Exploring The Waste Land
A poetry commentary page linked from The Waste Land, Part III, line 215

Part III
Lines 215-234

From F.O. Matthiessen's The Achievement of T.S. Eliot, pp. 30-31:

... [Eliot's] usual way of surprising the reader into a new perception of reality is by means of the nuance rather than the conceit, by the rapid associations of his shifting thought, and by the accompanying deft and subtle exactness of his verbal contrasts:

The limpid description of the evening, with its romantic associations heightened by the echo of Stevenson's 'Requiem' as well as by the emulation of some lines by of Sappho (of which Eliot tells us in a note), is suddenly startled into a new aspect by the introduction of the typist. It is worth observing that this effect of surprise is made partly by the equally sudden shift in syntax, whereby 'the typist,' at first the object of 'brings,' becomes in turn the subject of 'clears.' Such breaking through the rules of conventional grammar, as the irregular lines break through conventional versification, corresponds to Eliot's remark that 'the structure of the sentences [of the metaphysical poets] is sometimes far from simple, but this is not a vice; it is a fidelity to thought and feeling.'

Throughtout the passage there is a similar weaving back and forth from phrases embodying traditional loveliness to phrases rising from sharp, realistic perceptions of the actual city. ...

Matthiessen goes on to point out a series of rising and falling expectations that Eliot presents the reader such as the anticipation of Tiresias and the typist of a special "expected guest" that turns out to be "the young man carbuncular." Eliot has done the same with his description of the typist's flat.

Exploring The Waste Land
File name: pq215.html
File date: Sunday, September 29, 2002
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