‘Revision’: the process of changing your mind. On paper, it may mean one word crossed out and an alternative supplied. But the word an author deletes is always telling; and amongst the things it tells is how the mind in question changes itself. Eliot’s revisions therefore are worth watching, but I want to take the idea of ‘revision’ rather largely. For what we encounter is a poetry full of seeing again, in the course of which objects in place are re-placed: houses, for example, which vanish as we watch, into the open field or enter the by-pass of another piece of phrasing altogether. Such structures, far from proving solid, as if they could be passed on (‘In succession’), crumble, or are bewilderingly transformed. So the houses of ‘East Coker’, wave-like, rise and fall: are they buildings literally? or not dwellings so much as houses of the other kind: ‘family’, lineage? Whichever way we read the verse, it turns one sense against another; those houses are stone enough to crumble, yet fluid and mobile too. The unreconcilable elements, rendering each other impossible, co-exist. And as a result, not just the objects of attention but the mind itself, striving to encompass them, gives way to new formations — as it has done from the start of Eliot’s career.
KeywordsNatural World Wood Decay Relative Pronoun White Feather Early Youth
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- 12.T. S. Eliot, Poems Written in Early Youth, ( London: Faber, 1967 ), 27.Google Scholar