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Page 92

PART II - BOOKS
CHAPTER IV - T. S. ELIOT

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish ? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images.

He cannot say ` Avaunt ! ' to the horror, or he would crumble into dust. Consequently, there are outworks and blind alleys all over the poem-obstacles which are due to the nature of the central emotion, and are not to be charged to the reader. The Waste Land is Mr. Eliot's greatest achievement. It intensifies the drawing-room premonitions of the earlier poems, and it is the key to what is puzzling in the prose. But, if I have its hang, it has nothing to do with the English tradition in literature, or law or order, nor, except incidentally, has the rest of his work anything to do with them either. It is just a personal comment on the universe, as individual and as isolated as Shelley's Prometheus.
In respect to the horror that they find in life, men can be divided into three classes. In the first class are those who have not suffered often or acutely ; in the second, those who have escaped through horror into a further vision ; in the third, those who continue to suffer. Most of us belong to the first class, and to the elect outside it our comments must sound shallow ; they may feel that we have no right to comment at all. The mystics, such as Dostoievsky and Blake, belong to the second class. Mr. Eliot, their equal in sensitiveness, distinct from them in fate, belongs to the third. He is not a mystic. For Lancelot Andrewes contains several well-turned compliments to religion and Divine Grace, but no trace of religious emotion. Is he relegating it to another place ? No ; if it exists, it cannot be relegated. He has not got it ; what he seeks is not revelation, but stability.1 Hence his approval of institutions deeply rooted in the State, such as the Anglican Church, hence the high premium he places upon statesmanship. 'These fragments I have shored against my ruins.' Hence the attempted impersonality and (if one can use the word here) the inhospitality of his writing. Most writers sound, somewhere or other in their scale, a note of invitation. They ask the reader in, to co-operate or to look.

1 In view of Mr. Eliot's later work (not here considered) I would modify these remarks.

travel books:
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