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Cascando, By S. Beckett, And Burnt Norton, By T. S. Eliot

3543 words - 14 pages

"Cascando," by S. Beckett (Poems 41-42), and "Burnt Norton," by T. S. Eliot (Quartets 7-13) express the poets' desire for love and union: Beckett, desiring a woman, expresses his apprehension of their love, and Eliot, wanting divine revelation, expresses his apprehension of God's love in creating the universe. Knowing the poets' personal circumstances, the artists' creative suffering can be discovered in these complex poems, as they struggle to discern the uncertain future, and to arrange to procure their desires. Beckett is "terrified again of not loving." Without love, for Eliot the "cause and end of movement," "sad time stretching before and after" is wasted. Can they obtain love? Or, is love unobtainable? Does the essence of time and mankind's free will preclude love? In answering these questions, the poems' creators' convey their philosophical beliefs about love, time, and free will, with the use of figurative language, diction, syntax, and particularly with repeated words and phrases, line and sound patterning. These poetic techniques interact with the meanings and associations of the poems' words, phrases, lines, and stanzas to contribute to our pleasure and understanding.

Optimism infuses the tone of both poems. When the poems were written (approximately1936), both poets - known to be depressed men - had reasons to be optimistic about their prospects. On the one hand, Beckett who had undergone psychoanalysis for a condition diagnosed as "narcissistic regression and depressive episodes" (Cronin 202), published the poems "Echo's Bones" (Poems 15-31), and finished the book Murphy. He met a striking American woman, Betty Stockton, for whom he wrote "Cascando" after knowing her just a few days (Cronin 234-237). Lines from "Cascando" like "I and all the others that will love you" affirm Beckett's confidence. Eliot, on the other hand, separated from Vivien after 17 miserable years of marriage, had his religious play, "Murder in the Cathedral," produced to critical acclaim (Ackroyd 226-229). In 1934, he visited the garden of the poem at an estate called Burnt Norton, accompanied by his long-time soul mate Emily Hale, a woman he might have married instead of Vivien (Ackroyd 229-231). There he apparently experienced a supernatural vision, obtaining divine insight into the nature of the universe. This revelation inspired the poem "Burnt Norton," in which Eliot conveys his intuitive insight of man transcending his finite body, by means of such epigrams as "through time time is conquered."

But, the poets temper their poems' optimistic tone with pessimism and doubt. Beckett's lovers are at an impasse. Each lover needs the other's love to love. They are narcissistic archetypes, sprung from Beckett's psychoanalysis (Cronin 220-221). Using informal language, the lovers hammer out their dilemma. Their stalemate is the consequence of a failure in the infinite regression of their desire: "If you do not love me I shall not be loved." The lovers know...

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