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so to write poetry transparent we are meant to see that which as Beethoven.} A persistent theme in Eliot's poetry?from Prufrock's "Let us go then. a key to all the rest: Dante. to Me. stands out as as he said in "Burnt Norton. First. most Eliot pathways. p. to mention that come stair the in subways. more refined. S. not should poetry. obvious. employed and Less a wealth waterways. 90.41/83/oioo-050 ? 1983 by the Board $ 1. writing the poetry. Press. 72. p. Eliot said: I do will remain one of the most eloquent tributes to another. Eliot. 1979). rpt.. one "Between Marina. S. but To beyond poetry. to the Italian Institute in Speaking not think I can to Dante]." come to mind. The Achievement sity in 1933). American ed. (1947. but as I [about my debt explain everything as the most his poetry and still. New York: Farrar. ELIOT'S VIRGIL: DANTE Eloise Hay. Eliot.0363-6o.2 to three points?three He confined himself lessons he said he had learned from Dante. 3rd ed. quoted of T. O. (1957. and we might dwell a bit longer on Dante as the key to one of Eliot's main rhetorical devices?his metaphors of mediation. more highly developed. get beyond music.60/0 of Trustees of the University of Illinois T. 1965). Matthiessen. ist pp.. ways. New York & London: 1958). Much has been said of the recurring pres ence of the Italian master in Eliot's collected works. as are images: doorways. forty regard persistent deep own est influence I should at least some like to establish verse. S. in his later long aimed. the you and I." being. p. the images the form of human un-being and Agatha and figures who conduct the consciousness Tiresias. "English Letter Writers" at Yale Univer lecture delivered (unpublished in F. to get poetry. to me of that at which speaks . to Dante His homage one major poet paid by 1950.. The following cited from this essay are from passages The passage from "What Is a Classic?" is taken from On Poetry and Poets. the through strove works." should "pass on to one's own language." to The Elder Statesman's "Take me to my father"?is passage from one state of being to another. 133-35. "What Dante Means (Lon Writings don: Faber & Faber. S. 125. Dante had taught him "that the great mas ter of a language should be the great servant of it. This University of California I have that we at Santa Barbara in see . Straus 8c Giroux.. rpt. 5? . after years. posterity !T. For this theme or move ment. upon my of the reasons for it. Oxford Univ. memorable. of different as well perhaps." To Criticize the Critic and Other 2T. but these among figures. Eliot.
Dante added an equally vast range of temporal and geographic vision. . "We are all." and despite "its progressive out of which any mutilation and disfigurement. Eliot had long made architect and Dante his apprentice. emotions] in the way of emotion. between deprav ity's despair and the beatific vision. ." Virgil: Secondly. [who the 'least provincial' by ceasing to be local. Dante tional range. the most European. [it is] the organism greater world harmony must develop. It was the lesson that "Europe is a whole. . would be irreconcilable. "the soul naturally Christian" (anima naturaliter Christiana). Before considering this crucial aspect is what we may between we should note that the three chief lessons attrib of the metaphor. . for but any something something Empire. ." In the Georgics and the Aeneid. uted to Dante themselves Dante was already point to the metaphor." of course." Virgil could not bring him "the beatific vision." From Virgil. pire. so far as we inherit the civilization of Europe. Eliot's and more than it was before one wrote it. still citizens of the Roman in 1953. spectrum . to the Virgil-metaphor There is more than the figure "peregrine two worlds. Dante Dante 51 precise had that taught a true "the lesson of width of emotional range" poet thus showing men. as Eliot says. ." but neither could Beatrice bring Dante the full "range of sensibility" that he found in Virgil. without such a mediator. . And as to the vision of Eu clear that Virgil was its rope brought by Dante. "Virgil and the Christian World." proposed merely Eliot wrote to his con em be temporal which exists cause Virgil imagined it. everything in the way of emotion. . . able to become the servant and then the master of his language be cause he first became as Eliot makes the disciple of Virgil. every the beatific this inner scope. especially figure of a mediator two worlds which. between and depravity's despair that man of is capable experiencing. pointing to Virgil's vision. . ." This fourth call Dante's metaphors lesson of media his Virgil-figure?the between tion." yet] did not become I should like to venture that Eliot learned one further lesson? as my card of admission his Dante. learned "the lesson of width of emo too. S. Virgil linked .T.." These words from "What Is a in Eliot's third point in praise of Dante as "be Classic?" are echoed To yond all other poets of our continent.. clear in "What Is a Classic?" and the later essay. a and him should able gamut thing vision. . the vibrations beyond perceive see and hear more to make men of of range ordinary at each end [of be or ever see without than they could his help. . . equally important?from taking remark just quoted: "I do not think I can explain everything. was It was the highest ideal greater. "What Virgil temporaries . the third lesson that Eliot learned from him.
