And don’t forget here is also the first of many classical allusions that no one understands. I mean really, who besides classics students have really read the Satyricon?
This one of my favorite lines in all of poetry. I love the way Eliot here is flipping the common idea of the beginning of spring being something light and bright at the end of winter.
In line with my previous comment I also appreciate the way Eliot is contradicting the thing everyone “knows” about winter, that it is cold. The idea that winter could be “warm” in any way seems so completely wrong yet somehow it makes sense in the context of the poem.
This may be the most accessible allusion in the entire poem. And it still depends on the reader having read Shakespeare’s The Tempest (not on of his more well known plays). Perhaps this reference would have made more sense to a contemporary audience but a modern audience is unlikely to pick it up immediately. (Though perhaps a modern audience for this poem consists only of literature students which makes comprehension more likely.)
This line has always seemed strange to me. While I know fire does burn colors other than red, orange, and yellow it just never sits quite right with me that he describes the fire as burning green. It feels unnatural.
And once more we are given a reference that’s hard to understand without classical training. I mean really, how many people have read Ovid?
Even though this terminology really reads as nonsense the reader can almost get a sense of what Eliot means here (for once). You get that sense of dullness from the language even though the language itself seems to mean absolutely nothing.
Is he asking if you (you, the reader?) remembers nothing as in not remembering something that happened? Or is he asking if you remember Nothing as though Nothing is a thing to be remembered? (I don’t know the answer. But it’s something interesting to ponder.)
One gets the sense of monotony from his words. As though this is all anyone can expect from life day after day. Our lives are planned out and there is nothing to do but live them as we have always lived them, changing nothing.
This line is repeated over and over and with each repetition the reader begins to feel the urgency of the people in the poem. With each reading of “HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME” you feel spurred on to read faster.
These are the dross and flotsam of those with privilege. It is as though we are watching privilege disappear.
Here again are the nonsense words that sound like bird calls. Dull and slow birds.
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It’s interesting that this comment on references doesn’t in any way illuminate what is being referenced.
The speaker rears its head
April is the close to the opening of spring. It brings life and end the chill of a dead winter.
It appears that there may be some type of shame here, and a search to escape.
It appears to be very dark here, with little hope. Whenever one speaks or writes of death, they’ve lost hope or they’re in a desperate situation.
This sentence shows a lack of understanding. It’s as if the real situation cannot be grasped.
I believe he’s looking to erase…the silence to me means he wants nothing there.
Is this speaking of a gypsie? Someone who yearns to change the future due to the past?
Whenever I see documentaries from the past or old movies, there’s always a crowd of spectators looking to watch someone hang. It’s as if it’s their ultimate entertainment.
Again, it’s as if there is no hope for these people. The London Bridge symbolizes something personal to Eliot. It’s apart of home; where he finds comfort.
Usually, a dog represents something unethical..immoral. “Keep the dog”. The evil is not wanted.
Being a preacher’s kid, this sounds like something straight out of hell. Fire is to get rid of evil and things unwanted.
Abandonment maybe? A person doesn’t want to feel left alone, and the feelings of isolation has overtaken him.
Where the men lost who they really are to become someone they aren’t supposed to be.
I would say he’s looking for agreement.
He is seen in a differnt way. Like a new image.
He’s lost, and again he feels abandoned. He needs reassurance.
Chess is a game of intellect and power. It makes you think, and it’s also time consuming.
Sounds like he may have lost a gambling bet, and knows he may have to pay a deeper cost.
The games must end, it’s time to go home and patience has run out.
You out to be asked that you look so old. He has not taken good care of himself and it shows in his personal appearance.
I’m sorry for the typos. You ought to be ashamed…meaning he looks old and tattered.
Marriage is something sacred, and people were not always able to choose they wanted, and if they did, it wasn’t always who they wanted to ultimately be with. This line may be describing that.
It’s how something that is joined together flows easily and beautifully like the river. Everything is going in the same direction.
