Reading the 20th Century discussion

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Poetry > T. S. Eliot

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message 1: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9302 comments Mod
Thomas Stearns Eliot, (26 September 1888 – 4 January 1965) was a British essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic, and "one of the twentieth century's major poets". He moved from his native United States to England in 1914 at the age of 25, settling, working, and marrying there. He eventually became a British subject in 1927 at the age of 39, renouncing his American citizenship.


message 2: by Rosina (new)

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 219 comments For A-Levels, in 1965, we studied from a book called 10 20th century poets. Eliot was one, and Edward Thomas, and Yeats, Hardy, Betjeman and Robert Frost (we actually only studied six of them). I can still remember poems that I learned by heart then!

Musee des Beaux Arts

W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.


message 3: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4391 comments Mod
How A levels have narrowed - I don't think 6 poets would be on the curriculum today even in an anthology. And lovely that you learned to memorise them.

I'm not especially familiar with Auden but know this and like the way he creates poetry from a painting, merging textual and visual art.


message 4: by Rosina (new)

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 219 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "How A levels have narrowed - I don't think 6 poets would be on the curriculum today even in an anthology. And lovely that you learned to memorise them.

I'm not especially familiar with Auden but ..."


Looking at this I realise that a) my memory of what I studied has become confused and b) I either thought this was about Auden, or that it was by Eliot.

We must have done more of the ten - since I also remember parts of poems by Walter de la Mare and Owen and Eliot/Auden! I

I have been inspired by the memory, and ordered a used copy. There were some excellent poems there.


message 5: by Pages (new)

Pages | 112 comments I read his Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats after watching Cats the musical when I was a youngun.


message 6: by Rosina (new)

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 219 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "How A levels have narrowed - I don't think 6 poets would be on the curriculum today even in an anthology. And lovely that you learned to memorise them.

I'm not especially familiar with Auden but ..."


My obvious confusion during my initial post led me to say I was studying six poets for A-Level. It was actually O-Levels - I didn't do English at A Level. In addition to the poets, we also did Henry V, and The Rover by Conrad (unabridged,). I suspect that's a heavier load than children today do at GCSE.


message 7: by Annabel (new)

Annabel Frazer | 82 comments I've just reread Dorothy Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon, which draws on Eliot's The Hollow Men to bring Lord Peter's shell-shock into sharper relief. (view spoiler) It's always interesting to read comparatively contemporary responses to literature. Busman's Honeymoon is 1937, I think.


message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 332 comments Just stumbled across this thread.
Ally, recommended I read The Wasteland, I'm still persevering with it. I will get there!


message 9: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1078 comments Michael wrote: "Just stumbled across this thread.
Ally, recommended I read The Wasteland, I'm still persevering with it. I will get there!"


I was so glad that when I first read it there was annotation.


message 10: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 332 comments The obvious question then, if a piece of literature requires annotation or further explanation, then to whom is the piece directed, the many or the few?
Also, is that literature for the enjoyment of the reader or the self-satisfaction of the author?


message 11: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 8759 comments Mod
What do you think Michael? As someone currently reading it


message 12: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 8759 comments Mod
On poetry more generally, I remember when I read The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry I was struck that the reason why there were hundreds of thousands of poems written and published during World War One was because:

- poetry was for most of Edwardian society, a part of everyday life;
- The media was also almost wholly print-based (cinema was still very much in its infancy);
- Victorian and Edwardian educational reforms resulted in increased literacy;
- the army which Britain sent to fight was the most widely and deeply educated in her history.

I find it very hard to imagine an era when poetry was so much a part of day-to-day life.


message 13: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 332 comments My initial thoughts are that some phrases are not in English, so unless you are able to translate them how can you fully appreciate the prose?
If you are able to translate all of them, I would suggest the audience is quite narrow.

I'll have another go at it this week and consider it without annotations and then with annotations/explanations.
In many ways it is like paintings where subtle or hidden messages are part of the overall picture.


message 14: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 8759 comments Mod
I'm sure you're right Michael. Without the annotations you would miss quite a lot.


The Wikipedia entry has a lot of useful information.....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Was...

The start of the poem is here...

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem...


message 15: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 332 comments Thanks. I shall revisit it with a renewed open mind. Not to be confused with one which is merely empty, although when it comes to poetry..........


message 16: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1078 comments I read it for a class in college and we used The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, edited by Richard Ellmann. Part of the reason for the annotations was the Latin but also that we no longer lived in the world where that poem was written.


message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 332 comments True, but there is German and French too, maybe one or two other languages too.


message 18: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1078 comments Michael wrote: "True, but there is German and French too, maybe one or two other languages too."

I think there might be Greek too.


message 19: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 332 comments eek!


message 20: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 332 comments and who was T S Eliot writing for?


message 21: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1078 comments Ezra Pound


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