pride. the poet surrenders they to a guide. and headlong speed. . "Tradition and the Individual at a time (1919) when artists were clamoring Talent."4 Eliot's fellow the Futurists' "vortex" for his poet Ezra Pound agreed. The Futurist man ifesto of 1910. 165. much like Dante's "dark wood." signed by Umberto Giacomo and Gino in Futurisme. Severini. and headlong speed" in his review of Stravinsky's This 3T. use of and tomorrow's. but he wrote of it as inaccessible until?in "The Hollow Men" and "Ash-Wednesday"?a certain "Lady" appeared to him. p. That a subject-matter clean-sweep in order should to express be made the of vortex all stale of modern and criticism. Eliot himself praised the published new arts resonating to "steel. And Virgil's special virtue ismediation? Dante. for instance. he Though must have known that readers would see his own poetic development as a record of escape from one world. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters Carlo Bocciono. yesterday's language linguistically between between and the beatific vision". Eliot. S. demanded: "That all forms of imitation should be held in contempt and that all forms of originality should be glorified. But in "Tradition and the Indi On Poetry and Poets. he glimpsed One of the Commedia. Showing us this much. he makes a peculiar (p. . World. "The old world between them?form and the new"?and the most recurrent the liaison. (1910). fever. and His first great critical essay." waste into two other worlds?a land resembling Dante's Hell and a In Eliot's essays and poems Dante's Purgatory. Luigi Rossolo. Eliot prepares for approximations as mediator still a farther reach of the Virgil-figure. 146. essay was "Rite of Spring" (1921).52 Hay in one continuous bond o? pie tas the family with the village. borderland resembling saw in Canto before the sunlit mountain Dante 1930. and emotionally "depravity's despair the Roman and later culturally between origins of world community of his ideal. although the poems record no hope of a be do enact a process by which atific vision. . Eliot did not speak of his debt to Dante in just this way. pp. 4 . in Blast in 1914. 141-42. comp.3 Behind Eliot's debt to there is always Virgil. Before this time." "Virgil and the Christian in the Sewanee Review. pattern or lack of in Eliot's poetry liaison. 138). given Giovanni Lista from the (Lausanne: 1973)." was published for a new world and also for demolition of the old. threadbare . I have translated L'Age d'Homme. and borrowed own manifesto. between the irrec oncilable worlds of finitude and infinity. And notably this guide has exactly the same pow himself ers which Eliot ascribes to Virgil in the essay just cited: "He looks both the old world and the new" liaison between ways. . life?a life of steel. French. first published in America 61 (1953). the village with the region. Carra. Baila. and the region with the world.
4. . and 11. Talent."7 [poet] as much as the present by the present that is. Ovid." One thinks here of the way Virgil introduces Dante to the virtuous pagan poets?Homer. re-enacting the past. And since original talent. not only of the pastness of the "the historical past.. possible the "existing monuments work of art" among really new) [forming] an ideal order among themselves." as Virgil's smile inti indeed affected "by the introduction mates. trans. tradi "tradition. 4 York: Harcourt. 23. Paolo Milano IV. Dante says: "They turned to me and welcoming whereupon signs dis At which salute I saw my master smile. later poet will know him: "The difference between the present and the past is that the conscious is an awareness of the past in a present way and to an extent which the past's awareness of itself cannot show. Laurence Dante. S. Binyon. by himself. Virgil-figure. rpt. what was needed to of providing this middle incapable from either slavish imitation or a stillborn creation. but of its sense . On closer inspection. Brace & World. ed. or by tradition in Eliot's essay. The following pp. was in his view term by itself. it appears the twin of Dante's ushers in the new. 6 in The Portable Dante. The poet truly aware of the role tradition plays will share something of Virgil's power of even though he can never know himself quite the way a still prophecy. discovering the future. 6." As defined It not only bears the past onward but tion has unusual qualities. "Tradition Talent. p. "Tradition and the Individual Selected Essays." are from pp. 1947). 5. but with a feeling it that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous exis tence and composes a simultaneous order." In this seminal essay. 10. "tradition" embodies tion. Eliot speaks of the poet-disciple precisely in New and 5 T. or genius. and Lucan." p. which ismodified by the introduc tion of the new. (New York: Viking. the poet prevent was an agent Eliot named in this essay. The next two citations 5. is By the terms of his commission."5 tradition "compels a man to write ing the poet as Virgil guided Dante. a percep Guid presence.. (1950. 1964). p. and crown ing the present with self-mastery." As with Virgil's effect on "the introduction of the new (the tradition makes Dante. Horace. 7 are from and the Individual citations Eliot. S. Virgil knows that Dante destined for a new world and that his own lower world will be "altered is directed by the past. Eliot. 2nd ed. Like Virgil.T. Eliot's Virgil: Dante 53 to the Futurists' met writh an alternative vidual Talent" he responded own His aphor of the "clean-sweep."6 The old order is played: of the new. 7." catalysis in figure of chemical term between the dead past and the sisted that there must be a middle unborn future. not merely with his own generation in his bones. Inferno.
