Eliot's Notes Continued


A Game of Chess: This echoes the title of a play by Thomas Middleton (1627)--A Game at Chesse, in which a game of chess parallels seduction. But it is also worth noting that a game of chess shows up in the French continuation of Perceval, and in the Welsh version of the Grail quest, called "Peredur"--the Chessboard is owned by the Empress of the Otherworld. When Peredur tries to play the game but loses, he throws the chessboard into a fountain, which upsets the Empress, who sends him off on another quest, this time to kill the white stag/unicorn (in some versions)--a symbol of purity, but a savage symbol.

77. Cf. Antony and Cleopatra, II. ii. 190.
: "The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
Burn'd on the water."

92. Laquearia. V. Aeneid, I. 726:
dependent lychni laquearibus aureis incensi, et noctem flammis funalia vincunt.

Describing Dido's banquet for Aeneas: "blazing torches hang from the golden paneled ceiling, and the torches conquer the night with flames."

98. Sylvan scene. V. Milton, Paradise Lost, iv. 140. Satan looking at Eden

99. V. Ovid, Metamorphoses, vi, Philomela. An incredibly sad story of Philomela, raped by her brother-in-law king Tereus, who then cuts out her tongue to keep her from talking, and hides her in the woods, so that Philomela's sister Queen Procne won't discover what has happened. Procne of course discovers her raped, disfigured sister, who can only tell the story by weaving it into a tapestry. Procne decides to seek revenge on Tereus by killing their son Itys and serving him to Tereus as food, driving the king mad. They are then all changed into birds: Philomela the nightingale, Procne the swallow and Tereus the hawk.

100. Cf. Part III, l. 204.
Meaning, refer to Pt III of The Waste Land. Lines 203-206:
Twit twit twit
Jug jug jug jug jug jug
So rudely forc'd.

111-172: This section is best understood as recording conversations taking place in a pub at closing time (10:30 pm--thanks Albert_Herring).

115. Cf. Part III, l. 195. Meaning, refer to Part III of The Waste Land: Lines 193-195:
White bodies naked on the low damp ground
And bones cast in a little low dry garret,
Rattled by the rat's foot only, year to year.

118. Cf. Webster: 'Is the wind in that door still?'
Refers to John Webster's The Devil's Law-Case III.ii. (1620) in which a man is thought dying for having been stabbed, but ironically is saved from dying, as the stabbing actually lances an infection, draining the poison which would have killed him. The line is said by one of the physicians treating the man:

Did he not groan?

Is the wind in that door still?

Ha! Come hither, note a strange accident:
His steel has lighted in the former wound,
And made free passage for the congealed blood.
Observe in what abundance it delivers
The putrefaction.

In Book V of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (1475), King Arthur says to Sir Gareth, "What, nephew, is the wind in that door?" upon returning from an adventure. But what exactly is meant, I'm not sure. The wind is equated with breath, and breath with the spirit--the Greek "pneuma" meaning both.

126. Cf. Part I, l. 37, 48.
From Part I of The Waste Land: 37. --Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden
48. (Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)

To be honest, the relation of these lines, beyond the theme of death and nature, eludes me.

128. "O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag--" There was a ragtime song ca. 1912 called "That Shakesperian Rag." Eliot was likely agravated by the appropriation of that most canonical of writers into a pop song.

Also, take note of the "O O O O"--in the "Bad Quarto" of Hamlet, these are in fact Hamlet's last words--so much for "the rest is silence." See line 172 for another Hamlet allusion.

138. Cf. the game of chess in Middleton's Women beware Women.

This is another case of chess imitating a seduction scene.

139. demobbed: "demobilized"--discharged from the army. WWI slang.

159. pills: to induce an abortion. "She's had five already"--she's had five children, and nearly died in childbirth with one. We see here a rejection of fertility, and implications of its dangers. Sterility as survival, against the backdrop of the intertwining of fertility and death.

172. "Goodnight ladies..." While the words to a popular song, is also meant to refer to the drowning of Ophelia in Hamlet IV.v. (death by water again):

I hope all will be well. We must be patient: but I
cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him
i' the cold ground. My brother shall know of it:
and so I thank you for your good counsel. Come, my
coach! Good night, ladies; good night, sweet ladies;
good night, good night.
At which point she exits. When we next hear of her, she has drowned.

(turn the page)