T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland"

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S. Eliot called the Collected Poems: 1909-1962, and of that larger poem it may be said that it has a dramatic completeness, if not an aesthetic unity. One should like to pursue the distinction by considering that…

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wall" he knew why, and as a consequence of what violent death and what illicit amour, the pestilence had fallen on the unreal city, but declined to tell. In the Odyssey he "walked among the lowest of the dead" and evaded predicting Odysseus death by water; the encounter was somehow necessary to Odysseus homecoming, and Odysseus was somehow satisfied with it, and did get home, for a while. In the Metamorphoses he underwent a change of sex for watching the coupling of snakes: presumably the occasion on which he "foresuffered" what is tonight "enacted on this same divan or bed." He is often the prophet who knows but withholds his knowledge, just as Hieronymo, who is mentioned at the close of the poem, knew how the tree he had planted in his garden came to bear his dead son, but was compelled to withhold that knowledge until he could write a play which, like The Waste Land, employs several languages and a framework of allusions impenetrable to anyone but the "hypocrite lecteur." It is an inescapable shared guilt that makes us so intimate with the contents of this strange deathly poem; it is also, in an age that has eaten of the tree of the knowledge of psychology and anthropology ("After such knowledge, what forgiveness?"), an inescapable morbid sympathy with everyone else, very destructive to the coherent personality, that (like Tiresias years as a woman) enables us to join with him in "fore suffering all." These sciences afford us an illusion of understanding other people, on which we build sympathies that in an ideal era would have gone out with a less pathological generosity, and that are as likely as not projections of our self-pity and self-absorption, vices for which Freud and Frazer afford dangerous nourishment. Tiresias is he who has lost the sense of other people as inviolably other, and who is capable neither of pity nor terror but only of a fascination spuriously related to compassion, which is merely the twentieth centurys special mutation of ...
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