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HERE I am, an old man in a dry month,. Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain. I was neither at the hot gates. Nor fought in the warm rain. Nor knee deep in the. If any notion remained that in the poems of Eliot was sentimentally contrasting a resplendent past with a dismal present, “Gerontion” should have helped to. A commentary on a classic Eliot poem ‘Gerontion’ is notable for being the only English poem in T. S. Eliot’s second volume of poetry (the.

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T he practice of allusion, justified in “Burbank” by the need to characterize the tourist, performs in “Gerontion” the function of condensing into decent compass a whole panorama of the past. If any notion remained that in the poems of Eliot was geronfion contrasting a resplendent past with a dismal present, “Gerontion” should have helped to dispel it. What are contrasted in this poem are the secular history of Europe, which the life of Gerontion parallels, and the unregarded promise of salvation through Christ.

Gerontion symbolizes civilization gone rotten. The mysterious foreign figures who rise berontion in his thoughts–Mr. Against them is set the “word within a word, unable to speak a word”–the innocent Redeemer, swaddled now in the darkness of the world. But Christ came not gerkntion send peace, but a sword; the Panther of the bestiaries, luring the gentler beasts with His sweet breath of doctrine, is also the Tiger of destruction.

For the “juvescence of the year,” in which He came, marked the beginning of our dispensation, the “depraved May” ever returning with the “flowering judas” of man’s answer to the Incarnation. And so “The tiger gerontio in the new year,” devouring us who have devoured Him.

Gerontion Poem by Thomas Stearns Eliot – Poem Hunter

Furthermore, the tiger becomes now a symbol not only of divine wrath but of the power of life within man, the springs of sex which “murder and create. Eliot’s The Family Reunion repeats the horror: The source of his grief–the passionate Cross, the poison tree, “the wrath-bearing tree”–is both gerontin crucifixion yew tree and the death tree of the hanged traitor, a token of Christ and Iscariot, redemption and the universal fall in Eden.

The futility of a world where men blunder down the blind corridors of history, guided by vanity and gulled by success, asserting no power of choice between good and evil but forced into alternatives they cannot predict–this is the futility of a labyrinth without an end.

Someone has remarked that Eliot’s obsessive image is the abyss. At the center is the physician, the Word, enveloped in obscurity. But without is the abyss also, yawning geeontion those who in their twisted course have never found their center.

getontion The point at which time ends and eternity begins, at which history geronton in unity and the winding spiral vanished in the Word, is lost to the world of the poem. Yet the Word exists; it is only history which cannot find Him, history with a positivistic conception of the universe, a deterministic view of causation, a pragmatic notion of morals. As Chesterton’s Father Brown remarks, “What we all dread most Poek is why atheism is only a nightmare.

History is the whirlwind, for history is of gerojtion world, and history like the world destroys all that dares the test of matter and time. A Study in Sources and Meaning. University of Chicago Press, From his draughty windows Geronhion looks up a barren hill: Augustine’s “Descend that ye may ascend. He thinks of history as a system of corridors ingeniously contrived to confuse and finally to corrupt the human race. Like these women, history leads nowhere but to corruption.

She “gives too late or too soon,” like a frustrating woman, and she leaves her lover not only ill-at-ease but frightened. Heroic efforts to satisfy the unclear demands of history have led to nothing but cruelty and hate.

And into this history “Came Christ the tiger. Gerontion thinks of the coming of Christ in two ways, first as a useless infant and then as a hunted tiger.


This part of the poem is usually misread because no one notes that Eliot pointedly left the phrase borrowed from Lancelot Andrewes with “the Word” uncapitalized. Thus in “Gerontion” we read only of “The word within a word, unable to speak a word. Gerontion concludes that this death-dealing doctrine came pofm devour those who do not devour “the tiger,” as do Gerontion’s fellow boarders.

To them the ritual meal is no “communion” but a cannibal “dividing.

Hugh Kenner has noticed that Eliot’s characterization of Senecan drama provides a fair description of “Gerontion. Signs are taken for wonders. Here Gerontion has quoted St. Matthew’s report of the pharisees’ challenge to Christ “We would see geerontion sign! In his essay on Andrewes, Eliot remarks that Andrewes is “extracting all the spiritual meaning of a text” in this passage.

That is precisely what Gerontion cannot do. Andrewes is talking about the logos, the Word within the word. Gerontion’s words have no metaphysical buttressing, and his language is studded with puns, words within words. The passage on history is a series of metaphors that gerontoin into incomprehensibility:. History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions, Guides us by vanities.

Gerontion has already described himself as “an old man in a draughty house,” and his “house” of history has its corridors gernotion passages and issues. Written histories also have “cunning passages,” and historians write about “Issues. She gives when our attention is distracted And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late What’s not believed in, or if still believed, In memory only, reconsidered passion.

