skip to main | skip to sidebar
Home » , » T.S. Eliot as a Classic Poet

T.S. Eliot as a Classic Poet

T.S. Eliot the celebrated modern poet-critic signifies the importance of the integration of past with present in his essay Tradition and the Individual Talent. This essay is propounded in his reputed writing The Sacred Wood which established his fame as a critic in the world. The idea of reassessing the past in terms of the present and in terms of the whole of the past gives the reader something new, something arresting, something intellectual and something vital literary conception. T.S. Eliot is influenced by past literature like Greek and Rome and also the poets like Fitzgerald, Donne, Symons, Laforgue, Dante, Baudelaire, Irving Babbit, George Santbutyana, Roshia Joyce, Bergson, Ezra pound, Middleton Murray and others. Eliot's sense of past and tradition are indispensable but these are not to be followed blindly by the present writers or literature. Past should be considered as a matter of wider significance and the timid adherence of it should positively be discouraged. In literature past is not only evaluated for its pastness but of its present, it is not only confined into one generation but the continuation for unlimited times. The past writings and writers in a sense are the criterion for the present writers and writings. Eliot advocates that the deficiencies of past should be excluded and the merits of past should be counted. The significance and appreciation of present writers or artists should be judged and measured with the appreciation and significance of past writers and artists.

T.S. Eliot as a Classic poet  in his essay Tradition and the Individual Talent elucidates his theory by examining first, the relation of the poet to the past and secondly the relation of the poem to its author. According to Eliot the past is never dead ; it lives in the present: "No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You can not value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead". Again he says, and if we approach a poet with an open mind, we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors assert their immortality most vigorously. The dead poets of a country live in the present and we may further state that the poets of one country may live in the poets of another country. The English poets are indebted to classical poets of Greek and Rome and the present Bengali poets are also indebted to past writers. Throughout the whole career of a poet he must develop or procure the consciousness of the past, so there is conformity between the old and the new. The past is altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past. The experiment modernist Eliot believes that every age should revalue the literature of the past according to its own standards. From time to time every hundred years or so, it is desirable that some critics shall appear to review the past of our literature, and set the poets and the poems in a new order. This is what he himself has tried to achieve in his career. He has given fresh interpretation of the works of Elizabethan dramatists, the metaphysical poets, the Carolina poets, Milton, the poets of the eighteenth century, the Romantic, Arnold and so on. We can mark in this connection that there is significant difference lies between the theory of neo-classical writers of following the ancients and Eliot's sense of the past.

Eliot's prescription of relation with the past acquires new significance and becomes a living part of the poetic experience transcribed in the poetry. Not only does past clarify the relation between symbol and object, reduce the need for elaboration, and add a dimension to the poem but it is itself altered by relationship and so shown to be a vital force. The present as Eliot means to say, should be judged, not imputed or cut by them. This judgement does not indicate the principal and canons of the critics of the past. It is a judgement and comparison in which two things are measured by each other. To conform merely would be for the new work not really to conform at all. There would be nothing new in it, and it would not be a work of art at all. And we do not quite say that the new is more valuable because it fits in; but its fittings in is a test of its value- a test, it is true, which can only be slowly and cautiously applied, for we are none of us infallible judges of conformity. The poet must be fully aware of the clear fact that art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the same. The difference between the present and the past is that the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past awareness, of itself cannot show. Some one said that the dead writers were remote from us because we know so much more than they did. In short, it can be said that they are that which we know. The tendency of finding basic differences of a poet with his contemporaries and predecessors is though pleasure for the finders but such tendency is utterly refuted by T.S. Eliot.

In short, in Eliot's sense that the past and the present are mere facets of the same organism and by no means two disparate segments. Eliot's sense of past in relation with present involves his historical sense: and the historical sense involves a perception, the perception of co-relation between past and present: "The historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order". Eliot says that a poet should not consider the past as a lump, an indiscriminate bolus, nor can he from himself wholly on one or two private admirations, nor he can form himself wholly upon one preferred period. Eliot further combines the relation of past and present by saying that if we approach a poet without the prejudice we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously. Thou this essay tradition and the Individual Talent of T.S. Eliot shows the relevancy of past with the present and thus these two times make a integrated whole in the conception of the poet.


Post a Comment

Back To Top