'm not having a bad time with it. I am incredibly grateful that I know Homer's Odyssey really well, because it's been helpful. In fact, I've been using it as a companion reference while I read. So far, it's working. And that's pretty much all I have to report at present -- I'm not very far, the Odyssey is useful -- but I will check back in with another update on my progress when I get a little further along in the book. To those of you who have finished Ulysses, I have a question for you: I know it's not a race, but how long did it take you to finish it?
Perhaps you'll have a pint of Guinness later, or maybe you have a hankering for a gorgonzola sandwich for lunch (at Davy Byrnes Pub, perhaps?). Or maybe it's a good day to finally begin the epic task of reading Joyce's tome (or doing what most people do -- pretending to read Joyce's tome).
Anyway, does anyone have plans to celebrate Bloomsday? If so, be sure to give us a report. If not, maybe you should make some. There's nothing like literature to inspire some good revelry...
I've been pondering the film Tom and Viv, a very convincing 1994 art film about young T. S. Eliot and his troubled marriage. A shy but ambitious American visiting England, Eliot fell in love with Vivian Haigh-Wood, a tempestuous woman whose upper-class British style and ribald sense of humor fascinated him. They married impulsively, then discovered they did not get along at all. The bad marriage lasted for many years, and in fact seems to have inspired many parts of Eliot's poetry. Sexual and interpersonal anxiety is central to most of his work; it is fascinating to realize that in real life T. S. Eliot did dare to eat a peach, and perhaps too impulsively at that.
In the film, Eliot is played by Willem Defoe, and I think he does a great job. I don't usually like Defoe -- I thought he was badly miscast as Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ (Willem Defoe does not look Jewish), and in Wild At Heart I thought he was just plain weird. But he was born to play T. S. Eliot, sallow skin, cautious diction and all.
Miranda Richardson is just as good as Vivian, who you feel both sorry for and angry at in this film. The movie is also an interesting tableau of Jazz Age London; we see Vivian Eliot having a meaningless affair with Bertrand Russell, then getting into a catfight with a group of women including the haughty Virginia Woolf.
Overall, I thought this was one of the best literary biographies I'd ever seen on film. I'd like to know what you thought of it -- have you seen it?
Last week I asked about your favorite poems, and I really enjoyed the stream of responses which included, in the order in which they were posted: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot, "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee, Jr, "The Height of the Ridiculous" by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Matthew 6:25 - 34, "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" by Walt Whitman, "The City in Which I Love You" by Li-Young Lee, "Poem In October" by Dylan Thomas, "Constantly Risking Absurdity" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, "A Supermarket in California" by Allen Ginsberg, "l(a" by e.e. cummings, the entire "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman, "Herbsttag" by Rainer Maria Rilke, "Death Fugue" by Paul Celan, "Cloud" by Vladimir Mayakovsky, "The Waste-Land" by T. S. Eliot, "What a Piece of Work is Man" (from "Hamlet") by William Shakespeare, Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare, "The Second Coming" by W. B. Yeats, "Kaddish" by Allen Ginsberg, "Power" by Gregory Corso, poems by Jane Kenyon, Anne Sexton, Christina Rossetti, Carl Sandburg, "Wild Swans at Coole" by Yeats, "The Drunken Boat" by Rimbaud, "Sonete Postrero" by Carlos Pellicer, "Sonnet" and "Masa" by Cesar Vallejo, "in Just-/spring" by e. e. cummings, "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg, "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe, "When i consider how my light is spent" by John Milton, "The Purist" by Ogden Nash, "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost, Sonnet 116 by Shakespeare, "As The Mist Leaves No Scar" and "The Reason I Write" by Leonard Cohen, "So I said I am Ezra" by Archie Ammons, "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams and "Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams" by Kenneth Koch, "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" by Dylan Thomas, "In Society" by Allen Ginsberg, "Acquainted with the Night" by Robert Frost, "13 Ways of looking at a blackbird" and "The poem that took the place of a mountain" by Wallace Stevens, "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell, "Fern Hill" by Dylan Thomas, "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost and "Love is a Dog from Hell" by Charles Bukowski.
The first one mentioned (by none other than my LitKicks co-editor Jamelah) happens to be my own favorite. T. S. Eliot began writing his poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in 1910, when he was a 22 year old philosophy graduate student. Five years later it was published in Poetry Magazine, and it became his first famous work.
