?Under The Waterfall? By Thomas Hardy And ?Sweeney Among The Nightingales? By T. S. Eliot Essay, Research Paper
Some people say that history finds a way of repeating itself. The same thing happened to poetry in the Twentieth Century era. Poetry returned to a metaphysical style, which concentrates on nature and the belief in the supernatural power of different things. You ask how is history repeating itself this way? It is like this because this is the style that Romantic Poets wrote. The main difference between the two completely separate eras is the poets in the Twentieth Century use more common events and common relationships. This made poetry even easier to understand because more people could relate to it. To me, their poetry is often easier to understand because it addresses everyday life. I also think that much of this is due to the fact that more people were reading then there ever was before. Now the poets were writing so that everyone could read and understand what they were trying to express and have them relate it to everyday life. This can be easily seen through different works by different authors of that period. Poems such as “Under the Waterfall” By Thomas Hardy and “Sweeney Among the Nightingales” by T. S. Eliot. Both works express their feelings about an ordinary event, adult relationships.
Thomas Hardy’s poem “Under the Waterfall” can be interpreted many different ways. One cannot deny the power and influence nature has over the two lovers. The poem talks about two lovers going on a picnic in August to a waterfall. Hardy discusses the purity and serenity and permanence of the waterfall: “The purl of a runlet that never ceases / In stir of kingdoms, in war, in peaces; /…”(13-14). This shows the power of nature and its lasting presence. He then goes on to describe the picnic, “My lover and I / Walked under a sky / of blue with a leaf-wove awning of green” (27-29). Once again this shows the beauty and romantic power that nature has. He proceeds to describe an event that took place. He and his lover drank out the same glass. When he went to wash the “chalice of ours”(48) and it fell into the pool at the bottom of the falls. They both try and get it back out but they are unable to reach it. This implicates a greater supernatural power is at work. Something much stronger then their relationship. The lover though to himself that “it I thrust my arm below / Cold water in basin or bowl, a throe”(39-40). This means that it will hurt him. This shows that a stronger than their relationship is at work making it impossible to regain the chalice. Now it is there “By night, by day, when it shines or lours, / there lies intact that chalice of our, …”(47-48). This is symbolic of something greater, the lovers’ everlasting love for each other and how it will always be there. This poem is written through the experiences of normal ordinary people and not about experiences of extraordinary or powerful people which is a trait of Twentieth Century poets. All this expresses the feeling that Romantic poets put into their work, the power of nature and the supernatural powers that come with it. What makes this particular poem Twentieth Century is the event that occurred could happen to anyone and it is not about a grand adventure. This is also what many poets wrote about during his time. The time that he lived and wrote during was full of wars and dominated by political turmoil. This poem shows the permanence of a casual relationship represented by the lovers’ chalice. At the time that he wrote, not many things were permanent, especially in the political arena in Europe.
The poem “Sweeney Among the Nightingales” by T. S. Eliot is a little more difficult to understand but stills addresses political turmoil by expressing the need for permanence, as in the past, and the chaos of politics using the casual relationships one man experienced. In the opening of the poem begins with a quote from Greek mythology: “Alas, I am struck with a mortal blow within.” Here he is showing the permanence of the past. The mythology of Greeks is permanent that events that people believed in thousands of years ago are still being thought of. Then Eliot moves to landmarks that still exist today: “Gloomy Orion and the Dog”(9). These are constellations of stars that still can be seen today, showing a need for permanence. People have counted on them in the past, and some still count on them today. All this is relevant to the times that Eliot wrote, because like Hardy he wrote during a time dominated by wars and political turmoil. He seems to be longing for that type of permanence. He expresses his thoughts about the current politics of Europe through the use of the relationships that the shady Apeneck Sweeney had. Sweeney, in general, represents politics. Politics was about as permanent as the relationships that Sweeney had with women. The first mistress that is encountered in the poem is a mess and destroys almost anything she touches. “…Tries to sit on Sweeney’s knees / Slips and pulls the table cloth / Overturns a coffee-cup, / Reorganized on the floor / She yawns and draws a stocking up;”(12-16). This is symbolic that the politics in Europe are falling apart. While still with the other woman, another come along and they all eat various fruits. Finally he felt that some was wrong: “She and the lady in the cape / Are suspect, thought to be in a league; / Therefore the man with heavy eyes / … / Leaves the room…”(25-29). The women are not what they are presenting themselves to be and so he made a wise decision to leave. This shows that the women who seem to be trying to seduce him that they are not permanent, and no relationship should be persued. He leaves the room and look and the window and just before he left, he: “Circumscribe a golden grin”(33). He seems to be longing for better time where relationships and everything should be more permanent. Finally the poem ends with another reference to Greek Mythology, a reference of permanence and stability in the past:” When Agamemnon cried aloud / And let their liquid siftings fall / To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.”(38-40). Throughout the entire poem the author is seems to be wishing for something more permanent and stable, and not have to look to the past for stability. Maybe he is hoping that soon something will arise that will be just as permanent as the stars.
All in all, these two poems reveal the ideas and concerns of their time. They used their poetry as a way of describing the political turmoil they are experiencing. In Hardys’ poem he wants things to be as permanent as the waterfall and the chalice in the pool. In Eliots’ poem he is also longing for thing to be more permanent, like the stars and Greek mythology. Twentieth century authors expressed many other thing but for the beginning half of the period they seemed to concentrate on the political turmoil caused by many wars during that time. The people of that time could sympathize and understand the events the poets were talking about because most probably experienced many of those same things. History does repeat itself because every era goes through a fighting period full of political turmoil but something eventually does come along which makes things stable and more permanent.
Eliot, Thomas. S. “Sweeney Among the Nightingales.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol II, Ed. MH Abrams, et al. New York; Norton 2000. Pg 2367-2368.
Hardy, Thomas. “Under the Waterfall.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol II, Ed. MH Abrams, et al. New York; Norton 2000. Pg 1947-1948.