suggest trality of the Virgil-figure two other interesting in his essays." to halt at the frontier of metaphysics He say proposes has used the figure three times in the space of a nine-page discussion. of the suffering. that within "something the sources of emo like Eliot's. at which point he says. Like Virgil.. to convey first the function of tradition. And Eliot shifts the of the divine world but can proceed to include his own essay as another Virgil-figure: "This es metaphor or mysticism. the function his own essay performs to a frontier totally unforeseen when the essay the function in guiding began. suffers" is present. since my purpose major in Eliot's poetry. however." echoing that con conclusion to Virgil's parting with Dante.. of poetry." The two much earlier uses of the metaphor in his prose that ." poet is now . clusion but reinforcing its analogy to take leave of his art in the essay. emotion or Hell. poetry brings the poet to the threshold no farther. Here self. second and third. as Eliot quotes: tion and suffering "But the mind is something more divine and does not suffer change" (translation mine). points at which the figure appears I must Then." from the process Poetry comes And of creation as to "an saves escape the personality. and the new into play. "the an man escape from which who suffers. to the point of his since I believe that Eliot quite deliberately reverted in "Tradition and the Individual Talent.54 Hay and transformation. self into a realm of permanence?within fugitive which Eliot in this essay calls not the view of the sunlit mountain but something very similar: "the frontier of meta earthly paradise or mysticism." He introduces his last paragraph with a quota physics the process tion from Aristotle's poetry him where mediates between De Anima "the more (408B: man divine" who 29-30). Eliot has accounted the alien worlds of tradition as intermediary between of the vitality dead past and the new work to be born but also for the process of creat ing a poem?or a poetry itself?as such a mediator. or personality again the of the poet. The extinction progress of of person an a continual terms of a pilgrim seeking purgation pens [to the new poet] is a continual the moment artist is a to w7hich something continual self-sacrifice. after considering the poems. between two other alien worlds: creation of the alien poem. is more not only for the ality." complete of writing a truly new poem brings the poet out metaphor." By the end of the essay. we should return to one late essay. "Poetry and when he prepares Drama. "What hap of himself as he is at surrender valuable. in effect and a Aristotle's asserting "mind" assertion. appears after Aristotle has considered in the soul. the reader to track Dante's metaphor in all the the temptation forego in this discussion is to show the cen essays. I shall. Virgil-metaphor comes The the from "dark wood.
For Eliot. It both offered him the highest extant the underworld for poetry and "led" him to explore and Pur model events." Selected Essays. or rather in all three and psychological contexts (as indeed Dante did). the moment to which Virgil brought Dante. in The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism. Virgil ap in the first place only because three other mediators pears to Dante to St." the scribe of God. a chain of events . emotions Richards' further statement. Eliot had already rejected.. . that "poetry is capable of saving us"? without the help of "beliefs"?delivered poor Richards unwittingly too had seen poetry as salvific." For Richards. Aeneid would be sufficient for salvation. pp. Eliot's Virgil: Dante 55 call for mention here are in the famous "Hamlet and His Problems" to I. an . The objective the man who suffers and (in this case) the full moment of creation. of course. press it is in art. Eliot. 125-26.. Dante called himself in "saving us. but For Dante into Dante's stronghold. only as a mediator. The Virgin Mary has appealed to the blind). "Hamlet and His Problems.. Richards' it effected innocent compliment about The Waste Land?that "a com severence between poetry and all beliefs"?a which plete compliment in his 1929 essay on Dante. Eliot is concerned achieve the transmutation.T. . In the first of these essays Eliot's remarks on "the objective correla tive" reveal the operation once more of the Virgil-metaphor. who has delegated Beatrice Revelation) (personifying 8T. also with the failure of Hamlet himself: "In the character in the Were Hamlet dramatist there an it is .."8 objective correlative a Virgil to show the way to the sunlit mountain?both in their separate enterprises would have Shakespeare situation. A. . Writing of self-mastery about with the failure of the poet to Hamlet. the gatory of the human soul in its quest for fulfillment. had this on the authority one of his chief inspirations. suggests context more the Virgil-figure in its theological than in the aesthetic contexts of the Hamlet essay. appropriately." He that is efficacious his poem as one scripture seeing as Virgil's poetry had been of experience. as any great poem would be. of 1919 and in the equally famous in 1933 response The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism. ators beyond poetry. A. and as only one mediator in a series or "chain of as poet uscriba dei. or some too is a mediator correlative between thing very like it. S. In Canto One of The Divine Comedy. Lucy (patron of have sent him. emotion an emotion which which for can find he these no cannot emotions? outlet ex in action. the formula" by means and Hamlet "a discovered of which their could arrive at full realization. S. Richards. originating The other essay. Here Eliot returns to I. however the soul must find further medi (following Dante).
