Exploring The Waste Land
A biography page linked from The Waste Land, Part I, line 68

Bells and spectors
A letter from Jean Verdenal

60)  Unreal City,
61)  Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
62)  A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
63)  I had not thought death had undone so many.
64)  Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
65)  And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
66)  Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
67)  To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
68)  With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

In this section Eliot has a note to have us think of seeing spectors.

Cf. Baudelaire:

Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves,
Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant.

(Swarming city, city full of dreams
Where the spector in full daylight accosts the passerby.)

At the end of the section Eliot has a note to remind us of the importance of the changing tone of the bells.

68)  With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

A phenomenon which I have often noticed.

In August 1912 Jean Verdenal, in Paris, wrote a short note (in French) to Eliot. In Verdenal's first paragraph he had a sentence describing his summer vacation but he went on to say how hard he must study for his examinations. In the second (and last) paragraph he wrote:

And then this evening, on the stroke of ten (all the bells are ringing and, almost at the same time, comes a tinkling of fairy distant chimes, soon blotted out by the measured pealing of a deeper bell, do you remember?) suddenly I think of you as ten o'clock is striking. And your image is there in front of me, and I am writing you this little note.

[ Letters p. 35 ]

Exploring The Waste Land
File name: bq068.html
File date: Sunday, September 29, 2002
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