T.S. Eliot & April /2

Both Geoffrey Chaucer (see here) and American poet Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888 –1965) start their most famous works by mentioning “April” in the first line but with completely different connotations.
If in Chaucer’s work, “sweet” April has a positive connotation, it means a vigorous, fertile rebirth of nature, animals and men which pushes people to embark on a new journey , new adventures, Eliot’s images are drastically different, he takes the images of rebirth found in Chaucer’s poem and distorts them, shatters them.
If we had not been alerted by the title of the whole poem “The Waste land”, or the title of its first section “Burial of the Dead”, here we are clearly told that April is a cruel month, a painful symbol of infertility. The poem is indeed about sterility of all kinds – bodily, spiritual, geographical – and how post-war Europe became a kind of waste land after the horror and destruction of the First World War.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

The poem starts challenging the traditional attitude to spring: April is not welcome because it cannot offer the land and people a prospect of rebirth, only pain.
The land is dead, nothing can save it, no plant can grow from it. It only awakes memory and desire, mixes past and future, the memory of a better time and the desire for a positive change. And in doing so, it takes land and people from the paradoxical comfort of winter, the cold season when life is reduced to a minimum which, however, kept people warm. The inhabitants of the waste land are afraid of awakening to life, they prefer the quiet and safety of death, that winter that covers the world with its oblivious security, the “forgetful snow” that allowed them to ignore what lay beneath.

Spring, on the other hand, comes with its cruel warmth and melts the snow that prevented people from remembering their pain, mocking them with hopes of renewal which will prove to be false, and with possibilities that can never be realized.

To be continued

Sia Geoffrey Chaucer (vedi qui) che il poeta americano Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965) iniziano la loro opera più famosa citando “Aprile” nel primo verso, ma con connotazioni completamente diverse.

Se nell’opera di Chaucer il “dolce” aprile ha una connotazione positiva, significa una lussureggiante e fertile rinascita di natura, animali e uomini che spinge le persone a intraprendere nuove avventure, le immagini di Eliot sono drasticamente diverse: prende le immagini della rinascita che si trovano nel poema di Chaucer e le distorce, le frantuma.
Se non ci fossero sorti dubbi con il titolo dell’intera opera “La terra desolata”, o quello della prima sezione “La sepoltura dei morti”, qui ci viene detto chiaramente che aprile è un mese crudele, un doloroso simbolo di infertilità. E infatti il lungo poemetto parla di sterilità di ogni tipo – del corpo, dello spirito, dei luoghi – e di come l’Europa del dopoguerra sia diventata una specie di terra desolata dopo l’orrore e la distruzione della prima guerra mondiale

Aprile è il mese più crudele, genera
lillà da terra morta, mescolando
memoria e desiderio, risvegliando
radici assopite con piogge primaverili.
L’inverno ci ha tenuti al caldo, coprendo
la terra con neve obliosa, nutrendo
un po’ di vita con tuberi secchi.

(trad: L.Z.)

Il poemetto inizia andando contro l’atteggiamento tradizionale nei confronti della primavera: aprile non è il benvenuto perché non può offrire alla terra e alle persone una prospettiva di rinascita, ma solo dolore.
La terra è morta, niente può salvarla, nessuna pianta può crescere da essa. Risveglia solo memoria e desiderio, mescola passato e futuro, il ricordo di un tempo migliore e il desiderio di un cambiamento positivo. E così facendo sottrae la terra al conforto paradossale dell’inverno, la stagione fredda in cui la vita è ridotta al minimo tenendo però le persone al caldo. Gli abitanti della terra desolata hanno paura di risvegliarsi alla vita, ma preferiscono la quiete e la sicurezza della morte, quell’inverno che copre il mondo con la sua sicurezza ignara, la “neve obliosa” che ha permesso loro di ignorare cosa giaceva al di sotto.

La primavera, invece, arriva con il suo tepore crudele e scioglie la neve che impediva alle persone di ricordare il proprio dolore, e si prende gioco di tutti con speranze di rinnovamento che si riveleranno false e possibilità che non potranno mai essere realizzate.