Faulkner's first novel, Soldier's Pay, was published in 1926, though it received little acclaim. Only with the publication of The Sound and the Fury in 1929 would he receive significant critical and popular recognition. As a truly Modernist novel, The Sound and the Fury broke new ground with its four different narrators, the use of stream of consciousness writing and the use of a mentally handicapped boy as one narrator.
As his writing career progressed, Faulkner continued to play with narration, expanding to 15 narrators in As I Lay Dying, published in 1930, and incorporating stories within stories in Absalom, Absalom!, published in 1936.
Perhaps what made Faulkner's works so unique was the setting he created and used in the majority of them: Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. From the abandoned plantation of Thomas Sutpen on the outskirts of Yoknapatawpha to Emily Grierson's house in Jefferson, the county seat of Yoknapatawpha, Faulkner created a world that typified the South in which he had grown up and in which he continued to live.
In 1942, Faulkner went to California to write screenplays, primarily for the pay, where he worked on adaptations of his own novels as well as those of other authors such as Hemingway and Chandler (To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, respectively).
In 1950, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his life's work. At the acceptance ceremony in Sweden, due to nervousness and the fact he was slightly drunk, Falkner's acceptance speech comes out garbled and nearly unintelligible to listeners. When it was published the following day, however, people raved about it and praised it as one of the best Nobel speeches.
Faulkner continued to publish right up to the year of his death in 1962. Though, his later works were never as critically acclaimed as his early ones. His drinking also continued, but it seemed to have little effect on his work or his success.
William Faulkner died of a heart attack on July 6, 1962. For more information on Faulkner, the William Faulkner on the Web website is an excellent resource.
Garrett Caples is one such young poet who's taken the surrealist example to heart.
His work is a swirling labyrinthine landscape in which reality and the content of dreams fuse and collide and fire up and interconnect. Each line throughout his book Er, Um spreads and entangles and forms a very unique image overflowing with suggestion eros imagination thus creating a very rich multi-dimensional vision of the world.
Caples is a poet located in Oakland, California. Not only does his work appear to be influenced by the surrealists (i.e., Char, Lamantia, etc.) but Garrett is very fond of hip-hop as well. His fondness for both genres shows in the first poem - the title poem - in this collection Er, Um:
i was a teenage gingerale: my bubbles spiraled upward and rippled a puddle of ironing board. i was a pile of bored, all tusk and wart, i saw i was screwed and hammered. the more i tooled around the box, the more i stammered glamorously. amorously it was freaky. my speaking came out of sequins, in pudenda-purple puzzles and penis-verdi cubes. i got used to boobs and tubes, iffy lube, the protuberance of obvious wobble.
If I didn't know better I'd say that this poem was written by the bizarre love-child of Ol' Dirty Bastard and Louis Aragon. This is only one example of Caples' genius.
Caples' work is very musical (almost Steinian). When I read the work aloud to my partner I sensed a bizarre urban rhythm pouring forth from my vocal chamber.
There's also an almost inexplicable anxiety that is interwoven throughout Caples' book. to me Caples is almost asking: "Do we really know the world? Can we ever really know anything at all?"... and by asking these such questions caples reinvents the world in which he himself and all of us live in.
"Imagine a town with no numbers. Did I say a town? I more meant the expanse of unplanned plains, or optional intersections. Fields, some trees. No commerce, of course, no work 'cept for food, and who wants to eat alone? (I picture spontaneous picnics.) The individual is still accepted, hate is not unknown, but demand for solitude's grown so rare we lacked concepts for its expression."
excerpt from Turd Factory
The collection Er, Um is a hallucinatory walk through the corridors of Caples' keen mind.
the book is heightened even further by the very unique drawings of hu xin -- a chinese artist who as a graduate student was drawn to salvador dali's paranoiac-critical method and "his own repeated attempts to fuse the essence of traditional Chinese painting and realistic oil painting brought about a distinct technique."
I found that as I flipped through the book I couldn't put it down. The first reading is the reading that counts the most to me and as I read along I found Caples' work to be addictive -- the work is extremely enjoyable: witty, erotic, philosophical, reminiscent of taking a hit of acid, and much more.
