Falling Towers: The Trojan Imagination in The Waste Land, The Dunciad, and Speke Parott
University of Delaware Press, 1992 - 190 sider
In Falling Towers, J. A. Richardson examines how The Waste Land, The Dunciad, and Speke Parott are built upon similar patterns of conflict and anxiety. In each of the poems the poet presents his society and himself as under threat. He tries to counter the threat with some kind of assertion of poetic authority but fails since he dramatizes this conflict in such a way as to reveal his own insecurity. The presence of the flood in the three poems provides an example of the pattern. The flood acts both as a metaphor of the problem the poet is confronting, and, through hints of impending catastrophe, as his imaginative way of dealing with it. But in predicting a deluge the poet also dramatizes the prophecy in such a way that it appears self-interested, personally motivated, and unreliable. The dramatization implies the poet's unacknowledged anxiety about his own authority.
The similar casts of the imagination shared by these three poems can be traced back to the similar cultural conditions under which the poets wrote. Each stood in, and indeed stood for, a cultural tradition that was exhausted and dying. Skelton was arguably the last medieval poet, Pope the last Renaissance poet, and Eliot the last romantic.
One important pattern of conflict that can be seen in all three poems is between age and youth. Each poet speaks with an aged voice. Skelton's parrot is a very old bird and the poet himself is not very far behind him; Pope is present behind The Dunciad in the character he publicly cultivated in the 1730s of the wise old philosopher; and Eliot's speaker in The Waste Land, who is probably much like Eliot himself, is implicitly aged. The speakers' worlds are dominated by youth, a motif that is quite marked in each of the poems. Confronted with a youthful world that they neither understand nor like, the poets try to assert their own authority, but the dramatic situations give them away. The old man railing against the excesses of youth appears less as sage and authoritative than as threatened, aggressive, envious, and uncertain.
The second, more general pattern of conflict is that which exists between a world grown too confusingly crowded and a poet who insists upon limitation and selection. Profusion and crowds are important images of the corrupt world in all three poems, and the threat they represent is intimately embodied in the poems' many voices.
Although Falling Towers concentrates on three poets and three poems, it aims not merely to analyze the poems but also to suggest something about their place in literary history. At its most ambitious, the book proposes an argument about the importance of a poet's position in the development of his or her tradition and about the pattern of English cultural change.
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Trojans and Greeks
Prophecy Deluge and Anxiety
The Trojan Predicament
Old Poets and New Men
Youth and Age
Other Voices and Madness
Authority the Poet and Others
Allusion in the Three Poems
Breaches in the Wall
Engaging with the World
The Aged Voice and the Three Poets
Traditions of the Satirist
The Aged Voice in the Three Poems
Intimations of Mortality
Contexts and Conflicts
The End of It All
The Few and the Many
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