Eliot A Poet of all ages

akram saqib By akram saqib, 17th Jul 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
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Eliot envisioned the modern world as a wasteland, in which neither the land nor the people could conceive. In The Waste Land, various characters are sexually frustrated or dysfunctional, unable to cope with either reproductive or non reproductive sexuality: the Fisher King represents damaged sexuality (according to myth, his impotence causes the land to wither and dry up),

Eliot is modern,classical and post modern

M.Akram Saqib
Madam Sumaita
Modern Poetry
30 June 2014
T. S. Eliot: A Poet par excellence
Thomas Stearns Eliot well-known as T.S.ELIOT winner of universal acclaim, awards and also a Nobel Prize of 1948 is a poet par excellence. He was a theorist, critic, dramatist, and poet who proved his theory of poetry by his own writings. His theories about objective correlative, tradition and individual talent prove that he is not only a modern symbolist poet but also a classical, romantic and postmodern poet.
T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) lived in America up till 1914 and then in England from 1914 until his death. Eliot saw the world wars and wider social changes with his naked eyes and was much influenced by them. His very popular poem is a pre war poem which expresses the social, moral and religious changes of society. Four Quartets, combines a Christian sensibility with a deep uncertainty resulting from the war’s devastation of Europe. He weeps for the society and individual and laments the negative changes which have closed in from all sides and have gnawed at the very fabric of society. In the meanwhile he met Ezra Pound in 1914 who proved his main advisor and mentor. Here he was noticed and afterwards acclaimed as the greatest poet of his age. In 1921 he completed his famous poem The Waste Land.
Power of his poetry
The Critics have tried their best to diminish the acclaim of T.S.Eliot but his poetry does not allow them to do so. Some blame him of misogyny and others as anti Semitic .Some called him the friend of Jews and others say that he did not write of himself but quoted from Latin Greek ,Indian and religious resources.
He is a poet par excellence, who aims to evoke the sluggish people of his times and revoke the present negative social trends. He wanted the people to return to the lofty ideals of morality. From the very beginning of his poetic career he has the same aim:

The tiger springs in the New Year. Us he devours. Think at last
We have not reached conclusion, when I
Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
I have not made this show purposelessly
And it is not by any concitation
Of the backward devils.
I would meet you upon this honestly.
I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.
I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it
Since what is kept must be adulterated?
I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:
How should I use it for your closer contact?
A True Modernist
Modernists search their models in ancient Greek literature, Chinese and Japanese poetry, the troubadours, Dante and the English Metaphysical poets: eliot’s poetry reveals the same thoroughly.
And the trees about me,
Let them be dry and leafless; let the rocks
Groan with continual surges; and behind me
Make all a desolation. Look, look, wenches!
Paint me a cavernous waste shore
Cast in the unstilted Cyclades,
Paint me the bold anfractuous rocks
Faced by the snarled and yelping seas. (Sweeney Erect)
We find allegorical references in Eliot’s poetry everywhere as in the following poems he refers to Oxford College;
En l'an trentiesme de mon aage
Que toutes mes hontes j'ay beues...
Pipit sate upright in her chair
Some distance from where I was sitting;
Views of the Oxford Colleges
Lay on the table, with the knitting.

Daguerreotypes and silhouettes,
Her grandfather and great great aunts,
Supported on the mantelpiece
An Invitation to the Dance. (A Cooking Egg)
The Hollow Men expresses the spiritual emptiness and purposelessness of modern men.
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw, alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together,
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rat’s feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Fragmentation and alienation stream of consciousness method and subjective realities are here and there in his works. Love song of Prufrock is the best example of modern techniques and modernism in his poetry.
LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised 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.
--from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Symbolism and Imagism of Eliot
Eliot got into symbolism through a book by Arthur Symons called The Symbolist Movement in Literature. He was much influenced by the French Symbolists—Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Laforgue.
Imagism which is the
1. Direct treatment of the "thing", whether subjective or objective.
2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.
4. Complete freedom of subject matter.
5. Free verse was encouraged along with other new rhythms.
6. Common speech language was used, and the exact word was always to be used, as opposed to the almost exact word.(WIKIPEDIA)
Eliot’s early and experimental poetical works though depict a bleak and barren soullessness, often in spare yet finely crafted modern verse;
The broad-backed hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud;
Although he seems so firm to us
He is merely flesh and blood.

