Quantcast
Channel: Poetry | The Guardian
Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 3815

TS Eliot's Sweeney Agonistes: a crucial hinge in his development | Roz Kaveney

0
0
A small fragment has never revealed so much. Look closely and you'll see Eliot reaching his pitch of emotional pain

TS Eliot's conversion to high Anglican Christianity came as a colossal shock to Bloomsbury his friends saw themselves as a conspiracy of the enlightened against stodgy leftovers of the world that had created the war, and here was one of their best and brightest telling them that they were wrong. Really they should not have been surprised. The pages of his magazine, the Criterion, were full of bile towards their world of adultery and smart parties and he published it even though when socially convenient he was able to blame Vivienne for writing it. The best of his own work of the time between The Waste Land and the first poems of conversion is full of anger and contempt. The Waste Land and the quatrain poems in which Sweeney first appears works of bright idealistic optimism compared to Sweeney Agonistes and The Hollow Men.

The Hollow Men is, after all, headed A penny for the Old Guy, which is to say it offers something up to be burned, something wrong and damnable and a threat to proper order. It uses as its epigraph "Mistah Kurtz he dead" from Conrad's Heart of Darkness Eliot had earlier contemplated another quotation from that work "the horror, the horror" as epigraph for The Waste Land until Pound talked him out of it. Since there is no evidence in either case that Eliot was especially concerned about Conrad's excoriation of Belgian colonial policy, it seems more likely that what drew Eliot to the novella was a desire to pick up on Conrad's sense of London, and modernity, as "one of the dark places of the earth". The idealistic dead his father, Verdenal are gone from us; what is left are scarecrows, stuffed shapes, presiding over fields no longer capable of fertility; the world is ending "not with a bang but a whimper".

Continue reading...

Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 3815

Latest Images

Trending Articles





Latest Images