American Writers, Volume III by Leonard Unger

By Leonard Unger

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Then, his discovery of his ignorance and impotence in the world's vastness and mystery. Then, his attempt to gain mystical identification with this mystery by sensory and aesthetic contemplation, and most through music, When he a moment occupies The hollow of himself and like an air Pervades all other. Then (in a passage to which Eliot, who seems to owe several points to this poem, suggests a reply in the closing lines of "Burnt Norton"), his realization that there is no longer a "word" which can translate beauty into thought and thus into himself (the word described as known to the Virgin of Chartres but as now become "three round letters" in a carving was presumably the "AVE" which hailed, in effect, the Incarnation).

Stylistically The Waste Ltmd is by far the more experimental and radical. , ARCHIBALD MacLElSH / 7 Adonis) as a type of the seasonal decay and revival of nature. Both also, in applying this symbolism within a modern context of life, emphasize not the victory of life over death, but the reverse of this. On the other hand, they again differ most significantly in what they apply such symbolism to. The Waste Land, exploring a gnostic and "spiritualized" sense of death and rebirth, uses a special myth (the Grail legend) concerning an arrest of fertility, whose equivalent in the poem is the male protagonist's state of emotional aridity and despair.

References to nations made captive by the Falange, the Germans, or the Japanese might imply something like a war message (the year being 1939); on the other hand, the historical material is of the sort that, unlike MacLeish, a Marxist would have exploited seditiously. In its intellectual ambiguity America Was Promises had much in common with the philosophy of the national administration at that period. So seen, of course, the poem is milder than the rhetoric of its conclusion: it is simply urging people to remain loyal to New Deal doctrines at home and American policy abroad.

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