initially confront knowing of disordered and unconscious the inferno and purgatory passions so that he can learn their in human nature and in himself. 2nd ed. London: 10"Preface Meth uen. his ground well. to the 1928 Edition. recognizable metaphors for well he might have been misled by The have said "poor Richards. 1980). Eliot could afford a moment of merri Knowing ment over Richards' is capable of saving us. separating like Virgil retreating from the frontier poetry from religion. that of that book. After of poetry. rpt. to the extreme the nature of poetry of theorising about belongs or of a critic with my and is no concern of the poet of aesthetics study Whether the self-consciousness involved in aes limited qualifications. not risk of consciousness. 2nd ed. London: Faber & Faber.) He goes and psy for aesthetic ideas" are really analogues experience logical could clarify Only Dante's Virgil-metaphor experience." Waste Landl I shall return to the poem.56 Hay send Virgil (poet of natural vision) to Dante. At this juncture Beatrice that Dante must could not come herself. (as Dante rescued Eliot at the turning point when Eliot realized that he could no longer confine his criticism to "the problem of the integrity to The Sacred Wood. in relation to the threshold where aesthetics and psychol particularly must retire." he suggests (Presumably or Bleistein other mediators."10 But I hope I have made clear that even before this 9T S. causes and cure. and psychology does thefrontier thetics violating not raise here. I of mediation. It must idea that poetry a Sweeney in a footnote. himself at the end of "Tradition and the Individual Talent"). rpt. viii. Eliot. . ." The Sacred Wood." as he noted in the 1928 preface . . As so often. be a very ?lite "us. p. and theological Eliot's counter-proposal model for poetry which allows a place for each part of the model. The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism.9 It was of course the "sound theology" of Dante that provided Eliot's in the words I have italicized. psychological. . (1928. but one should here remember seems all the more of Dante's model that Eliot's acceptance impressive in view of the rigid distinctions he had made before 1927. 1964). powers. chological of an aesthetic. (1964. 149-50. Italics mine. he had "passed on to another problem the relation of poetry to the spiritual and social life of its time and of other times. pp. Eliot uses the word "frontier" for the ogy boundary The between poetry and mysticism: . if Eliot were would especially require on then to note that Richards' "theo serving as the scriba dei. he said. which I need it is is a question only my perhaps private are to believe not that such researches eccentricity by perilous if guided sound theology. .
S. rearguard extent action. 1865-1915 Brooks. for it seems to have represented minute" when Eliot gave "the bewildering himself up after a long struggle." Song In all of these poems the rire impur. Eliot's Virgil: Dante 57 were latent in his criticism. and even had credited Dante as one of her chief models. might You dered to don't really bewildering recover and yourself. . Eliot: The Man Quoted by Stephen "Remembering Spender. itself into the fabric of Emerson had started to translate the Commedia. in Boston one could 11 and His Eliot. ed. Allen T?te (New York: Delacorte. 12 Van Wyck Indian Summer. Work. "The cult of Dante had woven Boston life." T. of mediation turning point. you have the third moment is forgotten is never both the same sur as The and recovery. Lawrence called such obscene and blasphemous first a sort of youthful betokens and later a sacred). these against irreverent the poems influence show of the Dante's twentieth po more century madness a Dante cult poet's reaction against The cult. the author I have described in 1982) elsewhere (in T. 1966). But Emily Dickinson soon after her death in 1886. intense To some etry. published his mockery of Dante's vision in such poems as "Mr. the cult was vulgarized and sentimen talized to absurdity. Dut ton. again exactly Dante reflect won the character after of Dante's submission Virgil and the process If we take by which Dante as self-mastery to him."12 as Van Wyck Brooks remarked. Longfellow had completed the task. streetfighting. 435 n. 1940). Eliot's Service" and in unpublished like "The Love poems Sunday Morning of Saint Sebastian" and the deleted passage in "A Cooking Egg. and America. began Eliot went culture.T. When pre-Enlightenment Louis in 1904. before you have wholly having something course and the self recovered render Of recovery. H. S. New England: (New York: E. after all. 55-56. pp. in Europe speaking world by Henry Francis Cary's first as part of The Divine Comedy (1804-15). the self before it was given. p. with respect to the Virgil Turning we in 1935: recall his letter to Stephen Spender figure. we see that the submission was nei years" (a good nor complete until about 1926?a ther immediate crucial year. now to Eliot's poetic development. and "author" here. . S. since 1910. or "laugh of genius" (as Verlaine uses of the and D. that had grown to be a in the English signaled of translation complete the Romantic revival of East to school from St. Even any just then author the to whom you minute have never surren counts.11 give yourself up. the metaphors He had been studying Dante. himself for "forty par excellence to whom Eliot submitted Biblical number). criticize . P. to say. . Along with Tiffany lamps. and the process of surrender yourself. Eliot's Negative Way.