"in a joint near
a babbling book
i unconsciously turned
on my tongue
it kept on waking
from a taste of
the bud of being"
excerpt from turning on the tongue
According to Eliot, rather than losing an authentic interpretation, we actually gain it through distance. We may then apply such a temporal relativism to "The Waste Land" itself, saying that in our perception of Eliot's poem, we have a temporal advantage over the poet, as his time is historical to us today. Remaining on the relationship of past and present, now in Eliot's point in time (1921-22), we may elucidate his ordering device for relating disparate subjective modern experiences to a more coherent (albeit ugly) past. In this way, subjective and objective perceptions--past and present information, different classes, places, and times--act as mutual supports, a piling up of equivalent and contrasting metaphors and allegories of the modernist poet's predicament. However, such a future-oriented approach breaks down into ambiguity and multiple interpretations. In the first place, the interpretations differ in whether the critic wishes to expand upon "The Waste Land", if he or she decides to take a personal responsibility for post-modernity's own impotence and sterility, or decides, more academically, simply to decipher a now-historical modernity alone.
Finally, in introducing "The Waste Land", we must comment upon its structure, and its themes. The structure has been likened to a constellation of stars, spatial as opposed to linear, but this can be misleading, not to mention two-dimensional. Despite what some say, interpreting "The Waste Land" does leave a sense of at least partial linear movement. As to the themes of "The Waste Land", there is a lack of thematic clarity, but this, in my view, is Eliot's intention, and at least leaves room for redemption, if it doesn't guarantee it. The lack of clarity may be due to the said ambiguous linear movement and also to the absence of an immediate narrative in the poem's main body, though some clarity may be found in the poem's references to external texts.
When the caged Sibyl is asked her desire, she replies "I want to die," which evokes not just a world-weariness and absence of redeeming joy, but also invokes the eastern radical anti-materialistic philosophy of nirvana, in which one achieves a complete freedom. The self, we discover, is in fact imprisoned by its own very existence, and can become free only through its willed destruction. We come to see that it was the Sibyl's desire for a worldly immortality (an immortal self) which condemned her to eternal decay.
The dedication to Ezra Pound then harks back to the Troubadour poets of twelfth-century Provence, who "represent the origins of great European traditions of high poetic art which go hand in hand with a refined but invigorated sexuality." This allusion to refinement will appear again in "What the Thunder Said", and this necessity for willed self-control (and a controlled desire) is one major element needed for redemption.
In the beginning of "The Burial of the Dead" we hear a "voice of propriety" that wishes to halt all new movement, change, or development. This sterile propriety wishes to remain in the darkness, the twilight consciousness of winter, to avoid the suffering and oncoming rending pains of approaching new birth. Stylistically speaking, this desire is unsuccessful as the poem quickly continues on, morphing into another voice, which alludes to a meeting with Countess Marie Larisch. Death by drowning is evoked (l. 8), which symbolizes the ancient narratives of sacrificial death, always necessary before renewal. However, in the present tense of metonymic details, and real time happenings, such renewal, though alluded to, seems entirely absent: "I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter." (l. 18)
The next section (l. 19-43) momentarily retreats to the original voice, but quickly ruptures into "you know only / a heap of broken images..." which makes clear both the modernist's practical predicament, and the formal structure of "The Waste Land" itself. Such montage-imagism, a "heap of broken images" represents the incoherence of modernist social structures, and the mind it creates in its citizens. Spring, traditionally a seasonal process of rebirth and sexual and spiritual potency, is now perceived as painful. The lost love and desire of Tristan in lines 30-34, followed by the similar but more subjective and direct failure in the hyacinth garden, ending in "Waste and empty is the sea", suggests here that such a renewal will not occur in the modern Waste Land. Other interpretations go further, to suggest that such a renewal will never occur. However, we must keep in mind that such a renewal depends upon a very real individual participation--a self-sacrifice that modern man avoids.
With Madame Sosostris (ll. 42-59) we discover how much ancient myth has been devalued and we are given the reason for modern misery and decay. Madame Sosostris does not portray useless myths, rather, she displays complete blindness towards myths in their real, quite fruitful meanings. Madame Sosostris is so telling because she does not possess the real meaning of such myths at all; she tells us to "fear death by water", which symbolizes how much such myths have been forgotten. Avoiding such a death of self is to avoid renewal and remain in a living death. Myth in the hands of Sosostris becomes empty superstition, devoid of any personal self-sacrifice. There are intimations of redemption, and this may be symptomatic of Eliot's reservations about overtly romantic optimism, blind hope, or easy, painless solutions.
