Lion and Unicorn

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Mon Sep 20 17:24:38 EDT 1999


To-day Nat wrote:

>I just finished reading the paper on Fire and Hemlock DWJ wrote in 1989,
> To me the most exciting thing was seeing some of the other sources she
>relied >on in making the book. TS Eliot...

I am now in an even greater frenzy of impatience to get hold of that
article!  When Melissa wrote some time ago that Nat might say "that wasn't
what I meant you ninny" (I know the ninny part is right, if not the rest of
it exactly), my immediate thought was that no one on the list would call
someone a ninny, but they might say "That is not what I meant at all".
This thought brought about a strong urge to read _The Love Song of J.
Alfred Prufrock_ again, and in doing so I was struck by how the poem was
the expression of someone unable to do what Tom said the hero business was
all about - ignore how silly you might feel.  (Interesting that Polly gets
that wrong, and Tom has to say that that wasn't what he meant.  But they
keep trying to communicate.)  It's all about that "different kind of
courage", which Tom and Polly learn, and Prufrock never rises to.  I
realize that this may have nothing whatsoever to do with what DWJ mentions
as sources, but it was still exciting to see Eliot mentioned.  In fact it
induced babbling enough to cause my daughter some concern about my mental
state.

As someone with strong Prufrock-like tendencies, I can verify that it can
require a good deal of courage to be on a list like this.  But it is worth
while.

As I was re-reading this poem in the context of the discussion about
objectivity/subjectivity in literature, it was amusing to read the
questions on it in my _Soundings_ (the Leaving Cert. poetry anthology used
in Irish schools for about 25 years).  This was edited by Gus Martin, a
professor in U.C.D.  The questions after Prufrock start with the sentence:
"This poem is regarded by many as one of the very first great modern
poems."  Two and a half pages later comes the last exploration:  "This poem
is one of the finest poetic statements about the human condition in the
modern world."   So much for objectivity!

If this is all totally irrelevant to the article, discussion, whatever, I
can take being told so.  A public "ninny" on the other hand...

Hallie
hallieod at indigo.ie





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