I do so love posts and comments that trigger connections that become other posts and comments. My last post about April being poetry month fired up Cooper to post entries about poetry at Wonderland or Not. She, in turn, has written something that fired me up - and hence this post!
When the connections are about other connections - literary in this case - I am really happy.
In Ashes and Waste Lands, Cooper "opines" about T.S.Eliot's The Waste Land and reminisces about reading it with all of Eliot's notes interspersed. I, too, remember studying the poem and wading through all of Eliot's many notes.
In the first note, Eliot recognizes the work of Jessie L.Weston, which he claims contributed greatly to the poem:
Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston's book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance (Macmillan). Indeed, so deeply am I indebted, Miss Weston's book will elucidate the difficulties of the poem much better than my notes can do; and I recommend it (apart from the great interest of the book itself) to any who think such elucidation of the poem worth the trouble. To another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognize in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies.
Weston's book is complex and interesting. She claims that Grail legends are based on ancient fertility myths. Both Weston and Eliot were influenced by Sir James Frazer's work The Golden Bough.
Jessie Weston's book also makes an appearance in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now. The film, set in Vietnam and Cambodia during the Vietnam war, is based on Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, set in late nineteenth-century Africa.
Weston's book and Frazer's appear very briefly in the movie, as the camera shows the quarters of Kurtz, who has set himself up as a god in a remote Cambodian village (much as his progenitor has in central Africa in Conrad's novel).
Kurtz reads from Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men," and has background works for The Waste Land on his bookshelf. Comment on Kurtz's psyche? on the human condition? merely on Kurtz as an educated man? on Eliot?
Specualtion is great fun, but it can't beat, for me, those great connections, literary or otherwise.