chapter  2
6 Pages

SS Appendix B. On Mr Eliot’s Poetry Index (For definitions of terms used in special

Mr Eliot’s poetry has occasioned an unusual amount of irri­ tated or enthusiastic bewilderment. The bewilderment has sev­ eral sources. The most formidable is the unobtrusiveness, in some cases the absence, of any coherent intellectual thread upon which the items of the poem are strung. A reader o f ‘Gerontion’,

[290] o f ‘Preludes’, or of The Waste Land, may, if he will, after repeated readings, introduce such a thread. Another reader after much effort may fail to contrive one. But in either case energy will have been misapplied. For the items are united by the accord, contrast, and interaction of their emotional effects, not by an intellectual scheme that analysis must work out. The value lies in the unified response which this interaction creates in the right reader. The only intellectual activity required takes place in the realization of the separate items. W e can, of course, make a ‘rationalization’ o f the whole experience, as we can o f any expe­ rience. If we do, we are adding something which does not belong to the poem. Such a logical scheme is, at best, a scaffold­ ing that vanishes when the poem is, constructed. But we have so built into our nervous systems a demand for intellectual coher­ ence, even in poetry, that we find a difficulty in doing without it.