Thursday, July 26, 2012

Musings on The Wasteland - An Essay on a Work by T.S. Eliot

More old writing assignments from college

To be absolutely frank, I am almost entirely overwhelmed. To even begin to think upon this poem is a momentous task. Now, it seems to me as if there is a story being told, that there is one general arc in which this literary work flows, but with the almost cacao-phonic level of voices used in this piece, it makes it all the more difficult to decipher the course upon which this work sails.
 Considering how you, our instructor alluded as to the grail-seeking influence that many have ascribed this poems' intentions to, I decided to try to look at it from that standpoint. Oddly, however, when I got to the chess game portion of this tale, I was immediatly struck by a imagined simmularity to Homers' The Odessy. I think this was probably from the aged queen-like figure seated upon her burnished throne, seemingly to me as Penelope, and the dolphins' image, oft the symbol associated with Ulysses, that graced the mantel. However, when I later read through the Exploring the Wasteland website, I found that I was in error, as the collection of references where in actuality in reference to a mixture of Shakespears' Cleopatra and Antony, and Aeneas and Dido for Virgils' epic: the Aeneid. At the same time, however, several pieces that utilized female characters in their dwelling made me think of brothels as well. Ah. I fear for what this may mean for my mental state. (I would also like to mention that the annotations that other have made on this piece makes me wanted to expand my literary repertoire very much, and I wish to begin this foray with The Golden Bough, by Sir James George Frazer. It would seem that my knowledge of ancient religious text and the classics is sadly lacking.)
 This poetry work, it would appear, is much-steeped in biblical references, those of the recounts of the hermit Ezekiel, the book of Isaiah,

There also seems to be a great deal of male/female duality. Such as the hyacinth girl, as according to this poems' notes, the hyacinth is a males symbol. Also there is the "Old man with women's breasts", with "wrinkled dugs", dugs being another word for teat, a more agriculture-based term for mammary glands. So perhaps the characters of this piece are only incidental to the story itself, and serve only to give a face to humanity as a whole. What I am thinking is, that maybe this poem is actually a description of the plight of humanity. and that when we hurt each-other, we are also hurting ourselves. Maybe that is the reason for this dichotomy I perceive. I also fount the websites' translation of the line Mein Irisch Kind to be a bit odd. The website says it means My Irish Darling, but as far as my own very poor German goes, I know kind to mean "child", while it is liepschen that means "darling", or "beloved".
TS Eliot is very good at what I could only call descriptive atmosphere. When he paints a scene through literature, he not only fills in the contours, light and shadow, but he also adds in rich, detailed color as well. So it is fair to say that there are a few lines that somehow struck me deeply. Such as this:

A woman drew her long black hair
(seems to be a reference to Morrigan, a Death-associated Goddess of War)
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with babyfaces in the violet light
(these seem to be the netherworld's' version of the heavenly cupidon)
Whistled, and beat their wings
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
(Blackened? From burning? From the atrocities of war?)
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and ex-hausted wells.
 (This seems to me to be the earth itself, crying out in anguish)
In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.
(I find this verse to ring of hollow beauty, a quiet, peacefullness, but of sadness as well.
and the forgetfullness of Time, illustrated beautifully by just one line:)
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider.
I've run out of space. I rather enjoyed this assignment, my thanks to our instructor!

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