"Gerontion" is a poem by T. S. Eliot that was first published in 1920. The work relates the opinions and impressions of a gerontic, or elderly man, through a dramatic monologue which describes Europe after World War I through the eyes of a man who has lived the majority of his life in the 19th Century. Eliot considered using this already published poem as a preface to The Waste Land, but decided to keep it as an independent poem. Along with The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Waste Land, and other works published by Eliot in the early part of his career, Gerontion discusses themes of religion, sexuality, and other general topics of Modernist poetry.
History :-Eliot was working on the poem after the end of World War One when Europe was undergoing changes as old systems of government and international relations were being replaced. During that time, Eliot was working at Lloyds Bank, editing The Egoist, and trying to publish poetry. Eliot had published in 1920 Ara Vos Prec, a limited printed work that collected his early poems including Gerontion. Two earlier versions of the poem can be found, the original typescript of the poem as well as that version with comments by Ezra Pound. In the typescript, the name of the poem is "Gerousia", referring to the name of the Council of the Elders at Sparta. Pound, who was living in London, England in 1919, acted as Eliot's editor and influenced many of his works. When Eliot considered publishing the poem as the opening part of The Waste Land, Pound discouraged him from doing so saying, "I do not advise printing Gerontion as preface. One don't miss it at all as the thing now stands. To be more lucid still, let me say that I advise you NOT to print Gerontion as prelude". The lines were never added to the text and remained an individual poem. The poem :-
"Gerontion" opens with an epigraph (from Shakespeare's play Measure for Measure) which states: Thou hast nor youth nor age
But as it were an after dinner sleep
Dreaming of both.
sexual themes that face Prufrock, only this time they meet with the body of an older man. The poem contains six stanzas of free verse describing the relationship between the narrator and the world around him, ending with a couplet that declares, Tenants of the house
Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season."
which describes the monologue as the production of the "dry brain," of the narrator in the "dry season" of his age. Hugh Kenner suggests that these "tenants" are the voices of The Waste Land and that Eliot is describing the method of the poem's narrative by saying that the speaker uses several different voices to express the impressions of Gerontion. Kenner also suggests that the poem resembles a portion of a Jacobean play as it relates its story in fragmented form and lack of a formal plot. Themes:-
Many of the themes within "Gerontion" are present throughout Eliot's later works, especially within The Waste Land. This is especially true of the internal struggle within the poem and the narrator's "waiting for rain". Time is also altered by allowing past and present to be superimposed, and a series of places and characters connected to various cultures are introduced. Religion
To Donald J. Childs, the poem attempts to present the theme of Christianity from the viewpoint of the Modernist individual with various references to the Incarnation and salvation. Childs believes that the poem moves from Christmas Day in line 19: "in the Juvescence of the year," to the Crucifixion in line 21 as it speaks of "Depraved May" and "flowering Judas". He argues that Gerontion contemplates the "paradoxical recovery of freedom through slavery and grace through sin". In line 20, the narrator refers to Jesus as "Christ the tiger", which emphasizes judgment rather than compassion, according to Jewel Spears Brooker in Mastery and Escape:T.S. Eliot and the Dialectic of Modernism. Peter Sharpe states that...
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