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LINDA BRADLEY SALAMON The Orchestration of 'Burnt Norton, II' Garlic and sapphires in the mud Clot the bedded axle-tree. The trilling wire in the blood Sings below inveterate scars Appeasing long forgotten wars. The dance along the artery The circulation of the lymph Are figured in the drift of stars Ascend to summer in the tree We move above the moving leaf And hear upon the sodden floor Below, the boarhound and the boar Pursue their pattern as before But reconciled among the stars. The new reader of Four Quartets has no sooner found his way into the mysterious rose garden of 'our first world' than he is confronted with the first of the poems' compact, allusive lyrics - and with one of 'Burnt Norton"s scholarly cruces, 'Garlic and sapphires in the mud.' Critics as varied as Helen Gardner and Hugh Kenner have emphasized that the lyric is not susceptible to too close analysis and should not occasion puzzlement, for the poet's obvious general intention is to juxtapose the heroic and the sordid, the mundane and the celestial in a statement of cosmic unity.1 Eliot's wish to be evocative is fulfilled, however, in the many attempts to fix his exact references, especially in the first two fugitive lines. The consensus is that, for his alteration of Mallarme's phrase, Eliot drew upon his verbal memory of Chapman's Bussy d'Ambois and perhaps upon I Henry IV.2 These conjectures have the merit of pointing the reader toward Elizabethan cosmology, but they over-emphasize the 'magpie' quality of Eliot's imagination, for their suggested sources have little relation to the remainder of the lyric. Moreover, although students of the Quartets' structure agree that the 'prose' portion of each second movement should explain what the lyric exemplifies, Chapman and Shakespeare offer no clues to that relationship in 'Burnt Norton.' As readers of his essays have always known, however, Eliot had a knowledge of Elizabethiana both wide and detailed; he clearly felt afUTQ , Volume XLV, Number 1, Fall 1975 THE ORCHESTRATION OF 'BURNT NORTON, II' 51 finities to the Tudor mind and the Tudor worldview. If the student includes non-dramatic literature in his purview, he will discover another Elizabethan, Sir John Davies, about whom Eliot wrote a just and affectionate review essay in 1926.3 In Orchestra (1596), Davies - aided by Sir Thomas Elyot, a predecessor shared with Eliot - depicts a cosmos that can guide the reader to see 'Burnt Norton, II' in its entirety and thus speed his passage through the whole poem. Acquaintance with Orchestra suggests that the dance of the universe is one, and that the lyric concerns that dance. Further, recourse to Orchestra explains some specific elements with which Eliot dots his elusive universe, gives a reason why those elements appear with a clarity that does not praise or blame, and illuminates the way in which the various realms of macrocosm and microcosm are so casually, breathlessly, linked. No conscious, deliberate allusion by Eliot to Davies is here advanced. Rather, the strong reminiscence suggests the poet's capacity to retain over years rich ideas and fertile words which once were striking to him. When in the fullness of time he wished to express a similar conception, material which had remained latent came again to his mind. Eliot has left ample evidence, in The Waste Land annotations and in occasional comments / that his creative imagination could indeed work in this radically syncretistic, almost subliminal way. Moreover, in the rose garden experience of 'Burnt Norton, I' he describes a moment on the edge of memory which comes rushing back when the right spring is touched. It is only appropriate to express the fleeting joy and pain of such an experience by the near recapture, probably not quite conscious, of long forgotten reading. Thus Orchestra reverberates in 'Burnt Norton' in the comprehensive subject yet the discrete method which the two share: the union of very different quantities into one sphere of discourse, not by the individual sensuous analogies of metaphor but by parallel patterns of congruent motion, patterns in themselves still. Orchestra offers many examples for the sudden juxtaposition of objects far apart in the 'vast...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 50-66
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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