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By Craig Raine

The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the 20 th century's most renowned poet and its such a lot influential literary arbiter, T.S. Eliot has lengthy been regarded as an vague and hard poet--forbiddingly realized, maddeningly enigmatic. Now, during this amazing exploration of T.S. Eliot's paintings, prize-winning poet Craig Raine finds that, to the contrary, Eliot's poetry (and drama and feedback) will be noticeable as a unified and coherent physique of labor. certainly, regardless of its occur originality, its radical experimentation, and its excellent formal style, his verse yields that means simply as definitely as different extra traditional poetry. Raine argues that an implicit controlling theme--the buried lifestyles, or the failure of feeling--unfolds in strangely different methods all through Eliot's paintings. yet along Eliot's hope "to stay with all depth" was once additionally a mistrust of "violent emotion for its personal sake." Raine illuminates this paradoxical Eliot--an exacting anti-romantic realist, skeptical of the sentiments, but ceaselessly bothered by way of the phobia of emotional failure--through shut readings of such poems as "The Love tune of J Alfred Prufrock," "Gerontion," The hole males, Ash Wednesday, and so on. the guts of the ebook comprises prolonged analyses of Eliot's grasp works--The Waste Land and 4 Quartets. Raine additionally examines Eliot's criticism--including his coinage of such key literary phrases because the aim correlative, dissociation of sensibility, the auditory imagination--and he concludes with a powerful refutation of fees that Eliot was once an anti-Semite. the following then is a quantity totally necessary for all admirers of T.S. Eliot and, in truth, for everybody who loves smooth literature.

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Many inhabitants of Limbo are beside Eliot’s point—the virtuous but unbaptised, the great pagan poets (Homer, Lucan, Horace, and, of course, Dante’s guide, Virgil), the great pagan philosophers (Zeno, Thales, Anaxagoras) and a Who’s Who of pagan grandees, heroes, and heroines, including Caesar and Electra. These categories do not concern us. Limbo also contains ‘Questi sciaurati, che mai non fur vivi’— in Laurence Binyon’s translation, ‘These paltry, who never were alive [my italics]’. This category does concern us—since the failure to live is a central Eliotean concern.

This triple renunciation, ‘for there is nothing again’, functions like Descartes’s wholesale doubt in Meditations on First Philosophy and the Discourse on Method—in which doubt is not piecemeal, instance by instance, but absolute. The method is to doubt everything—and see what, if anything, resists doubt. In this way, you reach bedrock, the very bottom, and build on that. ’ Section II has an Old Testament desert scenario. It rejoices in the annihilation and dispersal of the body—achieved thanks to the intercession of a woman in white, a Lady who prays to the Virgin.

Equally obviously, therefore, this cannot be what Eliot means—unless he has suffered a T H E FA I LU R E T O L I V E 17 mental lapse. To understand him, we have, I think, to interpret less literally. We have to consider the fundamental polarity proposed by Eliot. It is between a theological view of the world, in which every action is significant and carries moral consequence, and a humanist view of the world, in which every action is drained of significance because there is neither salvation nor damnation, neither a heaven nor a hell, only moral opinion.

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