To me, rats represent filth, and nastiness. I agree, it is a decay.
As a reader, it seems like this person is being reminding of his past in great length before a major even takes place.
I agree. It’s not specifically to only one part.
After reading the first stanza, it’s clear that the poet, with the variety of language and names of people and places (all obscure to me at least), has, from the very beginning, established certain demands of his readers.
The constant shift between what seems to be personal recollections and references to other texts can be disorienting. What is personal and what is historical? Or is he attempting to erase this distinction?
The references are many. I suspect that gathering any meaning requires a bit of work for the average reader, especially one who comes to the poem 90 years after its publication.
A comment on the poem itself?
Either way, it’s another rejection of life, or another of the many references to death in life.
A second reference to ‘rats’. I believe they serve to further the bleak, decayed imagery of the poem. As a reader, it’s easier to pick up on more general references like this one and it makes it easier to navigate through the many more arcane references.
Yes, and interesting when you consider the title of the next section as well, ‘Death by Fire’.
It seems that you’re on to something there. To go through age first, then youth seems to be recalling rather than living. Then “entering the whirlpool” could be the actual experience of life.
After reading once through, I got the impression that water represents life. But then, does the poet mean “Death by Life” with the title of this section?
This section is a slight relief after the long, dense section preceding it.
The references not only demand some knowledge of Western traditions, but Eastern as well.
Not only does the form make for ‘grim reading,’ but the content as well.
Many references to rocks and water. Perhaps death and life respectively?
Maybe connects to the ‘Unreal City’ in the ‘Fire Sermon’ section?
Immediately, we’re faced with a foreign language untranslated. This is a sort of precursor to the challenges we’ll face throughout the poem.
Eliot refers to German cities and parks, and even writes this line in German. His own notes to the text don’t translate this line into English. While the average reader may be able to get the gist of what is said, Eliot certainly doesn’t make it easy.
The narrator addresses the Biblical Son of man (Ezekiel). Is this the same narrator from the previous stanza (Marie)? There’s a shift in syntax, hinting at a shift of narrator, but the sullen tone remains the same.
Agreed. It’s admirable how many references Eliot can fit into such short time/space, but infinitely confusing.
Many of these figures are not actually featured in the Tarot deck, or at least not as familiar as ones like the Fool, etc. Jung said something about Tarot cards being archetypes — perhaps Eliot is setting up characters he wants the reader to keep in mind for the rest of the poem.
There have been numerous references to Dante’s Inferno — Hades — so far. There’s definitely an overlying feeling of despair.
Mylae refers to much more ancient time — even in the narrator recognizing someone, Eliot tries to instill the feeling of disillusionment.
Latin –> German –> French
I think the narrator is actually speaking to a woman — Lil — and is saying that she needs to fix herself up before her husband returns from war. Interesting sentiments of the time.
She has taken pills to abort her pregnancy.
Or perhaps it’s just birth control?
This makes me think of baptism by fire. Whereas baptism by water invokes healing/repentance, fire makes me think of wrath, or another consuming emotion.
The “young man carbuncular” has sexually assaulted the typist. It seems as if Eliot does this to add yet another grim scene.
This has some beautiful language and imagery, but the brevity and the lack of context forces the reader to read the section more than once. Ultimately, it remains difficult to understand its meaning.
Focus is on death — akin to “as soon as we’re born, we start dying,” in a way.
Reminds me of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner — “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”
Eliot seems to be intimating that one dying city is every dying city in history.
Perhaps Eliot is revolting against typical discourse (to bring Eyesteinsson to mind) by writing in a vastly atypical way. Could Eliot’s unfamiliar language choices still impart the information he wants us to leave with? It makes me wonder if the “ordinary reader” is really part of Eliot’s audience.
October 5, 2012 at 8:53 pm
See in context
October 5, 2012 at 8:21 pm
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October 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm
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October 5, 2012 at 5:11 pm
October 5, 2012 at 5:09 pm
October 5, 2012 at 5:07 pm
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