How might T.S. Eliot's poem, which has come to define the modernist movement, be different if instead of bearing the title, The Waste Land, it is called He Do the Police in Different Voices? This paper will not seek out any definitive answers as to the meaning of the elusive, chaotic poem that is The Waste Land, but rather it will seek slant rays of illumination on the poem by examining the editing changes effected by Ezra Pound, Vivien Eliot (Eliot's wife) or T.S. Eliot himself. The change in title most certainly improves the reception and final production of the poem, and it serves as an important example of the significance of revision in T.S. Eliot's writing process. Many such significant editing changes can be found in the comparison between the first drafts of the poem and the final production, and one can hope to clarify Eliot's intentions and directions for the poem, as well as Pound's influence on those drives.
[...] As should be the aim of any good editor, Pound seeks to strangle the cliché out of the work, and he fights to push Eliot beyond the easy allusions. It is especially important in the epigraph because besides the title, the Conrad passage could have come to define and limit the scope of Waste Land”. This is not the case with the new epigraph borrowed from Petronius: Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Σιβυλλα τι θελειζ; respondebat illa: αποθανειν θελω” (Eliot, Epigraph). [...]
[...] Both Pound and Eliot recognize the failure of those seventy lines, and Eliot wrote what would become the actual first lines of the section on the back of the edited manuscript page that Pound crossed out. rivers tent is broken; the last fingers of leaf/Clutch and sink into the wet bank” (lines returns to that poetic borderlands, and both the verse and imagery is improved in comparison to the original first lines. The loose and uncontrolled seventy lines that were deleted are indicative of many of the lines that appear throughout the first draft of Fire Sermon”. [...]
[...] The critic Calvin Bedient explains the title best when he writes: The Waste Land inscribes an inside movement from the realm of the first, which is historical, secular, to that of the second, which is selected, allegorical, and sacred, a realm shaped by the poet-narrator of the poem. Beyond this shaper is, of course, Eliot himself, who shapes everything in the poem as purged image. (Bedient Eliot must utilize a new, original title, free of allusions, because the title must encapsulate all of the broken images into whatever meaning their new creator, Eliot, wants to associate them with. [...]
[...] What the Thunder Said In the final section of Waste Pound makes few editing suggestions and the first draft becomes the final draft without any significant changes. Perhaps by the final section, Eliot had internalized Pound's editing proclivities and understood so completely the direction of his masterpiece that he molds the final section so that it would not exhibit any of the shortcomings of the preceding sections in the first draft. The final section is neither too grounded in the real or the abstract; it does not employ cliché lines and expressions; its tone is consistent with the progression of the piece; its form and allusions are altogether unconventional and elusive. [...]
[...] Pound pushes Eliot away from grounded realism, and towards a borderland of chaos, imagination and broken images, but Eliot maintains elements of realism in his poem. Again, Eliot attempts to portray the landscape as inclusive; the real and the imaginative are both indicted as being part of Waste Land”. Game of Chess” exhibits the triumphs and struggles between a writer and editor. Eliot accepts as many of Pound's editing suggestions as he defies. In this way Eliot makes the work truly his own, and most of the suggestions he defies are those that effect the rhetorical content, while those that he accepts are those that improve the formal harmony of the piece. [...]
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