'Gerontion' by Thomas Stearns Eliot
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Thou hast nor youth nor age
But as it were an after dinner sleep
Dreaming of both.
Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
I was neither at the hot gates
Nor fought in the warm rain
Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,
Bitten by flies, fought.
My house is a decayed house,
And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,
Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,
Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.
The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;
Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.
The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,
Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.
I an old man,
A dull head among windy spaces.
Signs are taken for wonders. "We would see a sign":
The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year
Came Christ the tiger
In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering Judas,
To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk
Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero
With caressing hands, at Limoges
Who walked all night in the next room;
By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;
By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room
Shifting the candles; Fraulein von Kulp
Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles
Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,
An old man in a draughty house
Under a windy knob.
After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities. Think now
She gives when our attention is distracted
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
What's not believed in, or if still believed,
In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon
Into weak hands, what's thought can be dispensed with
Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think
Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.
The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last
We have not reached conclusion, when I
Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
I have not made this show purposelessly
And it is not by any concitation
Of the backward devils.
I would meet you upon this honestly.
I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.
I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it
Since what is kept must be adulterated?
I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:
How should I use it for your closer contact?
These with a thousand small deliberations
Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,
Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,
With pungent sauces, multiply variety
In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do,
Suspend its operations, will the weevil
Delay? De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled
Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear
In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits
Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,
White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims,
And an old man driven by the Trades
To a sleepy corner.
Tenants of the house,
Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Gerontion: A Literary Masterpiece
Gerontion is a classic poem written by the renowned poet, T.S. Eliot, in 1920. This poem is a complex work of literature that speaks about the disillusionment and despair of the modern world, particularly the aftermath of World War I. Eliot's poetic language, use of symbolism, and allusions to classical literature make this poem a masterpiece of modernist poetry.
The poem opens with the title character, Gerontion, sitting in his room, surrounded by memories of his past. The first line of the poem, "Here I am, an old man in a dry month," sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker is feeling isolated, alone, and disconnected from the world around him. The image of an old man in a dry month creates a sense of emptiness and desolation, setting up the theme of the poem.
The use of the first person narrative in Gerontion creates a sense of intimacy between the speaker and the reader. The reader is drawn into the speaker's world and is able to see the world through his eyes. This allows the reader to experience the speaker's emotions and feelings, which are central to the poem.
One of the most striking features of Gerontion is Eliot's use of symbolism. Throughout the poem, Eliot employs a variety of symbols to represent the decay and disillusionment of the modern world. For example, the "smoke" that rises from the "ashes" in the first stanza symbolizes the destruction and devastation caused by the war. The "broken Coriolanus" in the second stanza represents the downfall of a hero, while the "Hesperus" in the third stanza symbolizes the decline of civilization.
In addition to the use of symbolism, Eliot also makes use of allusions to classical literature. The references to Shakespeare, Dante, and the Bible in Gerontion add depth and complexity to the poem. These allusions create a bridge between the past and the present, highlighting the continuity of human experience across time.
The use of language in Gerontion is also noteworthy. Eliot's use of language is precise and carefully crafted, creating a sense of musicality in the poem. The use of repetition, alliteration, and assonance creates a sense of rhythm and melody, adding to the overall impact of the poem. The poem's complex syntax and wordplay add to its depth and richness.
At its core, Gerontion is a poem about the disillusionment and despair of the modern world. The speaker is isolated, disconnected, and overwhelmed by the events of his time. The use of symbolism, allusions, and language creates a vivid and powerful portrait of the human condition in the modern age.
In conclusion, Gerontion is a literary masterpiece that showcases Eliot's poetic brilliance. Its use of symbolism, allusions, and language creates a powerful and complex portrait of the modern world. The poem's impact is felt long after the last line has been read, making it a timeless work of literature.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Gerontion: A Masterpiece of Modernist Poetry
Thomas Stearns Eliot, one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, wrote Gerontion in 1920, during a period of great social and cultural upheaval. The poem is a complex and multi-layered work that explores themes of disillusionment, decay, and the search for meaning in a world that seems to have lost its bearings. In this analysis, we will delve into the intricacies of Gerontion and explore its significance in the context of modernist poetry.
The poem is written in the voice of an elderly man, Gerontion, who is reflecting on his life and the world around him. The opening lines set the tone for the rest of the poem:
"Here I am, an old man in a dry month, Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain."
These lines immediately establish the sense of desolation and emptiness that pervades the poem. The image of an old man in a dry month suggests a sense of aridity and barrenness, while the reference to a boy reading to him creates a sense of dependency and powerlessness. The waiting for rain is a metaphor for the search for meaning and purpose in life, which seems to be elusive and unattainable.
The poem is structured in a series of fragmented and disjointed images, which reflect the fragmented nature of modern life. The images are drawn from a variety of sources, including classical mythology, the Bible, and contemporary culture. The effect is to create a sense of disorientation and confusion, which mirrors the sense of dislocation that many people felt in the aftermath of World War I.
One of the most striking images in the poem is the reference to the "Jew squats on the window sill, the owner, / Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp." This image is a powerful commentary on the anti-Semitic attitudes that were prevalent in Europe at the time. The reference to the Jew as a "spawn" suggests a sense of disgust and revulsion, while the image of him squatting on the window sill creates a sense of intrusion and violation.
Another powerful image in the poem is the reference to the "lost Archipelago." This image is a metaphor for the sense of dislocation and fragmentation that many people felt in the aftermath of World War I. The Archipelago represents a lost world of order and stability, which has been replaced by a chaotic and uncertain present.
Throughout the poem, there are references to classical mythology and literature, which serve to underscore the sense of cultural decay and decline. The reference to Tiresias, the blind prophet from Greek mythology, is particularly significant. Tiresias represents the wisdom of the past, which has been lost in the chaos of the present. The reference to Shakespeare's Hamlet is also significant, as it suggests a sense of existential despair and uncertainty.
The poem ends with the lines:
"Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison; Only at nightfall, aethereal rumours Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus."
These lines are a powerful commentary on the human condition. The "key" represents the search for meaning and purpose in life, which seems to be elusive and unattainable. The reference to a prison suggests that we are trapped in our own limitations and unable to escape the constraints of our own existence. The reference to Coriolanus, the tragic hero from Shakespeare's play, suggests a sense of futility and despair.
In conclusion, Gerontion is a masterpiece of modernist poetry that explores the themes of disillusionment, decay, and the search for meaning in a world that seems to have lost its bearings. The poem is structured in a series of fragmented and disjointed images, which reflect the fragmented nature of modern life. The references to classical mythology and literature serve to underscore the sense of cultural decay and decline. The poem ends with a powerful commentary on the human condition, which suggests that we are trapped in our own limitations and unable to escape the constraints of our own existence. Gerontion is a timeless work of art that continues to resonate with readers today.
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