Analysis of the poems: T. S. Eliot Preludes and Rita Dove “Daystar” The poems Preludes and “Daystar” were written in two different eras – modernism and postmodernism and therefore they reflect the world from two different angels. Following the prescriptions of literary modernism, T. S. Eliot addresses the issue of the confrontation between a personality and a diseased city. Eliots Preludes, written in 1917 consists of four parts and generally creates the atmosphere of decadence and melancholy of a sordid city.
It seems that the protagonist of Preludes suffers from de-spiritualized and hollow existence, he is doomed to lead in this godless civilization. Rita Dove, in her turn, in “Daystar” continues the traditions of modernism and meditates on the issue – the New Woman who is should-be-mother, the poetess turns this issue into another, a deeper one, – the old obligations of a renewed postmodern personality. Ritas protagonist, a woman, enjoys her rest, which provides her mental relief from being encumbered with her endless duties to her kids and her husband, who are much dependent upon her for the needs of their own. In my essay I will analyze the poems, compare and contrast the poems Preludes by T. S. Eliot and “Daystar” by Rita Dove, and in this way I will examine the development of one of the popular modernist issues – the opposition of a modern personality to society and social order – into its postmodern reconsideration: the burden of obligations and duties: can an individual escape them? The poem Preludes suggests the criticism of the lifestyle of the modern world.
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There is no place for a personality in the urban surroundings which are able to produce only dirt and decay. T. S. Eliot describes a street in a winter evening, where fog settles itself down like a cat. The speaker is the passageway reeked of the smell of steaks. This small is the first sign of decadence which is associated with an unpleasant feeling.
The mind of the speaker tries to escape far from this rotten place and searches for some kind of spiritual relief in the street. The speaker observes the street, which evokes odd and sorrowful feelings in his soul. The street is depicted as the grimy scraps of withered leaves, the gusty shower, and newspapers which are in vacant lots. These altogether offers the following picture: the incessant shower beats on broken chimney pots and blinds. Then appears a lonely cab-horse, which is stamping and steaming in the rain. As the cab-horse is moving along the street, it is falls into lights and shadows of the lamps.
It is dark and deserted in the street. The cab meets nobody on the road but the gusts of wind, which is whirling and playing with dead and withered leaves. The speaker feels lonely, melancholy and desperate in such a winter evening. Maybe, he is standing at the window, deep in his thoughts, and observing the images of the street. The speaker is alone, as nobody interferes with his meditation during the poem. But the protagonist is not satisfied with the way of life he leads, he quests the sense of the world abound him and his destination or goals in this world.
His desperate attempts to find the answer are shown through the line: the burnt-out ends of smoky days (line 4).
It is evident, that there is no clear solution in spite of the fact that the speaker smokes all days long, and ponders and tries to comprehend the reality. Eventually, the speaker sinks into melancholy and depression. This state of his is shown through the words: settles down, burnt-out, withered, and broken. The poem Preludes combines several line schemes. Part I of the poem can be divided into the following schemes: abcbdd and ababacc. It includes 13 lines, where the dominant meter is iambic tetrameter.
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Part II of Preludes contains 10 lines with abcad and abccb line schemes. The number of lines in the third part of the poem is increased to 15, and the rhyme patterns are the following: abcdbc and abbcdeecd. The last, the fourth part shows the diversity of rhyme: as long as in the first 9 lines the pattern still can be observed: abcbaadce, the lines 10-16 are written in a blank verse. The general idea of Eliots poem is conveyed through a number of symbols. It should be noted, however, that symbolism was widely used by modernists. T. S. Eliot employs the symbols of city, day and night, which were very popular among his contemporaries, and builds them with the help of complex images and the context of the poem.
The symbol of city embodies the urbanized society, its corrupted laws and decaying order. Eliots city has the smell of steaks in the evening and the smell of stale beer in the morning. Though, there are thousands of furnished rooms, the streets are lonely and deserted. No one dares to oppose habitual routine and social order, and every one docilely follows the rules that prescribed by decadence: people live like withered leaves whirled by gusty winds. Every evening is a masquerade spent in feasts, feigned love and blackened joy. Every morning starts with coming to consciousness of meaninglessness of life, of mud and dirt in souls, and of rotten smell of the world, which favors this way of existence. Ones live is turned into the circle of days and nights, and one is doomed to die while being whirled in these flickers of light and shadow.
A deeper insight into the order of life and the contradiction between ones personal wishes and socially imposed duties and obligations is suggested in the poem “Daystar” by Rita Dove. Unlike the speaker of Preludes, Rita Doves protagonist does not spend her life in idleness and empty masquerades. She deals with the struggles of carrying out the role of a wife and a mother. The protagonist of “Daystar” is so occupied with her obligations that she has no time to get a mental and physical relief from it. This is the logical consequence of the state when a person is being lost in urbanized surroundings. Eliots speaker tried to warn that the conscience of a blackened street/ Impatient to assume the world. (lines 8,9; part IV).
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The speaker from Preludes realized that he would not alter the inevitability of social domination over an individual. In postmodernism era, the individuals meaning is reduced to being a social unit, who just performs necessary functions. No exceptions can be made, and no escape is possible. This is brightly illustrated by Rita Dove. All Ritas protagonist wants, is a little room for thinking (line 1).
The images of diapers steaming on the line (line 2) and a doll slumped behind the door (line 3) show the habitual circle of her duties: to look after a baby, wash and cook for it, to run the house, to perform the role of a mother.
In contrast, there is the image of a vanished cricket, which offers the idea of another life: free and careless. But this hope is abandoned, and when the protagonist closes her eyes, the only thing she sees is her own vivid blood (line 11).
I think it is a symbol which conveys a variety of meanings. First, the circulation of blood may refer to the circulation of life in society. The protagonist is just a unit of this circulation and she can nothing but obey the order. Another meaning, a contradictory one, suggests the idea of her one life, her soul and individuality which is fighting the strict obligations.
The vivid blood of the woman reminds her of her own wishes and desires, of her own needs, abandoned for the sake of her family. Finally, the author of the poem questions: can an individual happiness be sacrificed to the stability and order of society? Will such society be healthy after all? The poem “Daystar” includes 22 lines of iambic pentameter. However, the length of lines is not stable, so in the poem the lines with iambic tetrameter or even trimester sometimes occur. This is the feature that differentiates “Daystar” from Preludes. The poem by Rita Dove is written in the blank verse. This is another thing that opposes the form of “Daystar” to the form of Eliots poem.
Dove, Rita, Selected Poems. New York: Vintage, 1993. Eliot, T.
S. The Waste Land and Other Poems, New York: Harcourt, 1934. Modernism in Literature. Poetry magic. May 19, 2005 at .
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