T.S. Eliot is considered a particularly necessary modernist author. He inaugurated a spread of narrative and stylistic methods which exercised a substantial affect over modernism in literature. This text explores the poem ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Evening’, from Eliot’s Prufrock and Different Observations, concentrating totally on the idea of time and the way it figures within the poem.
Time is undeniably related to notions of current and previous, and it performs a major position in ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Evening’, hereafter on this article known as ‘Rhapsody’. The modernist curiosity in time could possibly be argued to be partially decided by earlier scientific discoveries. The idea of time itself had been within the throes of change because the sixteenth century. Nevertheless the plethora of scientific explorations and discoveries within the nineteenth century appeared to herald a brand new age in science. Whereas Eliot was engaged in writing the Prufrock poems, advances in theoretical physics, reminiscent of Einstein’s formulation of the Particular Idea of Relativity, have been remodeling the understanding of time as a bodily measure. Nevertheless, with regard to Eliot’s personal pursuits in time, it was the French thinker Henri Bergson who exerted essentially the most quick affect.
Whereas he was nonetheless residing in America, a younger Eliot made in depth visits to Europe the place he attended lectures given by Bergson. The thinker’s theories on time and his makes an attempt at defining the character of previous, current, and future manifest themselves in a number of of the Prufrock poems, particularly ‘Rhapsody’, which is normally considered remodeling a few of Bergson’s concepts; subsequently an understanding of them is beneficial when evaluating Eliot’s personal attitudes to the current. Most of Bergson is extraordinarily tough to understand so it’s useful to try a abstract of his concepts earlier than analysing how they’re represented in Eliot’s poetry. In his Artistic Evolution (1907) and Matter and Reminiscence (1896) – two works Eliot was acquainted with whereas composing the Prufrock poems – Bergson got down to outline the character of time and consciousness as skilled by human beings. He arrived at an concept he known as ‘le duree’, which means ‘period’, a metaphysical assemble which considers evolution and consciousness to be underlain by a relentless move of moments that can not be measured by clock time. In Artistic Evolution, Bergson proposed the notion that a person’s pure state is change, asserting that every one emotions and concepts are present process fixed change.
Bergson thought that a person’s reminiscence varieties a big a part of this course of, with previous reminiscences continually resurfacing in an individual’s consciousness. It’s this perpetual resurfacing of the previous that performs a central position in ‘Rhapsody’, the place, whereas wandering round a desolate setting, the protagonist experiences a wide range of seemingly fragmented reminiscences. In Matter and Reminiscence Bergson endeavoured to judge the character of consciousness and its inextricable affiliation with time. This was completed by trying to outline the connection between previous, current and future. Bergson thought of the true essence of time is its transitory nature. This presents an issue in figuring out the precise level that could possibly be thought of ‘the current’. Bergson concedes that what we establish as the current is fashioned by sensations deriving from the previous and actions directed in direction of the long run, and it’s this inherent duality that informs a lot of the content material of ‘Rhapsody’.
The poem is situated in an city setting, a setting attribute of a lot modernist poetry. As with the opposite Prufrock poems, a defining function of ‘Rhapsody’ is Eliot’s perfection of a extremely unique and distinctly fashionable poetic voice. You will need to acknowledge that this poet persona isn’t supposed to symbolize T.S. Eliot himself, however is as a substitute a fictional building that brings collectively the formal and thematic qualities of the poem. This specific poetic consciousness belongs to an alienated particular person who recounts their experiences whereas wandering round a desolate metropolis after midnight. Using the phrase ‘rhapsody’ within the poem’s title is considerably ironic, in that we usually affiliate this phrase with ‘enthusiasm’ or ‘extravagance’; the observations and recollections that the poet persona experiences seem extra to do with degradation and futility, and the prevailing tone is mostly bleak and miserable.
The poet persona in ‘Rhapsody’ is typified by a scarcity of management, predominantly illustrated by the seeming random look of reminiscences. This pervasive sense of involuntariness acts partly as a poetic expression of Bergson’s theories. Bergson’s notion of the physique performing as a conduit for a spread of sensations deriving from an individual’s previous expertise is evinced within the traces ‘The reminiscence throws up excessive and dry / A crowd of twisted issues’. In selecting to say ‘the reminiscence’ as a substitute of ‘my reminiscence’, provides to the divided high quality of the protagonist, as if he have been composed of separated components reasonably than being entire.
The reader gathers that the protagonist of ‘Rhapsody’ has little to no management over this incessant move of resurfacing reminiscences. Eliot illustrates this unpredictably of reminiscence in a number of traces however maybe most notably within the weird picture of ‘a madman shakes a lifeless geranium’. The geraniums turn out to be a logo for the involuntariness of the poet persona’s reminiscence within the later traces ‘The memory comes / Of sunless dry geraniums’.
The road lamps the poet persona encounters play a key position within the poem. They’re personified – a tool that contributes to the protagonist’s fragmented and dissociated nature – within the second stanza, with the traces ‘The road-lamp sputtered / The road-lamp muttered / The road-lamp mentioned’. Eliot accomplishes this disjointed impact by having the poet persona’s perceptions depicted as observations from the street-lamps. For instance, within the second stanza the protagonist is instructed by the road lamp to look at a girl, whereas within the fourth and fifth stanzas they’re directed to take a look at a cat, after which the moon, respectively. These city sightings are intentionally seedy and miserable: the girl is clearly a prostitute; the cat is described as slipping out its tongue to devour ‘a morsel of rancid butter’ – an act the reader assumes to be a delicate reflection on the protagonist’s personal futile existence; whereas the moon is delineated in essentially the most unflattering, anti-romantic hue: ‘A washed-out smallpox cracks her face’. These photographs and people from the protagonist’s reminiscence are juxtaposed with the inexorable march of clock time, illustrated by the stark incontrovertible fact that a lot of the stanzas start by informing the reader of the particular time.
The idea of time performs an necessary position in ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Evening’. As this text has illustrated, the notion of the current is multifaceted, when Eliot’s interpretation of the theories of Henri Bergson is taken into consideration.