T. S. Eliot: The Poems (British and Irish Authors) by Martin Scofield

By Martin Scofield

This publication presents a finished and stimulating advent to Eliot's poetry for these examining and learning it, possibly for the 1st time. The poems--as good as the various poetic drama and suitable prose criticism--are mentioned intimately and put with regards to the advance of Eliot's oeuvre, to his existence, and to a much broader context of philosophical and spiritual enquiry.

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Alfred Prufrock' or The Waste Land. As Eliot said in his essay on Massinger: 'Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal' (Selected Essays, p. 206). It is the same with many of the poems in this group. There are two versons of 'Song' ('If time and space the sages say') 40 EARLY POETIC INFLUENCES AND CRITICISM written in the verse form of Ben Jonson's 'Drink to me only with thine eyes'; a solemn public-occasion poem written for a graduation ceremony at Smith Academy in 1905, touched very faintly by the shades of Tennyson and Arnold; and 'Song' ('When we come home across the hill*) which reads almost like two discarded stanzas from Tennyson's In Memoriam.

It 33 T. S. ELIOT: THE POEMS involves, probably, a recognition, implicit in the expression of every experience, of other kinds of experience which are possible* (p. 303). This latter formulation would seem to be a way of describing irony, and it is highly relevant to the procedures of 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' or 'Portrait of a Lady' or the poems of 1920, which keep alive a sense of the romantic in the midst of the banal - and vice versa - looking forward (however vainly) to 'a time to murder and create', or merely 'Recalling things that other people have desired'.

We tend to think of him as essentially counter-romantic, with his stress in well-known early essays like Tradition and the Individual Talent' (1919) on the impersonality of the poet and his need to 'escape from emotion'. 2 But Prufrock (as I shall suggest below) is a would-be romantic hero, and there is much colour and vigour comparable to Omar in Eliot's early verse. Wake! For the sun who scattered into flight The Stars before him from the Field of Night, Drives night along with them from Heav'n, and strikes The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light.

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