T. S. Eliot's Music of Ideas in poetry.

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       One of the major hurdles that a reader of Eliot has to face is the Obscurity of his poetry. The bewilderment and frustration of the reader is due to the absence of intellectual thread among the scenes and feelings mentioned in a poem. The ideas are there but there is no scaffolding, nothing like a framework to hold them together.


      The over - intellectualisation of Eliot's poetry is due to a number of reasons, firstly the allusion from the whole field of knowledge including modern science and works of art; secondly, the compression of ideas-a number of them jumbled up and make it difficult for the reader to wade through the waves of the sea of ideas. Moreover, the poet follows the touch-and go method. He mentions one idea but does not develop it, he leaps to the second idea and then to the third and may finally go back to the first idea if necessary. The Waste Land and The Hollow Men are pure 'music of ideas' and very pretence of a thread of association is missing.


The ideas are of all kinds, abstract, and concrete, general and particular and, like the musicians' phrases, they are arranged not that they may tell us something, but that their effect in us may combine into a coherent whole of feeling and attitude and produce a particular liberation of the will.
Music of Ideas


      The erudition and scholarship of T. S. Eliot is amazing. Only a reader who is intellectually alert to the finger tips will be able to follow the chain of his thoughts and allusions. The very fact that Eliot thought it necessary to add 'Notes' to The Waste Land goes to show that he himself felt that without these clarifications, the reader would not be able to understand the poem. Secondly, in some cases, the inherent ambiguity of the purpose and direction of the poem may create an intellectual suspicion in the mind of the reader. This is due to use of symbols. Richards explains: "But its symbols are not mystical, but emotional. They stand, that is, not for ineffable objects, but for normal human experience. The poem, in fact, is radically naturalistic; only its compression makes it appear otherwise. And in this, it probably comes nearer to the original mystery which it perpetuates than transcendentalism does."


      The lack of precision and an unintentional vagueness may distort the impression which the poet wanted to create through a particular poem. Perhaps a lay reader may give up the attempt of the understanding of Eliot's poetry because he does not want to take all the trouble of picking up his brain to get at the core of the poet's mind.


      Richard's use of the phrase - 'music of ideas' - bring to the mind the sense of orchestral music without different tunes and instruments producing various sounds and merging in a single melody. Eliot attempts to arrange different kinds of ideas in a sort of pattern so as to produce a resultant coherence and unity. Richards explains: "The ideas are of all kinds, abstract, and concrete, general and particular and, like the musicians' phrases, they are arranged not that they may tell us something, but that their effect in us may combine into a coherent whole of feeling and attitude and produce a particular liberation of the will. They are there to be responded to, not to be pondered or worked out. Moreover the music of rhythms can be felt when the poem is read aloud."


      Just as in a piece of music, certain notes and sounds are repeated, similarly certain images and symbols are repeated by Eliot, as for instance, 'the nightingale'; 'the barge', 'the candle', 'the fire', 'the rape'. This is not due to any poverty of thought; it is a device to pin down the sequence to a central theme. The feelings of different kinds unite in the end to give a sense ot the harmony of experience. Richards explains: the central process in all Mr. Eliot's best poems is the same; the conjunction of feelings which, though superficially opposed-as squalor, for example, opposed to grandeur - yet tend as they develop to change place and even to unite. lf they do not develop far enough, the intention of the poet is missed. Mr. Eliot is neither sighing after vanished glories nor holding contemporary experience to scorn. The Waste Land, for instance, contains a series of images and experiences of human lusts and temptations and how all these can be overcome through the practice of the fundamentals of morality charity, sympathy and discipline. The final impression is one of resolution, of harmony, of peace, shantih.

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