Burning burning burning burning

By Tim Butler | Posted at 11:08 PM

I'm not sure why, but spring is making me melancholy this year even while I am glad to see its arrival. With that in mind, I must revisit my good friend Eliot.

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

I cannot even begin to comprehend “the Wasteland,” which is why — perhaps — it appeals so much to me. (As noted before, someone wishing to explain the above quote would do well to checkout “the Prologue” to Chaucer's the Canterbury Tales.) However, the entire sense of disconnect and the eventual deterioration of communication as the narrator falls more and more into transitions between languages (Eliot showing off his vast skills, of course!) seems somehow powerful to me. It is as if Eliot grants us the opportunity to open up someone's head and glance into the madness instilled by the Great War. But, more than that, I think it describes to some sense that disconnect that goes with the modern world in general.

There is a sense of desperation that tinges every line and permeates it with a sense of imminent destruction. There is a cry for help, and Eliot, not yet a believer, still poignantly focuses, ever so slightly on the intervention of God, when he does his interesting interlacing of the Buddha's “Fire Sermon” with St. Augustine's Confessions:

To Carthage then I came

Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest


These lines strike me perhaps more than any other in the poem. Although tonight, some lines that appear above it strike my fancy:

But at my back from time to time I hear
The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring
Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring.

These are interesting for their allusion. Eliot, by the admission of his own endnote admits that this is a reference to Marvell's “To His Coy Mistress.” But, instead of “time's wingéd chariot,” Eliot gives us “the sound of horns and motors.” Is this a suggestion that modernism has destroyed man's ability to hear something beautiful? While time might be horrifying, how much more so hearing a mere cacophony of machines?

That'd be my guess.

Please enter your comment entry below. Press 'Preview' to see how it will look.

Sign In to Your Account
:mrgreen: :neutral: :twisted: :arrow: :shock: :smile: :???: :cool: :evil: :grin: :idea: :oops: :razz: :roll: :wink: :cry: :eek: :lol: :mad: :sad: :!: :?: