“Difficulty” would be the key word that mirrors one of the distinctive features of modern poetry. Editors of
Eliot’s idea is somewhat reasonable: the poetry should be difficult because the society is difficult to understand. Poetry should be a reflective of reality of confusing and complex modern society. To express the modern society, the poet should be more “indirect” and “allusive” in dealing with poetic language. Without doubt, the poet’s stated intention to write indirectly or allusively is revealed in the broken or fragmentary images of his masterpiece,
Interestingly, the broken or fragmentary images appear to be connected to the ontological root that Satan in
In angelology, good angels have been regarded the “messenger” of God. They speak and behave only in the direct and intimate relation with God. Therefore, they are used as “linguistic devices through which the Divinity speaks to his creation,” and they are only “spoken by the Divinity to the world” (Maggi 22-23). According to two church fathers, Augustine and Aquinas, good angels are only “mute matter,” through which God’s utterances are delivered. Milton in his
Satan denies serving the role of God’s messenger and rather desires to be the “preacher” of the message. He writes the message and passes on it: His battle against God begins with writing his own speech, “Sleep’st thou, Companion dear” (5. 673) and delivering it to his companions. And soon after he rejects his position of “mute matter,’ he loses his intuitive awareness. He now needs sufficient evidence, relevant experience or logical syllogism to acquire the knowledge. That signifies that Satan’s language becomes a perennial exclusion from its exact meaning. Eventually, he denies the first intuitive knowledge, the creation by God, because there is no credible evidence to support that “argument.” When he bitterly argues with one of the Seraphim, Abdiel, he makes this clear. Abdiel possesses the telepathic knowledge that all are created by God, but Satan refutes this:
Here, Satan declares that no one remembers how we were created and had seen our creation, so no one can prove that we are created by God. According to him, it is more rational to believe that we are self-begotten and self-raised by our own power. His logic is simple: because they remember nothing, they are self-begotten. How does the idea that they remember nothing jump into the blasphemous conclusion that they are self-begotten? Regina M. Schwartz attempts to account of this problem. She points out that “remembering” has been regarded as the important subject in God’s redemptive history. In Deuteronomy, “a second Moses enjoins the Israelites to remember the events of the exodus, and he proceeds to repeat that story—a second time—a repetition designed to inscribe the memory of what is to be remembered on his hearers”(5). They have to remember God’s deed, and Israelites’ future is in that stake in that memory:
Satan loses that memory, and this is the most unique feature of the devil: “Satan remembers nothing and learning nothing” (Schwartz 93). According to Schwartz, this makes fallen angels different from the fallen man: “memory plays key role in their movement toward repentance”(106). Because Satan remembers nothing, he constantly repeats or returns to his fallen state. What he forgets for the first time is his own creation and the creator, God2, and he repeatedly returns to chaotic conditions, the opposite state of God’s creation. His loss of memory and his loss of intuitive knowledge lead to his outright denial of his own ontological origins. Naturally, Satan is disconnected from his root.
“Self-begotten” Satan remains detached from his root, God, and simultaneously this makes himself alienated from his equal creatures of God. In this epic, Satan is always described as solitary figure (for Romantic poets, solitary hero). He is always alienated from his own surrounding place and even from his companions, other fallen angels. Soon after the Son of God is honored and proclaimed as Messiah King anointed, Satan is consumed with envy at the Son of God. Satan, “unworshipt, unobey’d the Throne supreme,” (5. 670) attempts to persuade angels to be rebels against God. Here, his place where he speaks to the rebellious angels is described as the following:
Satan stands apart from the surrounding place. Raphael says that Satan’s place seemed to be built on “a Mount raised on a Mount” and dressed with diamond quarries and rocks of gold. Satan’s seat is not “in” but “on” the hill in the “far” blazing. It shows that Satan is not a part of the place but actually out of the place. Satan stands outside of his relation with the place. In fact, this is the distinguishing mark that represents Eve’s fall in Eden. Ken Hiltner shows how Eve has a direct relation with the garden before her fall. He suggests that Eve speaks to part of the place she inhabits, and even speaks directly to the tree, but after the fall, she views with desire the place as
Interestingly, separation from God and the place he inhabits results in the separation from his companions, fallen angels. It is noteworthy that Satan’s armies are represented as “his Powers” (5. 743). Satan gives the fallen angels inferior status and they become Satan’s possession: His companions are actually “the object” to be possessed. In the Pandemonium, when Stan delivers his public address to the fallen angels, this becomes very clear. Soon after Satan finishes his speech, he “Self-Begotten” Satan and Broken Images in
John Guillory makes the provocative argument about Satan’s inexplicable birth and identity. He explains that Satan’s idea about self-begetting shows the fundamental shift of the poetic theory during the Renaissance period. He says that “poetic inspiration” began to be distinguished from the idea of “prophetic inspiration” (5) at that time. Many poets used to write their sacred poems with their prophetic “inspiration,” which “visitations upon us of powers outside of ourselves, not the working of our own minds” (qtd. in Guillory 6). They believed that the poetic visions came from supernatural powers, outside their own minds. But, new idea about source of writing poems began popular with the conception of “imagination,” which is “an autonomous power of mind” (6). They began to consider that poems are the “product of the mind alone” (8): “the imagination enters upon the English scene uneasily allied to a view of poetry emptied of divinity” (11). According to Guillory’s view, broken relationships and alienated images of Satan reflect the change of the poetic theory how the poems are created. The poems are widely considered to be “self-begotten” and “self-raised” by division of outside power and the individual poets. Not surprisingly Milton considers the imagination inferior to the inspiration. With anxieties at writing forbidden knowledge, Milton calls for the help of “Heav’nly Muse” (6), the Holy Spirit. The poet needed the powers outside his mind to pursue “Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhyme” (16) and express them guiltlessly. On the other hand, he was very critical about imagination: the imagina-tion was Satanic. Especially in
1John Milton, Complete Prose Works. 2Of course, we do not know whether he pretends to forget this or not. Throughout the epic, Satan’s memory is selective.
Interestingly, the shock that the Christian society might feel from Satan’s daring argument on his birth seems to be the continuing wave that modern society might feel from pop up images of
Unlike early stores, the department store hid making process of the goods. People did not know how the objects were created and where they came from. The displayed objects suddenly appeared under the sparkling light of the show window without betraying “the origins of goods.” So, many people wondered “what seemed the only final truth behind the performance” (133). They seemed to be alienated from their roots and also from surrounding places, because they looked aloof from real and dark circumstances of the dangerous city. These “self-begotten” goods in the department store represented the complex, confusing and fast changing modern society.
It is worth noticing that the “self-begotten” items are designed for satisfying consumer’s needs and desires: “all those desirable things which directly satisfy human needs and desires” (130) were displayed in the department store. “Comsumability” often referred to desirability.” This is important because Satan’s “self-begetting” and the “imagination” are also considered as the embodiments of that “desire.” As stated above, Satan in his argument about “self-begetting,” remembers nothing, and his “desire” to be God’s eye replaces the place where his sacred memory used to take. In fact, in
The “self-begotteness”of the displayed good in the department store is infused into
More than any other scenes, this scene needs a visual help to grasp its meaning. Suddenly, Madame Sosostris appears and shows her cards without any explanation. Like people in the department store, readers are dazzled and confused by the sudden appearance of Madame Sosostris and pack of cards. Like merchant, Madame Sosostris shows her goods saying “here it is. . . Here it is. . . Here it is. . .” Seeing them, consumers (readers) get confused because they do not know which one is appropriate for them (meaningful connections seem to be all broken here). While the visual images dominate this part, however, the invisible also penetrates here. Madame Sosostris, the seeress, actually cannot see her future (she had bad cold), the eyes of Phoenician sailor are transformed into the pearls, some merchant is blind in one eye and the speaker, “I” is forbidden to see something on the card. These double images of the visible and the invisible amplify cinematographic effect. Readers see the successional images but cannot see why this image appears, what the image refers to, and how this image is related with other images. According to Nevo, in
It is unnecessary to accept wholly Nevo’s deconstructive view point, but his idea at least suggests that there is no clear axis to explain or unify the fragments, contrary to our expectation.
As Nevo points out, there is no narrative in this poem, so there is no memory by which the narrative is constructed and developed: No past, no narrative development. The famous opening lines actually begin with the outcry to remember what happened in the past: “April is the cruelest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire, stirring / Dull roots with spring rain” (1-4). April is the cruelest month that recovers our memory out of the “forgetful” snow of the winter. The memory scenes of the past, depicted in the rest lines of the first stanza, however, returns to the forgetfulness of the winter again: “I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter” (18). The unknown speaker no longer uses the past tense, but the present tense alarming that there is no description of the past any more. Now, the image of the forgetfulness dominates increasingly this poem: “ ‘Do you know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember / “Nothing?’” (121-22); “Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead, / forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell / And the profit and loss” (312?14). Naturally, the loss of memory results in the constant repetition. The repetitive images or lines succeed to the theme of the forgetfulness: for instance, repetition of the “Phoenician Sailor” (47), “unreal City” (60), “Philomel” (99), “HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME” (141). Therefore, the poetic beauty of
“Nothing” represents the ontological essence of “self-begotten” and “self-raised” Satan. Paul Ricoeur explains it very well by identifying “nothing” with the satanic vanity, the idol. He says that “the idol is Nothing in the eyes of Yahweh, it is real non-being for man.” (76). He adds that
According to Ricoeur, the idolatry, the great sin in the Christianity is symbolized with the image of “nothing” like “mist” or “breath.” Therefore, when people have to choose between God and Satan, it is equivalent to choose between God and “nothing.” It is very interesting that the fragmentary images in
Eliot believed that the poets should not harbor the personal desire or emotions in writing the poems; instead they have to strive for the ideal of esthetic impersonality. He scoffs at the idea of Romantic expression, and probably rejects the idea on the imagination, which has been believed as “the autonomous power of the individual mind.” He argues in his “Tradition and the Individual Talent” that “poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.” He adds that “but, of course, only those who have personality and emotion know what it means to want to escape from these things” (947). However, most recently, scholars like Tim Dean, Jewel Spears Brooker or Charles Altieri begin to focus on the hidden desires found in Eliot’s poems. Tim Dean argues that “Eliot imagines figures for the ideal impersonalist poet we eminently rapable” (45). According to him, the “rapable” subjects like women (madame Sosostris) or sexually ambiguous youths are actually Eliot’s impersonalist persona. Jewel Spears Brooker in “Mimetic Desire and the Return to Origins in the Waste Land” tries to connect images of blood, sexuality, the city with the real life of Eliot’s personal marriage life. Charles Altieri in “Theorizing Emotions in Eliot’s Poetry and Poetics,” also states that contrary to Eliot’s argument on emotion in his prose, his poetry is actually full of affect(emotion). These scholars suggest that contrary to Eliot’s original design,
3It is controversial if the desire is the reason of sin or it is the outcome of it. 4Paul Ricoeur in his The Symbolism of Evil says that in the story of the serpent’s temptation in Eden, the “desire” springs up as an sinful symptom: when Satan tempts Eve, “a desire has sprang up, the desire for infinity; but that infinity is not the infinity of reason and happiness, . . . it is the infinity of desire itself; it is desire of desire, taking possession of knowing, of willing, of doing, and of being” (253).
Studying Satan’s character in
It is not Satan but Jesus who rejects the “tradition.” In this point of view, Jesus is more radical or “dangerous” than Satan is.