in the same sages of the Inferno which passed on to the Purgatorio to appreciate I the Paradiso. p." The Flaming Heart 13Mario Praz.: Peter Smith. Not long afterwards. Faber described the (London: 1929). deal to optimism. as Mario Praz says. In this pursuit. 349.11 Praz notes (p. "As the mind deserts Eliot also says in the poem. Eliot's more to Pound's version of the Dante cult than to the Harvard Dan teans at first. "T S. as well as in solidly scholastic either editing or commenting tayana. one of what that are still and hated the than Blessed and these words stood for a hopefulness. to the 1929 edition of this essay in 14"Dante. making the body it has used." If they had stayed ure. Mass.58 Hay volumes of Dante?and postcards displaying buy Tiffany-designed Beatrician "stunners. of Beatrice many by appreciation years. rpt. as Eliot tells us in the 1929 essay on Dante: cantos of the Comedy seemed to teach that poetry should tend toward great cheerfulness. One suspects that Eliot here deliberately rewrote traordinary the Dante figure abandon Rossetti's the Beatrice fig poem. Eliot also very succinctly his appreciation of Dante had passed: "I began myself with pas stages through which I could understand. In the Preface book form 8c Faber. whose absurd office is to guide him to In the Berg Collection's Madame she was to Blavatsky." refuge from the tediously cultivated Pipit. One of his saviors will be Dante's Piccarda de Donati. and only after years of experience began to the other parts of the poem and reverted the unity of the whole" slowly recognized (p. 366 n. it was because he cared less about rescuing Dante than about finding a new poetry. years Dante ceive recognize describes further are put revolt. states of and beatitude which improvement from his what the modern world And can little next con things by my states of damnation. or anyway of revolt against the But Eliot cherishes this pose vis-?-vis Dante. one off: Rossetti's held up my first by my rapture and Damozel.) that Eliot's early poem "La Figlia Che Piange" to an ex follows the pattern of Rossetti's "The Blessed Damozel" extent. Eliot and Dante. p. he would have "lost a gesture together. after reading them that Eliot?in his 1929 essay on only twenty years that these teachers had influenced him as Dante?acknowledged as the Pre-Raphaelites' and poetry and their paintings powerfully Swinburnian If. 12). in the nineteenth It took me many century." Charles Grandgent and George San teachers at Harvard. . in "A Cooking he sneers at the literary pantheon that serves as his Egg. from which way.13 Eliot responded much afterglow. but it was rescued Dante from the sentimentalists. and Dante a pose"?the cult. as cheerfulness. Dante was at first even a the last thirty-eight threat. 223. 1966). (1958. Gloucester. manuscript conduct him to the Communion which he approached with a Table. scholarly analyses. pose of cynicism." Selected Essays.
" "Rhapsody Windy Night. and we drown." as Eliot says in his Notes." The "you" is and persists only to accompany Prufrock when "human unavailing In The Waste Land the failed inter voices wake us. "throbbing two lives. ladies especially)." "Burbank with a Baedeker." but can communicate stair in the titles nothing." and like Virgil he has "foresuffered between all" that both in Hell and Purgatory.T S. eschew any such mediation. he asserted that the poets who first taught ." "strength beyond hope in the poems are either Before from Dante that." and several of the unpublished poems. Most lication of the poem. we recall that Eliot confessed In this connection this very failure to find Dante wholly useful in the first stages of his poetic development. all Eliot's borrowings from the Inferno and Purgatory in an ironical us to context?requiring see the absence of any relevance canto of the the twenty-sixth beyond latter?or reference. explicitly Dante's purgatorial Eliot gave to his 1919 poems and first version of "Ash-Wednesday. As we shall see. And the absence of the Virgil-metaphor (the to leave a space of which Eliot is aware. unit ing all the rest. ." "Portrait of a Lady. have mentioned in ? 1925 26. "Let us go then. In the 1950 Dante essay." fire. in "Ash-Wednesday. XXVI. ically on a in "Prufrock." "The Boston Evening Transcript. . male and female undergo He is with "the young man carbuncular. where Arnaut Daniel's to last words Dante are: "I pray you by that Goodness To Then guide Bethink he you you shrank to the in due back summit season in the which doth deign of of my refining [Laurence this stair pain. for he fills it with inter The manques. appears in most of Eliot's poems before "Ash-Wednesday. you and I. "the most important personage in the poem. like the Tiresias figure. There is in them no others seems mediaries poet sees himself as isolated. mordantly they are like the Piccarda de Donati humorous allusions to the Paradise." mediary is Tiresias." does assume this secondary its full Dantean image from Dante strength: and despair / Climbing the third stair. The stairway. only when a true Virgil-figure appears. He is blind." is from Dante's Purgatory. also as isolating Virgil-figure. of mediation view of the metaphors in Eliot's essays of Curiously?in the same period?the written before "the turning point" I poems. Binyon's translation] The thus iron connecting stairway. Eliot's Virgil: Dante 59 queasy stomach." "La Figlia Che Piange. ." "finding the stairs unlit." for example. resistance to certain of this "impure laugh" was deleted before pub as evidence but it is worth mentioning of the aspects of Dante that haunts the early poems.
