Bright Young Things discussion

Group Reads Archive > Selected Poems of T.S. Eliot - The Hollow Men & Ash-Wednesday

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss the following poems:

The Hollow Men

which appear in

Selected Poems of T.S. Eliot by T.S. Eliot Selected Poems of T.S. Eliot by T.S. Eliot T.S. Eliot

message 2: by Charles (new)

Charles I don't like these poems. Compared to the work Eliot did earlier I think they're perfunctory. And compared to The Wasteland's view of the human condition I don't like the talk of guilt and sin, which is little and self-destructive. I need someone to tell me what there is here I'm missing. Even the music is harsh compared to the early work.

message 3: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
The Hollow men is said to have four main allusive influences:

*The Gunpowder Plot of 1605

*Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - the assassination plot

*Dante's Divine Comedy

*Joseph Conrad's novel The Heart of Darkness

I think the reference is similar to The Wasteland - in that humanity is 'hollow' and in need of a spiritual re-invention.

Ash Wednesday seems to rest on the idea of religious re-awakening also - linked to the ash wednesday sermon of Lancelot Andrews of 1619, which talks of turning and returning to faith.

(source: A Student's Guide to the Selected Poems of T.S. Eliot by B.C. Southam)

message 4: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Is much known of Eliot's religious conversion to Catholicism? - I'd like to know more about this as I think we've seen how much it influences his poetry.

message 5: by Charles (new)

Charles Ally wrote: "The Hollow men is said to have four main allusive influences:

Well, I'd have to agree with these, although I think, without looking into the critical literature, that the link to Conrad is a stretch. Still, it seems to me that this material is not digested, as one says in creative writing seminars, in comparison. I find the voice in The Hollow Men martial, almost bullying compared to the subtleties and sinuousness of Prufrock. I suppose that might be just a teste, though.

message 6: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I think that's true - the tone of The Hollow Men is certainly more direct and less lyrical (if thats the right word) than some of Eliot's comparable poems. I like it's directness - quite straigtforward language.

As to the links with Conrad - these allusions are referred to as 'complex' by Southam. Here's a short extract...

"Next to Dante, Conrad's story is possibly the most important single literary experience in Eliot's poetry from 'Prufrock' onwards. He [Eliot] once described it as an outstanding instance of the literary evocation of evil a tale 'of horror' Conrad's story is full of hollow men - empty of faith, of personality, of moral strength, of humanity. Marlow tells of his journey into a nightmare kingdom of death, the heart of darkness in the forests of the Congo, where he feels himself to have 'stepped into the gloomy circle of some inerno' and sees around him figures 'in all attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair'...There is a constant and emphatic imagery of eyes (matched by Eliot), of whispers, of shades and shadows, of twilight greyness, of formlessness and impalpability, of inertia, paralysis, unfulfillment and aimlessness."

It seems that the message in both pieces is that all men are "fated to endure the condition tht Eliot figures so allusively in The Hollow Men, and all fated to be blind to their condition".

Southam also refers to the critical position of Ronald Bush, which was that Eliot overlaid his work with these other narratives (the guy fawkes history, the Heart of Darkness, and even the 'controlling myth of the Grail Legend' as he wanted to infer a formal narrative pattern to work he felt had no shape.

Apparantly Eliot wrote to Ezra Pound shortly before the poem's publication asking 'Is it too bad to print?'.


message 7: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I think these 2 may be my favorites thus far. I think part of my problem with Eliot is that he alludes to other works or perhaps historical events of which I have no knowledge. As soon as I read "A penny for the Old Guy" I knew that he was referring to Guy Fawkes and that he (and his co-conspirators) were hollow because they were criminals, but also referring to the effigies made of straw that are burned on Guy Fawkes' Day. Like I mentioned in the "Prufrock" conversation, I'm a literal reader, and this one had a fairly literal line, so I was able to enjoy it more than some of the others.

message 8: by Charles (new)

Charles Jennifer W wrote: "I think these 2 may be my favorites thus far. I think part of my problem with Eliot is that he alludes to other works or perhaps historical events of which I have no knowledge. As soon as I read "A..."

This tendency to allusiveness -- and the practice of elision which removes all the interior connections of getting from A to B -- are among the great annoyances of Modernism. I really think that if the poem or novel is not intelligible without explicating these allusions and excisions then it's a bad poem. The challenge of tracking down all the Old Guys is fun, and it deepens one's reading, but first a direct confrontation with the poem, without which none of the other is worthwhile. One should be a literal reader, I think.

back to top