Eliot and Lawrence

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T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence
– Compare and Contrast their Techniques and Themes

T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence, although they are both contemporary authors of Modernist period, express different values and techniques. They are both born in 1880s when the world enters the industrial age. While both witness the dynamic transition, they both criticize the modernity but in different methods. Two authors’ relations regarding techniques and themes would be analyzed by comparing Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915) and Lawrence’s two poem - How Beastly the Bourgeois is (1929) and Bavarian Gentians (1923).

Eliot and Lawrence both display modernistic aspects. Modern middle class of England, so called Bourgeois is strongly criticized in Lawrence’s poem, How Beastly the Bourgeois is. The title itself clearly demonstrates Lawrence’s hostility towards bourgeois. The poem begins describing how bourgeois seem fancy outside. However, if he were let to be "faced with another man’s need, or to a bit of moral difficulty (11-12), he goes soggy like a wet meringue (13). He is all wormy and hollow inside just like an old mushroom. To Lawrence, bourgeois hold every aspect of cultural decay in the modern Western world. One of typical modernist tactic is to criticize modernity which includes the suddenly enhanced status of the middle class who lack corresponding intellectuals. Eliot also demonstrates Modernism. He was a key figure of Modernism and was so important a figure that the early Modernism era in 19th century is also called ‘The Age of Eliot’. In The Metaphysical Poets, written in 1915, he introduces his thoughts on what distinct features ‘Modern’ or ‘Metaphysical’ poets should use. Although his early poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is published prior to the book review, it also displays modernistic features. First of all, Prufrock, the speaker of the poem, is not going for ‘telos’. His utterances are not logically connected and thus fail to be accumulated into certain purpose. In this poem, his objective would be to declare his love as the title implies. However, all he does is to vision and revision (33). Constantly suggesting something bold but never do as so, he doesn’t move forward but always retreat.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’
Time to turn back and descend the stair, (37-39)
His impotent feelings are shown in lines 39 as he descend the stair or as he uses the word ‘digress’ (66). He keeps inferring to ‘overwhelming question’ but it doesn’t lead to actions, which reminds of Bourgeois.

Another similarity between Eliot and Lawrence’s poems is the coherent relationships between contents and structures. In Bavarian Gentians, gentians are compulsively modified by various embellishments.

Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the daytime, torch-like, with the smoking blueness of Pluto's gloom, 5ribbed and torch-like, with their blaze of darkness spread blue down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto's dark-blue daze, black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,

giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter's pale lamps give off light, 10lead me then, lead the way. (3-10)

Words or phrases such as “big and dark, only dark and again darkening the daytime” qualifies gentians and those embellishments don’t stop until the line 6 before the main verb ‘sweep’. Compulsive embellishments start again after the main verb, and what the speaker does from line 3 to 10 is just to describe how dark and blue the gentians are. This strikingly repetitive structure helps expressing the desperate desire the speaker has for deadly vitality. Bavarian gentians itself contains vitality as the word ‘Bavarian’ infers. Also, its role is to lead the speaker to underworld where ultimate source of vitality seems to reside.

Prufrock’s utterances are wordy and redundant...
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