" p. poet these experiences are always forming new wholes.6o him Hay his own poets." Selected Essays. in Before 1926. 247. or with two to do with have each other. 30." he said in After Strange Gods. whereas with actuality. between two irreconcilable conditions: a mind is perfectly for its work." a middle term or mediating that is. exactly at the time he was in The Waste Land as a master juxtaposer without Tiresias presenting In fact Eliot knew that his poetry was contradicting his prose copula. essays on the metaphysical poets in 1921. available in "Tradition and the Indi various ways he had already considered to a In this 1921 essay. is a key in the same line. was a Tiresias From him Baudelaire figure." The best "we" can do." Eliot was intensely concerned as we have seen." in English poetry power missing and it is this very power tomediate When since the early seventeenth century. however. irregular. without power. "What Dante Means 16 Brace. it is constantly equipped poet's the ordinary is man's disparate experience. It surfaced in his his essays with this mediating power. they to a farther stage of themselves They pointed beyond development. Spinoza. fragmentary. and these experiences nothing or the smell of in the mind of the the noise of the typewriter cooking.]6 The ideal with which he was preoccupied in "The Metaphysical Poets" was the ideal of a uni to the poet whose mind can mediate in the fied sensibility. in this central way: "In one's prose reflexions one may be legitimately in the writing of verse one can deal only occupied with ideals. 1934). Eliot calls attention vidual Talent. juxtaposition of the matter-of-fact and the fantastic." Baudelaire [his] the possibility of the the sordidly realistic and the phantasmagoric. "smaller" a "temperament akin to elder brother. ." presented "like an admired showed him "the possibility of fusion between own. But the word "juxtaposition" development to Baudelaire's term in Eliot's reference It reveals that influence. he implies. After Strange Gods (New York: Harcourt 17 "The Metaphysical Poets. or reads The chaotic. 126. p. that Marshall McLuhan has called Eliot learned the famous technique without of Eliot's technique?"juxtaposition the hallmark copula. an intermediary manqu?. Laforgue. from which we have never recovered. 15 to Me. p."15 Insofar as they were mediators between Eliot and Dante (both also having responded to the Dante in his poetic the Virgil-figure adumbrated cult).17 But no such poet any longer writes! "In the seventeenth century a dis sociation of sensibility set in. experience amalgamating latter falls in love. is to show the loss?through juxtapositions without copulas. poetic less possibilities?Laforgue "exalted" and "remote" and Baudelaire?were than Dante. the "turning point.
Dante knew the ecstasies of human love but did not confuse them with love of God. between depravity's despair and the everything beatific vision" as Eliot phrases it in his 1950 Dante essay. Donne overcame but only by displacing or altogether sibility" losing certain sensibilities. I am grateful Eliot and to the Harvard Li versity. are seeking in the wrong place. between soul and body [as in Donne's "Ecstasy"] is a modern conception. In 1926 an extraordinary in Eliot's change occurred Clark Lectures he gave at thought. and for Donne associated human marriage love. visible above all in the unpublished on this same subject."18 Again by contrast with all one?you and then to convey in poetry Donne. Eliot's Virgil: Dante 61 This was in 1921. "whether you seek the Absolute it is adultery." and draws upon Dante's image of Beatrice's that represent "kingdoms" reflect in person the divine tween God and man?because Dante had seen her with his between three eyes as a figure of mediation the whole. "the inner life of Dante was not only more exten to the later poet. Valerie in 1926. "The separation it existed only between soul. If I am right in seeing figures of meditation appear in Eliot's poems in the same year. when "you give yourself up." carbon in Houghton is from the copy of a typescript Library." By contrast. This time the author was really criticizing another through as not just for the first time as a true Virgil-figure. Beatrice alone could nature of Christ?the be perfect mediator Beatrice had seen the beatific vision and own eyes. For Dante. Here for the first time in a poem Eliot articulates the whole "spectrum or gamut" between "despair and beatitude. delivered Uni original typescript College. Dante was able first to distinguish "in the way of emotion." author. and then recover yourself." Thus Donne's sive. Dante. the metaphysical poets. inmarriage. Eliot arrived at the belief that only Dante had achieved that union of sensibilities which he had ascribed to Donne the "dissociation of sen and his circle five years before. approached one link but as the link between disparate and otherwise irreconcilable worlds. Cambridge to Mrs. 1925-26. pp. In Dante's time there existed no "disjunction" between body and lower and higher loves. wrongly with divine union. in the embrace of his own "the modern man is imprisoned feelings. but had heights of feeling unknown was a dissociated associated with divine sensibility fragment. when he first "gave himself up" to Dante (as his letter to Spender phrases it). University to quote from this unpublished brary for permission manuscript." In Donne. 20.T. S. 13. He had to see with his natural eyes This 18 "On the Metaphysical Lecture III. then "The Hollow Men" in 1925 records the transition. Between 1921 and 1926. or debauchery. in others. The Cambridge University was surely one of those "bewildering minutes" he spoke of to time Spender later. at Trinity of the Clark Lectures. Eliot says in the third Clark Lec while becoming "imprisoned" ture. Harvard University. . Poetry of the Seventeenth Century.
