Friday, September 26, 2008

In Honor of T. S. Eliot's B-Day...

I'd like to propose an interactive post here.

I'm going to loosely connect a few previously disconnected lines of Eliot poetry, and then I'm hoping a few of you will either add any Eliot lines you know of in the comments, or make up your own similar lines to add to the general poeticness?

Oh, and if anyone can identify each line quoted with the Eliot poem with which it originally belonged, you get bonus points. No prize, mind you, but bonus points anyway.

Please? It'll be fun...

Here goes (Happy birthday, Mr. Eliot, and sorry about the alterations I'm about to make to your poetry, especially since I'm not paying much attention to line breaks or exact wording):

Let us go then, you and I
In April, the cruellest month
When the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And watch the evening spread across the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table
Or perhaps be engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of our names
Or the lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender
While the women come and go, speaking of Michelangelo

(and of Mr. Eliot's birthday).


Rodger Jacobs said...

"I have measured out my life in coffee spoons"

How the hell can I improve on that?

Deborah Leiter said...

Rodger: Yeah, they're all really hard to beat. And I do love the coffee spoons thing--Prufrock was such a fabulous thing (a darned good thing since I ended up studying it 7 times in different classes in college).

What, no guesses at the sources of the lines I cited?

Rodger Jacobs said...

Sorry to say that I am merely a student of "The Wasteland", Deborah (though I have read Prufrock a number of times) so I can only spot the references to the former masterwork.

Deborah Leiter said...

Ah, Rodger, but there's actually only one line from the Waste Land. The most are from Eliot's poem Four Quartets (where the title of this blog also comes from--I did my MA thesis on that one so I have chunks of it memorized).

Here's the "cheat sheet" of citations, listed according to their line numbers within my "poem":
1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
2. Waste Land
3 and 4. Four Quartets
5 and 6. Prufrock
7 and 8. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (a poem on which the musical Cats was based)
9 and 10. Four Quartets
11. Prufrock

Rodger Jacobs said...

I think I'll pick up Four Quartets on your recommendation. I wrote an homage to Wasteland at my site recently, titled "The Poet and the Pistolero", but only a small handful of readers understood what I was doing so I aborted the project just before the final segment was ready to post.

Deborah Leiter said...

Yes, I think it's so sad that Eliot has become less known. The literary folks who came after him so overreacted, I think, to his (actually fully well-deserved, in my thoughts) literary celebrity that they've cut down study of him, which is too bad.

Four Quartets is a masterwork--it was largely written during WWII, and though it's largely a reflection on personal events in the '30s, it was hugely popular during the war.

To be fair, I admit that I like it best because it was his big post-conversion to Anglicanism poem, too, so he's also reflecting on some of the big questions about love and sacrifice and intersections between the temporal and the spiritual/eternal, which are totally up my alley.

Rodger Jacobs said...

I assume you've read at least a little bit of Aldous Huxley? He's one of the best prose stylists at mixing and exploring the temporal and spiritual. Some of the best novels on that topic from Huxley are "Time Must Have a Stop", "After Many a Summer Dies the Swan", and "Point Counterpoint".

(God, I'm starting to feel like a gadfly around here. Never mind me. Go back to your studies.)

Deborah Leiter said...

Rodger: I haven't read any of those Huxley novels--just *Brave New World*. Maybe I'll get around to checking them out at some point, though I'm pretty sure Mr. Huxley and I have some worldview differences on spirituality. :)

Don't worry--wasn't studying anyway. It's Sunday--I don't study on Sundays.

Rodger Jacobs said...

Your worldviews on spirituality and Huxley's own might actually dovetail. He was an open student of all faiths and one phrase of his always makes me think of Eliot's "Wasteland:"

"From the silence of the womb to the silence of the grave, all life is an attempt to mitigate the silence in between."