The Re-Creative Modernism in Stéphane Mallarmé’s Late Sonnets, T. S. Eliot’s "Poems</I>, and the Prose Poetry since Charles-Pierre Baudelaire
Chapter Three. Revising a Civilization: T.S. Eliot’s SecretiveAmbition as Poems 1919/1920
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T.S. Eliot’s Secretive Ambition as Poems 1919/1920
T.S. Eliot’s second collection of poems is triplicate; that is, the collection has three distinct but interrelated versions, published in 1919 and 1920. First, the abridged one in pamphlet form was issued by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press in 1919; it was simply entitled Poems. In February 1920, two versions followed, each with almost the same 24 poems:1 the illustrated London edition, which was entitled Ara Vus Prec and published by the Ovid Press,2 and the definitive New York edition, which was named Poems, as with the initial 1919 version, and published by Alfred A. Knopf. The repeated title, Poems, starts the cycle of the 1919/1920 collection’s transformation, thereby foregrounding the collection’s unity as a trinity.
Published in the interwar session, the collection is unstable but fruitful as an antiwar achievement. It is “Eliot’s first postwar volume” (Rees 148). Its repeated reference to wars, such as the Trojan War and the Battle of Thermopylae, is combined with the advent of the Savior. The bilingual collection is dedicated to Jean-Jules Verdenal, a French army surgeon who died on the battlefield in 1915.3 The London edition’s enigmatic title in three words, Ara Vus Prec, means “Now I pray you.”4 The new face in Eliot’s poetry, Sweeney, is attributed to a real boxer, the simulation of a crusader.5
← 45 | 46 → The collection represents a tragicomedy. In the conflict of pessimism, sarcasm, and humor, the...
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