e. Purgatory. Purgatory. Men who have reached absolute of Purgatory. and Eliot's Heaven theology here differs "where three from Dante's dreams cross" in that as in or "Between three districts" as in "Little "Ash-Wednesday" Gidding"? to "the higher dream" of the three dreams or districts corresponding Dante. us?if but men * [now capitalized as divine] who have at all?not only crossed other as Kingdom* lost to death's souls. In "The Hollow not meet in dreams. eyes as hope.) The in the poem indicates sleep. hollow indicates Paradise." "In the eyes that saw (as Virgil fears such eyes?"Eyes Men" death's the poet dream I dare / These do not appear. and the Kingdom. But they will not know at first whether the "eyes" are delusory would be in Hell) or illusory (as they would be in (as they In "The Hollow Men" the eyes can at least be an illusory Purgatory). *[i. because hollow men are blind.62 Hay had not seen). like Tiresias they assurance of mediation. Pearls that were eyes are a safe substitute for living eyes when death by water is at least better than life." Eliot cannot usurp Dante's encounter and call it his own. They may encounter the "eyes" that Dante saw only at the end of the Purgatory. as the lower case "king (The capital in "Kingdom" or Hell. But in this poem Dante .. emptiness meet accessible in human dreams] these me may encounter diating Hell. dom" elsewhere in The Waste Land. suffer without longing for death like the Sibyl in her cage. Thus Eliot's hollow men have an access that Dante in Hell did not have. The hollow men are "the hope only of empty men": that eyes like Beatrice's We grope Sightless. The As together unless star know eyes reappear the perpetual rose Multifoliate Of death's twilight kingdom* The hope only Of empty men." They appear neither in sleep (because kingdom even the unconscious mind does not dare to meet them) nor in Hell a small "k") precisely because they are other kingdom"?with ("death's eyes that have seen God: Those With Violent As the direct Remember eyes. mediation between the two "kingdoms" which also means between poetry and "something more divine.
Like her. Lady too is associ lieve the soul of overburdening guilt. Finally." p. recovered after the loss of original innocence. as he said in the 1929 essay. I must consider a point not the extent to which this statement to Dante I believe: that Eliot bids farewell hitherto made. For the first time.19 Though gatorio. Both women visions of a new innocence. and that Dante's he hints explicitly pattern us into being unduly optimistic. Douglas In a talk at Eliot's memorial service at Harvard his Pur Bush called The Waste Land Eliot's Inferno. 1966). in "Ash-Wednesday" Eliot draws upon the Para in direct quotation?the diso without prayer of self-renunciation irony. both in to show in his As I have hoped "East Coker" and "Little Gidding. Eliot associates and the power Matilda with contemplation. In "East Coker. introducing the Lady by the fountain with three leopards reminds Wednesday" one of Dante's Matilda the (as Mario Praz has noted). 98. S." Commedia about the same year." uses of the Virgil-metaphor. The next step is for him to disengage to dismiss Dante. Bush. The pattern.T. has to re silence. Press. "T. There is it seems a limited value best. it was inevitable that he should disengage to himself from his guide. can to us. . knowledge imposes in every moment is new For the pattern And every moment is a new and shocking Mass. beyond which he In "Ash-Wednesday" and in "Marina." Dante has proved himself this line was no metaphor more than a poet. as he puts it. "Ash-Wednesday" I cannot here discuss and Four Quartets his Paradiso. Eliot's Virgil: Dante 63 has become Eliot's Virgil?the poet who can take him to that frontier must proceed alone. proceeds in 1965.: Harvard 19Douglas Univ. Virgil." And to do in Four Quartets. "as Dante dismissed this he himself. Eliot. a and falsifies. Engaged and Disengaged (Cambridge. Eliot has "grown up" to him. Marina are ated with rebirth and the cleansing power of water. such as Dante's scheme or vision. after twenty years. Eliot said he had come to realize that but "literally true. "Our peace in His which is also the poem's prayer of self-mastery: from Canto V of the Paradiso. S. II" he notes that adhering any pattern. only derived from In the knowledge experience. In his Note on that section of the will. can be deceptive. mislead At (as he had said before) Here. is true." Eliot seems to have indeed that mediatrix of his own and to have been led into her encountered Dante (in the first poem) and by Shakespeare. presence acting as by In "Ash Marina in the second. another Virgil-figure.