Flesh-and-blood is weak and frail,
Susceptible to nervous shock;
While the True Church can never fail
For it is based upon a rock.( Hippopotamus)
Poetry based on Religion
Eliot’s tremendous knowledge of myth, religious ritual, academic works, and key books in the literary tradition informs every aspect of his poetry. He filled his poems with references to both the obscure and the well known, thereby teaching his readers as he writes. In his notes to The Waste Land, Eliot explains the crucial role played by religious symbols and myths. He drew heavily from ancient fertility rituals, in which the fertility of the land was linked to the health of the Fisher King, a wounded figure who could be healed through the sacrifice of an effigy.
Another of his famous and oft-quoted works, The Waste Land (1922) deals with dark and haunting themes of individual consciousness and spiritual desolation against the decline of civilisation. From the first line "April is the cruellest month.." to the last "Shantih shantih shantih" we can discern the dramatic scope and evolution of Eliot's own life in the Biblical, cultural, historical, and literary references that helped shape one of the 20th century's most profound figures in literature.
April is the cruellest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.
winter kept us warm, covering
earth in forgetful snow, feeding
a little life with dried tubers.
summer surprised us, coming over the starnbergersee
with a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
and went on in sunlight, into the hofgarten,
and drank coffee, and talked for an hour. (The waste Land)

Eliot took from them their ability to inculcate poetry with high intellectualism while maintaining a sensuousness of language. There are cultural references in his poems which works as objective correlative and tradition upon whom he erects his symbols and images to express the modern world.

Webster was much possessed by death
And saw the skull beneath the skin;
And breastless creatures under ground
Leaned backward with a lipless grin.

Daffodil bulbs instead of balls
Stared from the sockets of the eyes!
He knew that thought clings round dead limbs
Tightening its lusts and luxuries. (Whispers of Immortality)

Postmodernism of Eliot
Pastiche collage, and juxtaposition are considered post modern techniques which are occasionally used by him to make his points clear without going into explicit details without having to argue them explicitly. Then mode or technique of his characterization is also post modern. The introverted, neurasthenic intellectual and incapable character of Prufrock has many similarities with the characters created by post modern poets and dramatists. In his later poems there is a profundity of analysis over extent of allusion, which is also a postmodern trait. There is a poetic collage which is reinterpretation of canonical texts and a historical context. In his poem ‘Sweeney Among the Nightingales’ Eliot says’
Apeneck Sweeney spreads his knees
Letting his arms hang down to laugh,
The zebra stripes along his jaw
Swelling to maculate giraffe.
Or in Portrait of a Lady he says,

Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon
You have the scene arrange itself—as it will seem to do—
With "I have saved this afternoon for you";
And four wax candles in the darkened room,
Four rings of light upon the ceiling overhead,
An atmosphere of Juliet's tomb
There are feelings of emasculation experienced by many men as they returned home from World War I to find women empowered by their new role as wage earners. Prufrock, unable to make a decision, watches women wander in and out of a room, “talking of Michelangelo” (14), and elsewhere admires their downy, bare arms.
A disdain for unchecked sexuality appears in both “Sweeney Among the Nightingales” (1918) and The Waste Land. The latter portrays rape, prostitution, a conversation about abortion, and other incidences of non reproductive sexuality. Nevertheless, the poem’s central character, Tiresias, is a hermaphrodite—and his powers of prophesy and transformation is, in some sense, due to his male and female genitalia. With Tiresias, Eliot creates a character that embodies wholeness, represented by the two genders coming together in one body.
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives 220
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.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun's last rays,
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest -
I too awaited the expected guest. 230
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
A small house agent's clerk, with one bold stare,
One of the low on whom assurance sits
As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.
The time is now propitious, as he guesses,
The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,

