Friday, March 13, 2009

1910-ish. (-esque?)

So after doing some investigation in Inventions of the March Hare, which I introduced below, I've discovered this about the "pre-1920 Eliot": what I've liked, and, again, found to be Ideal, in Eliot was indeed all written before 1912. The poems written (not published) between November of 1909 and November of 1911 have "It" (alas, even from these, it is only the city poems that have the slightest interest to me). From the notes of the editor and the prose selections from Eliot himself, it appears that the principal--though by no means the sole--inspiration was, in fact, Jules Laforgue. And Laforgue, as it turns out, was no mere adherent to French symbolism: he was an innovator and an original. In essence, the poetry of the early-20th century experience--or as I have called it, the Poetry of the City Streets--originated in elements of Laforgue, in France, and was subsequently invented by Eliot, not in England, but in America--i.e., before he moved to England. It wasn't Paris, or even London, that provided Eliot with his "vision of the street that the street hardly understands": it was St. Louis and Cambridge.

I always find these moments of originary artistic discovery to be a relief, precisely because they extinguish hope. Perhaps "extinguish hope" sounds too drastic. It is just that I am a firm believer in answers. I believe questions have answers, by logical and metaphysical necessity. Searches and researches must not continue on forever. The idea that a journey--which implies a destination--has, in fact, no destination--that, somehow, one is supposed to be happy with the journey as an end in itself, the question for the sake of questioning--is intrinsic bullshit.

It is when we find answers, first causes, that we find things valuable in and of themselves. One ends the obsessing, the ratiocinating, the incessant wondering, and gets on with the contemplating, the enjoying, the living. It is therefore a relief when I find "narrowness." The narrow road is the right road; the wide road is easy. Questions are easy. It is answers that are hard: they demand something of you. Hence the calamities of modern "open-mindedness."

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