" his concept of "romantic theology" on reading Dante. unfamiliar hands intolerable Behind "the hands that wove / The intolerable shirt of flame" there is no doubt Dante's over the gate of Hell: "Me did divine inscription /Me supreme Wisdom and primal Love sustain" uprear. could We no are only undeceived harm. In the middle. Romanticism. C. all But deceiving. pp.. 14]). appeared to others besides Lewis to be the In "Little Gidding" the vision of divine love given in the last two sections is indeed "a new and shocking valuation. that which. Mich. Grand 1958). S.: Wm. Eerdmans. . 111:5-6 no way out of the dark middle of the way" in life. and Reason. (1943. There poem ingly secure as appears affirmative. 3rd The Pilgrim's ed. Lewis Dante like one writing an "Apology for Christianity..64 Hay Valuation Of of all we have been.20 As his subtitle indicated. cannot torment? Love. however. there appeared wood." We to this dominant theme in Four Quartets. very responding Perhaps soon after the complete was published. having can In the pattern of Four Quartets Dante's a pattern which might be mislead upheld never count on escaping from (Cthe dark wood. well beyond (Inferno. Authority "the [Binyon. Lewis. rpt." but perhaps the vision true to a firewarden's of it during a London air only experience raid: Who Love Behind The Which is the the human then devised the Name that wove shirt power of flame remove. . Lewis consid ered Dante a great romantic poet. Rapids. 10-12. the way. in a dark wood. Lewis attacked poem a merciless Eliot as one of the "Pale Men" from the North. not the classicist whom Eliot ranged with Virgil in the Clark Lectures and "What Is a Classic?") (especially romanticism. Eliot plainly believed that he had learned from against of despair in poetry Dante both the value of allowing full exploration . B. and Romanticism. longer not in the middle of the way only . He still retained "the prejudice" which he said in 1929 had at first interfered with his readings of the Paradiso?his belief "that po not only must be found through suffering but can find its material etry 20C. blowing cold wind over the Christian vision. But for Eliot. . What antithesis he had of to say often Dante. S. is no foothold. who based son. p. as he wrote to Spender. Rea approached With his friend Charles Williams. of to say" and the value of the "third moment having something oneself after "surrendering" to another author. Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity.
23 as guide Selected Essays. to bring leave can us us. Eliot has direct access to the perfect Mediator: is Incarnation. and reconciliation." 21 Collected . in 7^ 5." The clos concluding so clearly an echo of the conclusion to his first ing of this lecture is that one feels cer "Tradition and the Individual Talent." The "impossible union / Of the gift half understood. a to toward left Dante. reflected only in suffering. Poems. and then that thereby to a condition Virgil us no a credible of art. have given way peni in the Paradiso. avail the and function ordinary reality. 199. "Little Gidding." missed "The hint half guessed. "Poetry and Drama. to measure the distance tain he expected his readers he had come the two works of 1919 and 1951." V. 94. where proceed region farther." V. tential suffering. poetry.T S. 209. having dis Like Dante however. and accepted his Virgil-figure the Lady of "Ash-Wednesday. of poetry of existence is further is actual. in imposing order upon some of an order in perception eliciting of serenity. and the essay itself had brought him to a closed or mysticism. Appropriately he did so in enough. needed one. he employed one last time. "Dante."21 The sufferings to freely accepted. pp. stillness. when Eliot evidently per years after completing the that he would write no other major poem. his allusion to Vir his farewell preparing to an open passageway calls attention beyond poetry. "Poetry and Drama. Eliot: Brace 8cWorld. the "frontier of metaphysics to all art in prose or poetry. barrier. In the first he had suggested between that tradition. Virgil-metaphor his last major critical essay."22 Four Quartets. 23 On Poetry and Poets." In the last essay. 1970). 223. 1909-1962 (New York: Harcourt. Eliot's Virgil: Dante 65 in of the young poet." No mediation spheres to reconcile opposing "And the fire and the rose are worlds." major essay. gil and Dante of art: made accessible by the mediation Nine ceived For it is ultimately reality." 22Four Quartets: "The Dry Salvages. poems of horror and disgust. p. p.
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