T.S. Eliot is thought to be a particularly essential modernist author. He inaugurated a variety of narrative and stylistic strategies which exercised a substantial affect over modernism in literature. This text explores the poem ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night time’, 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 big position in ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night time’, hereafter on this article known as ‘Rhapsody’. The modernist curiosity in time may very well 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. Nonetheless 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, similar to Einstein’s formulation of the Particular Concept of Relativity, have been remodeling the understanding of time as a bodily measure. Nonetheless, 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 thought to be transforming a few of Bergson’s concepts; due to this fact an understanding of them is helpful when evaluating Eliot’s personal attitudes to the current. Most of Bergson is extraordinarily troublesome 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 Inventive Evolution (1907) and Matter and Reminiscence (1896) – two works Eliot was aware of 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 ‘length’, a metaphysical assemble which considers evolution and consciousness to be underlain by a continuing move of moments that can’t be measured by clock time. In Inventive 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 consistently 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 quite a lot 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 may very well be thought of ‘the current’. Bergson concedes that what we determine as the current is shaped by sensations deriving from the previous and actions directed in the 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 authentic and distinctly trendy poetic voice. You will need to acknowledge that this poet persona just isn’t supposed to signify T.S. Eliot himself, however is as an alternative 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 variety 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 an alternative of ‘my reminiscence’, provides to the divided high quality of the protagonist, as if he have been composed of separated components moderately than being complete.
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 into 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 stated’. 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 lady, 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 lady 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 refined 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 pictures and people from the protagonist’s reminiscence are juxtaposed with the inexorable march of clock time, illustrated by the stark indisputable fact that a lot of the stanzas start by informing the reader of the particular time.
The idea of time performs an essential position in ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night time’. 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.
Source by Ben H Wright