78 thoughts on “T.S. Eliot & April /2

  1. Prima cosa io ho amato molto Eliot per “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” che mio padre mi leggeva che ero piccina, i suoi gatti mi sono rimasti nelle memoria sempre e poi che dirti forse una via di mezzo sarebbe auspicabile ❤️🌸

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  2. April is the month to enjoy the sunlight and heat wave in India . And as per your blog , the two great writers of the world have used this month in two different connotations . Perception of a writer that matters the most . But the common man views as such are not unimportant as such . We feel especially in India that the new year starts with the month of April i.e is called the Hindu new year . Our financial year starts with the month of April . Since we are not a writer of the stature of T.S Eliot , that’s why our views may not be counted . But fact is that perceptional differences rule the world . Anyway , your blog is nice , beautiful , and scholarly interpreted . Thanks !

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    1. I didn’t know that in India the New Year starts in April. So, since I’m curious, I’ve made some research and I’ve found out that until
      1582, when Pope Gregory XIII replaced the Julian calendar (created by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. ) with the Gregorian calendar, here too New Year’s Day was celebrated in April, on April 1, around the time of the vernal equinox, when the hours of day and night are nearly equal.💙💙💙💙💙💙

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  3. Conosco bene i versi di Eliot. Sono stati il mio motto per anni. Ho fatto infatti per 10 anni il part-time verticale su base annuale, al lavoro. Facevo 6 mesi estivi in aeroporto in Italia e 6 mesi invernali in nullafacenza in Finlandia. Quando tornavo a lavorare il primo Aprile, indovina cosa citavo? 😄😄😄

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  4. Wonderful compare and contrast, Luisa. Eliiot’s poem reminds me of a more convoluted version of Seeger’s ” I Have a Rendezvous with Death”
    But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
    At midnight in some flaming town,
    When Spring trips north again this year,
    And I to my pledged word am true,
    I shall not fail that rendezvous.

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      1. I like April also. It is one of the prettiest months in Virginia, with flowering dogwoods, red buds, and azaleas. We normally have warm days and cool nights.

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    1. Thanks for appreciating my post, even though it talks about April.
      I must say that I like this month, it reminds me that , when I was a little girl attending elementary school, I filled my exercise books with drawings of branches with tender leaves and dozens of pink flowers🌺🌺🌺

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  5. Good contrast for sure Luisa. Spring (and happiness) is all about attitude and latitude. It is likely similar to how the Ukraine sees spring right now. Spring can bring hope, but not in all cases. Thanks for sharing. Allan

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  6. Mah, credo che forse l’autore volesse descrivere il mese di aprile nel periodo della fine della guerra, è in quel momento perodo credo sia stato più che plausibile abbia descritto il mese di aprile come un periodo di sterilità considerando appunto il dopo guerra!! Per quel poco che lo conosco non lo ritengo un autore di un genere duro ma anzi, tutt’altro!!! Buon pomeriggio cara Luisa e grazie infinite del sempre grande lavoro che svolgi per noi 😘

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  7. Wow. Fabulous. You are a storehouse of knowledge. Brilliant presentation and very interesting. I love reading your blogs. They are too good to be missed.

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  8. Eish, what a brutal clout on April by Eliot, the month when I was born 😂😂. I don’t want to imagine that April is that cruel or is a symbol of brutality. But it could be… after all, it’s in April that we remember the Lord’s painful death. 😌❤🌷

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  9. As you describe the poem, it is a map of the contemporary world where the poet is not just another assistant, but an agent provocateur who denies any idea of fate or chance to make an event out of language, a revenge that challenges literary conventions, political, social and cultural of a time in collapse. Now it can be a good tool to understand some of the problems that are somehow repeated with the events we are now experiencing.

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  10. Bonjour LUISA
    Brise légère, soleil du matin tous vous attendent pour vous réveiller. Puisses-vous avoir une merveilleuse journée et souvenez-vous de moi autant que je me souviens de vous
    Amitié bise Bernard

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  11. A lot of people think that the genius poet and playwright T. S. Elliot was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but it was actually more like a coffee spoon. For T. S. Eliot, it was his favorite spoon—it was small and brown and had a nice heft to it—that gave him the idea to write The Waste Land in 1921, which revolutionized poetry as we know it today.

    https://www.tomslatin.com/the-unlikely-muse-how-t-s-elliot-found-inspiration-in-coffee-spoons/

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