La Figlia Che Piange

O quam te memorem virgo . . .

Stand on the highest pavement of the stair-
Lean on a garden urn-
Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair-
Clasp your flowers to you with a pained surprise-
Fling them to the ground and turn
With a fugitive resentment in your eyes:
But weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.

So I would have had him leave,
So I would have had her stand and grieve,
So he would have left
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,
As the mind deserts the body it has used.
I should find
Some way incomparably light and deft,
Some way we both should understand,
Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand.

She turned away, but with the autumn weather
Compelled my imagination many days,
Many days and many hours:
Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers.
And I wonder how they should have been together!
I should have lost a gesture and a pose.
Sometimes these cogitations still amaze
The troubled midnight and the noon’s response.

-T.S. Eliot-

The Virgilian epigraph (Aeneid I, 37 is taken from the encounter between Venus and Aeneas. Venus, who is disguised as a maiden, asks “Have you seen a sister of mine?” Aeneas responds with “O maiden, how may I name thee?” The epigraph epitomizes the poem’s overwhelming problem of emotional recollection. The first section recreates a vision of beauty and pain, and also cynicism, marked by descriptions like the “fugitive resentment.” The second section remembers the separation of body and soul, and shows a certain callousness between the two characters. The disillusion finds the way “incomparably light and deft,” uniting them in cynical understanding. The last section breaks the moment by having her turn away. However, she is still obviously troubled and he is still bothered by his visions of her pain and beauty, despite the attempts to mock his emotional concern. He winds up frustrated and longing, which is the central experience of the poem, much like the way Dante symbolized women in his writings.

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