Time in the Poetry of T. S. Eliot: A Study in Structure and by Nancy K. Gish

By Nancy K. Gish

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Sample text

Gerontion, too, has made this frightful discovery when, as for Beatrice, it is already too late. Unlike her, he lived past the terror and lost even that in ceaseless self questioning. The choice of' inquisition' is exactly right, for his life is self-torture with no likely end but death. His impotent decay is unlike Beatrice's passionate action, but both stem from ignoring moral truth until they are destroyed by it, in Gerontion's case, 'devoured' in the dark night which is both aridity and a feeling of being eaten, picked to dry bones but finding in that dryness no peace.

Who clipped the lion's wings And flea'd his rump and pared his claws? Thought Burbank, meditating on Time's ruins, and the seven laws. A central figure not only in the satires but in later poems, Sweeney epitomises crude vulgarity, remaining wholly unaware of any value beyond transient sensation. The Sweeney poems in the 1920 volume work, like 'Burbank With a Baedecker: Bleistein With a Cigar', through ironic juxtaposition of situations having common characteristics but showing a loss of heroic dimensions.

In Horace 'aequo' (literally 'equal' or 'even') takes on the meaning impartial, ruthless, unremitting. 18 If the first three stanzas suggest the decay of passionate love, the second group of three seems to focus on similarity; Bleistein and Shylock both represent preoccupation with money. But here too the relation between change and permanence is more complex than first appears. Shylock, after all, desired justice, a high ideal in itself though he warped it by failing to grant mercy. But he was hardly 'protozoic'.

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