Past and Present in his poetry
Eliot’s poetry is obvious of a conscious yearning for bringing the intellectual, the aesthetic, and the emotional together in such a way that both revere the past and recognize the present. He depicts the broken mind of modern man. The brittle state of mind and psychology that is confused and perplexed is the subject of his poetry. The protagonists of Love Song and The Waste Land clearly express the fragile psyche of the modern man. There is a sense of alienation and in the society due to world wars. The old notions have broken and new are still to be formed by the society. The world has changed but transformation is not complete. The sense of identity especially masculine identity has changed and lost. Every individual is struggling to perceive his lost identity but unfortunately is in a traumatic state of mind, indecisiveness is the major problem. Eliot successfully delineates the situation with deep sense of sympathy with the modern man.
Fond of Allusions and Mythology
Eliot has great respect for myth and the Western literary standard, and his works are full of allusions, quotations, footnotes, and scholarly exegeses.In this regard he is quite up to the mark to his own theory of “The Tradition and the Individual Talent,”.
There should not be excessive use of academic knowledge but justifiable dose of the most essential bits of the past should be woven into poems. The Waste Land is full of such literary allusions and juxtapositions.
The Mythology which was one of the favorites of romantics is also very dear to Eliot. Eliot used fragmentation in his poetry both to demonstrate the chaotic state of modern existence and to juxtapose literary texts against one another. Critics read the following line from The Waste Land as a statement of Eliot’s poetic project: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins” (431). These echoes and references are fragments themselves, since Eliot includes only parts, rather than whole texts from the canon. Using these fragments, Eliot tries to highlight recurrent themes and images in the literary tradition, as well as to place his ideas about the contemporary state of humanity along the spectrum of history.
He frequently uses mythology in his works
"Trams and dusty trees.
Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew
Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees
Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe."
Eliot envisioned the modern world as a wasteland, in which neither the land nor the people could conceive. In The Waste Land, various characters are sexually frustrated or dysfunctional, unable to cope with either reproductive or nonreproductive sexuality: the Fisher King represents damaged sexuality (according to myth, his impotence causes the land to wither and dry up), Tiresias represents confused or ambiguous sexuality, and the women chattering in “A Game of Chess” represent an out-of-control sexuality.
The world may never be certain exactly what Eliot had in mind when he wrote his most famous poem. However, we can determine the meaning of the poem to the "Lost Generation" and to all generations, as expressed in the themes I have described. I can conclude by saying that a part of the literary history of the 20th century was Eliot's gigantic public status and authority.

Works Cited
Brooks, Cleanth. "The Waste Land: An Analysis." T.S. Eliot. ed. B. Rajan. New York: Funk and Wagnall's, 1948.
Drew, Elizabeth. T.S. Eliot: The Design of His Poetry. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1949.
Fry, Northrop. T.S. Eliot. New York: Capricorn Books, 1972.
Headings, Phillip R. T.S. Eliot. New York: Twayne Publishing, 1964
Kenner, Hugh, ed. T.S. Eliot: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1962.
Martin, Graham, ed. Eliot in Perspective. New York: Humanities Press, 1970.
Martin, Jay, ed. A Collection of Critical Essays on "The Waste Land." Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968.
Mathiessen, F.O. The Achievement of T.S. Eliot. New York: Oxford UP, 1947.
Miller, James E. T.S. Eliot's Personal Waste Land. London: Pennsylvania State UP, 1977.
Thompson, Eric. T.S. Eliot: The Metaphysical Perspective. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1963.


Allusions, Eliot, Myths, Past, Present

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I am a writer,poet and dramatist. I have written a lot of articles on almost all topics of human interest.

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