Now, in lines 60-76 we see contemporary society, and it is not surprisingly deemed unreal. Clock-time, and a perpetual twilight of "brown fog" have overtaken seasonal changes of light and dark. It seems that man and woman have entered into a wasteland of twilight and are now unable to return to either darkness or light. Like the Sibyl, they are unable to die, and with the absence of deep feelings, they are barely alive, due to mere avoidance and a lack of true sacrifical meaning (honesty). Society has found itself to be "neither living nor dead". This, in terms of Eliot's historical position, may be the witching hour of civilization as it may still be today, or it may be an experience of the rending pains of new birth.
"A Game of Chess" begins with a style reminiscent of seventeenth and eighteenth century literature. By Eliot's time, a very experientially different urban twentieth century, such a convoluted, luxurious, smooth style seemed unworthy of praise. A psychological interpretation of this matter of literary taste would point us again towards the modern neurasthenic. Clock-time, and a quickening society, was coupled with growing populations in machinated, cluttered, unreal cities that cinematically flashed the senses with commodities and advertisements, all of which became fragments of a new man-made artifice: consumerism, and the beginnings of TV culture. This broadcast-consumerism along with a routinized, conveyor-belt approach to production, would help to send the mind into cognitive dissonanc e, anxiety. Indeed, such a modern dislocation of the senses from intensely felt experiences was, according to Eliot, rooted in this eighteenth century literary tradition, which initiated such a dissociation of emotions and their immediacy. Such a style is mirrored in lines 111-172.
So much have the senses been disassociated that the transformed Philomela's bird-song of romantic passion is now heard by "dirty-ears" as a mere "Jug Jug", or a call for raw, physical sex--intimacy without feeling. We hear disembodied voices (ll. 111 -137) close to nervous breakdown, but even then, they remain unaware of their plight. They avoid the rain, a water-symbol of salvation and redemption that, unbeknownst to them, is urgently required. On top of everything else about "The Waste Land", is the fact that such a plight is unfelt, and therefore inescapable, at least for those who do not bring such anxieties to the sunlight. We might then see these first two sections as the initial stages of a cathartic process.
In the beginning of "The Fire Sermon", the season skips back to late autumn, or early winter:
"The river's tent is broken; the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed."
We are reminded of The Fisher King, maimed and impotent, his land approaching its consequent decay. The seemingly timeless state of affairs here by the river blurs into modernity with the mention of horns and motors (l. 197) and there is a sense of approaching watershed. But the core of this section (ll. 187-204) is the allusion to Verlaine's Parsifal and how the Knight, questing for the Grail that will renew spirituality, is tempted by sensual music, which is reminiscent of the temptations of Christ in the desert before his death and resurrection. What follows is a reminder that such a tempting sensuality has fallen down to basic impotent desire--"Jug Jug" and the rape of Philomela.
The Unreal City still under a brown fog, flashes again into consciousness, but this time it is in full winter that we find it, though it has barely changed.
Next, we are introduced to Tiresias, the poet's anti-self who sees all impersonally. It is through Tiresias that we have been conscious of the Waste Land. The poem is his. However, there is one parallel possible between Tiresias and Eliot. Both are unable to affect any direct change. In the hyacinth garden, Eliot experiences the very feeling--he becomes the experience. If the problem is that we are removed from real experiences and feelings, and the goal is to diagnose, then such impersonality must be contrasted with the healthy state of experiencing direct emotions, whether they are positive emotions or not. It is no surprise then that such a lover's scene as this (ll. 230-247) is the opposite of the lovers and scene of the hyacinth garden.
In "Death by Water" Madame Sosostris is overcome because there occurs what we had been told to fear--a death by water. There is a sense of peace in such annihilation, but the death does not end "The Waste Land". In what follows, we are also shown a Christ-like figure post-resurrection, the first explicit sign within the main body of the text that intimates an occurrence of resurrection, of redemption. Perhaps then, this same figure that has drowned, is returning again, purified and refined.