From Eliot’s point of view, this is merely self-deception. Given the idealist historicism that Eliot inherited from Bradley, history cannot possibly be an “other,” separated from the self who conceives it. By presenting history as something other than an “ideal construction,” a product of his own mind, Gerontion shifts the blame for his own situation from himself onto history:. Gives too soon Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with Till the refusal propagates a fear.

Gerontion by T. S. Eliot: Summary

Think Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes. Neither passive fear not active courage will save us, says Gerontion, because history has duped us, perverting our heroic intentions.

Gerontion’s understanding of history is a rationalization of his own inability to act or feel.

It is to his advantage to be what Bradley calls an “uncritical historian” or what Eliot calls an “imperfect critic. Unlike Eliot, the speaker of “Gerontion” does not understand that his knowledge of history is his own “ideal construction,” and that a vision of historical chaos is a product of the mind that cannot unify the present and the past. As I mentioned in the introduction, Eliot’s drafts for “Gerontion” show that the passage on history was finished in all but one crucial point before other sections of the poem were given their final forms.

In his last revision, Eliot altered only one word: Even nature is an “ideal construction” for Eliot, a fabrication of the mind: From Modernist Poetics of History: Pound, Eliot, and the Sense of the Past. Many lines of “Gerontion,”, including the opening ones, are conversational in character: But the poem provides no continuing determinate scene or narrative within which such lines can confidently be placed, though there are sporadic indications of possible scenes and narratives.

The relatively disjointed quality of both “Prufrock” and “Gerontion,” especially the lack of good continuity between the verse paragraphs, makes it hard to ascribe the language to a speaker, even one who is in the kind of extreme situation mentally or physically that is sometimes portrayed in dramatic monologues.

Instead of being located, grounded in a referential way, the language, which is full of dislocations, tends to float; it refuses to be tied to a limiting scene or to a limited meaning.

The conversational language is not sustained, for instance, in the lines that follow the opening ones in “Gerontion”:. I was neither at the hot gates Nor fought in the warm rain Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass, Bitten by flies, fought.


We find out where this “I” was not and what it did not do, not where or what it is in any positive sense. The passage gives rise to questions that it does not answer and that are not answered elsewhere in “Gerontion. The difficulty of maintaining the illusion of an “I” who speaks becomes greater as “Gerontion” proceeds, for example, in the fifth stanza with its sequence of sentences beginning with the verb “Think,” which continues into the next stanza.

The sentences may be in the imperative mood. Or the subject of an indicative verb may have been omitted. The grammatical indeterminacy disturbs the statements’ coherence in ways that resist resolution. The language pertains not to a character whose name indicates that he is a person but to one who is named artificially.

Like a figure in a medieval allegory whose name points to a concept that is abstract and general rather than personal and individual, Gerontion is not a person but one among many possible incarnations of the meaning of his name in Greek, “little old man.

From Harmony of Dissonances: Eliot, Romanticism, and Imagination. The psychological coherence of the first verse paragraph, instrumental in clarifying both the main structural principle of superimposed contexts and the main image of the house within the house, is abandoned as Eliot moves to his second stanza.

The tenuous psychological connections that critics have pointed to as transitions between these two stanzas are inventions, not discoveries. They are fabrications compelled by a desire for order. The fact is that the second stanza “follows” the first only in its arrangement on the page; logically and psychologically, the second does not follow at all. It does not properly begin, and it does not end; it simply starts, and then, without a period or even a comma, in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of a line, it stops.

This stanza relocates readers, giving them a far more inclusive vantage point. All of those ruined houses in windy spaces–from Gerontion’s withered brain to Europe’s war-shattered civilization–are suddenly placed in the context of the rejection of Christ.

Although the second stanza lacks the internal coherence of the first, it is unified by the fact that all these fragments are related to the Christian religion and, as will become evident, to a special relation between knowledge and unbelief. As far as the overall structure of the poem is concerned, this stanza takes the most teratical image of the previous stanza–the Jew lying in wait for his prey–and superimposes one of history’s greatest houses, the house of David.

The principal tenants in this vision of the house of Israel are the Pharisees, Christ, and pulling together nineteen hundred years of history, the landlord squatting on the window sill of Europe.

But these sons of David are not the only tenants of this antique house. Joining the natural brothers are many half brothers, audacious upstarts who irreversibly alter Abraham’s line. The rejection of Christ by his brothers in blood led to an expansion of the house of Israel. Anyone of any race whatsoever who would accept Christ in faith was adopted into what the Bible calls the new Israel, the Christian Church.

Interesting Literature

The tenants in Jacob’s greater house include, then, Christ’s adopted brothers and joint heirs, including in this stanza the seventeenth-century preacher, Lancelot Andrewes. The house of Israel, like the house of Gerontion, is ggerontion, dry, wind-sieged. Eliot’s main allusion in this second verse paragraph is to a sermon preached by Lancelot Andrewes before King James I on Christmas Day, Verbum infans, the Word gerintion a word; the eternal Word not able to speak a word; a wonder sure and.