"What the Thunder Said" directly appeals to Eastern philosophy, more specifically, Hinduism. The word "after" repeated three times (ll. 322-25) seems to suggest that something has been overcome, perhaps what has just passed, a death by water. What follows is more death (ll 327-330). We could interpret this as a rather radical assertion that "The Waste Land" is no longer a description of decaying, but rather, it is a portrayal of a civilization already dead. Indeed, the desire for water and the uncertainty of the post-death stage reaches a critical climax at line 366 - hallucination, illusion, deranged perception takes over, and with the signalling "co co..." from the rooftop cock, illusion and hallucination departs the poem.
Rain gathers at last (ll. 396-400), and there is excited anticipation. The thunder speaks: DA, DA, DA. The syllable reminds us of Jesus' use of 'Abba' or Daddy to describe his intimate relationship with a Father God. But the Eastern interpretation is three-fold, developing into Datta, Dayadhvam, and Damyata, meaning, respectively, "give", "be compassionate", "self-control". In the first instance--Datta--Eliot brings us back to the hyacinth garden, suggesting that only by this surrender do we exist. The sorrowful realization here is that perhaps such a revelation has come too late for the speaker, that the paralysis experienced in the hyacinth garden was an inability to give love, to surrender one's self to another completely. Thus these lines seem to suggest love to be the proper means and motive of giving. In the second instance--Dayadhvam--Eliot links the absence of compassion to the problem of solipsism and egoism--"each in his prison / thinking of the key". Again we hear the suggestiveness of a moment's surrender, and how pride blocks participation in love and perhaps leads to displaced revenge. In the third instance--Damyata--we are urged to control ourselves, like manning a boat upon a calm ocean with the help of the wind, as the heart seems to respond happily to controlling hands.
Indeed, this is a rather different, far more positive interpretation than is usually given to this section of "The Waste Land". Eliot possibly leads us to believe that our private experiences are truly only our own, but, in terms of the Eastern philosophy which he evokes, such a perception is only true because we live in a world of samsara, the only escape from which is nirvana. But the prescriptions are ambiguous, and dogged by the past-present state of the modern Waste Land where people do not recognize such redemptive meaning. But speaking out more radically now, if we maintain an absence of salvation, we have to realize what we are really saying, and be responsible for the consequences of our words--proposing no salvation essentially condemns all futures to desolation.
In the final section, we meet the Fisher King again, and a crumbling society. There is an individual desire to order one's own land. At line 427, we are reminded of purgatory's refining flame, supported by "DA", where self-control, compassion, and giving up one's self (all in love) are healthy forms of passion, renewing desires, refined burning. This refinement overcomes the sterile avoidance of the voice of propriety (ll. 1 - 7; 19 - 20), the improper desires of emotionless sexuality (ll. 218 - 248) and emotionally detached existence in general (ll. 111 - 138). The swallow reference (l. 428) is reminiscent of Philomela, and of sadness, but with the hope of renewal, and intimations of spring again. We see that "The Waste Land" has been a process of personal maintenance--"These fragments I have shored against my ruin". The process has also been one of warning, that the references to the past are not an attempt to escape, nor mere romantic nostalgia. This leaves us one choice, to turn and embrace the future. The thunder speaks again and we end in a peace which lies outside understanding, a nirvana-like state of positive nothingness, and a sense of completion--"Shantih shantih shantih".
With the poem's ambiguous intimations of salvation leaves an interpretation that salvation will not just occur, nor will it be automatically achieved by a mere movement of time. Redemption is left up to the will of individuals to create it. Essentially, when critiquing "The Waste Land" we must bear this self-willing in mind. Many interpretations choose not to find salvation, others choose to be more positive. The poem leaves these two doors open.
Thus, one must maintain hope and the way towar ds salvation, especially in this post-modern point in time, where, if anything, the modern neurasthenic has reached paranoia levels, and permanent states of drudgery, induced by the sedentary, sedative, and dissociated visual-feeds from the popular culture. What the thunder said should not only be remembered as an ethic, but also lived as an individual life. This is the only way to escape the prison of the self, and renew our feelings, to reacquaint them with direct experience, to experience shantih, a peace beyond understanding.
We will give our lives completely every day.
FOR THIS IS THE ASSASINS' HOUR."
-Arthur Rimbaud, Drunken Morning
"The revolution was in his poetry from the beginning and to the end: as a preoccupation of a technical order, namely to translate the world into a new language."