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Nov 17, 2018 01:16

The phrase with which they both start the poem is a negative one. At a first level of analysis, this surely means that they intend to deny the sentiment of hope. Cavalcanti does not hope to return in Tuscany, as he is dying; while Eliot does not hope to turn again toward earthly goods, the things that happens between “the dying and the birth ”. It is important that in Eliot the two terms are in opposite position respect on how we are used to encounter them. This may imply that our mundane experience of life is a death compared to our otherworldly life, which is a rebirth. There are several signs that support this hypothesis: in the first stanza he claims the usual reign to be vain; then, in the last one, he hopes to return again, wavering between the profit and the loss, in this brief transit where the dreams cross. He wished to not wish earthly life as well as he doesn`t want to discuss much about these things. He denies hope, because hope is still part of despair: hope and despair are part of the same process, which is a characteristic of mundane life. Therefore in his attempt to transcend this world, hope are despair are the ones to fight. He says: “Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears / The deceitful face of hope and of despair .”
The whole poem plays with the force of negation; hope is to be denied as it is part of the mundane life. In his Purgatorio, Dante goes clearly beyond hope and despair, conquering the certainty of faith. Eliot prays and invokes God, but he receives no sign of his safety. Apparently, in Cavalcanti there is not mention of God at all; the survival of his soul which goes to stay with his woman, can be a metaphor for the memory of him, honored by her. However, there is another passage that deserves attention: in the second stanza, he asks his ballatetta to not end up in the wrong hands, since that will cause pain even after his death. Isn`t he a complete atheist who doesn`t believe in otherworldly life? Thus, why this reference to a pain that should be felt even after life? It may be a sign of a hope, almost hidden and denied; a hope that it is not necessarily connected to prayers and faith, but has to do only with love. Something that has less to do with orthodoxy and that can be found in Petrarch as well, in his almost secular idea of otherwordly life.
Any case, it is essential for the purpose of the analysis to notice the similarity between Eliot and Cavalcanti; the former seems to be interested in purification and purgatory but ends up talking about exile from the Garden. Cavalcanti is rightly in exile when writes his ballatetta; a condition that seems to be relevant for the American poet. As matter of fact, he chooses the exile as metaphor for describing human condition; exile are the gates, the barriers that divide us from the Garden. A textual analysis will legitimate this interpretation: in the last stanza of the second part he says:
“Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each
Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance ”.
While in the last verse of the third part he concludes:
“And after this our exile ”
In his failed attempt of climbing to Paradise, Eliot stops himself to the gates. Our inheritance is not the Garden but a desert land reminding the Waste Land of the previous work. In this land where we live, the relationship between men is contingent; division or unity among them do not seem to count. In Dante the unification of the believers under the same Church`s role is an essential part of the God`s Providential plan. It does matter. In Eliot, who didn`t embrace Catholicism but Anglo-Catholicism, division or unity seem to be the same; what it counts, is the individual relationship between man and God.
The people around the man do not play any positive role, they inheritance the land and they do not do to much good to each other . But that does not seem to be the point. Dante`s Comedy revolves around the notion of good and evil deeds; rewards are showed to be -to some extent-rational. Eliot asks for a redemption of the Time, he asks for a purification of his vision and dreams ; apparently, there is no space either for other people or good and evil deeds. The same happens in Cavalcanti`s ballatetta where the other people do not play a necessary role in the travelling of his soul; they are not medium, they do not help or acknowledge the process of love. Instead they can cause pain with their misunderstanding and criticism. Eliot takes this negative notion of others from Cavalcanti not from Dante. In the poet of the Divine Comedy, others are essential. The others ‘vision of his woman is an necessary and not contingent acknowledgment. The foundation of reality is for Dante the common vision of good and evil everybody has. Seeing Beatrice is seeing the beauty and the truth. All the rhymes , even those before the Comedy, stress the reality of the vision of the woman and the correspondence between her and Christ. Reality is metaphysically founded, we live in a ordered logical world sustained by God. Nobody denies it. Even in Hell, every sinner is forced to recognized the order of the Universe.
Such a grand sense of architectonic order and harmony is not present in Eliot. He delves himself into contradiction and denying, which seems to be in his poetry, the only medium to mystique knowledge. Following Lancelot Andrew and Cavalcanti himself, he explores the rhetorical potentiality of contradiction, he recognizes in it, something that denying reality opens a door to something else. But he stays before that door, and he does not recognize any order in this world that resembles the other one. His desire may be to do as Dante, a poet who connects the two worlds, but he is still closer to Cavalcanti, who denies any positive role of acknowledgement of reality by other people and that do not see any external order capable of guaranteeing another life to any man. Reality is only the reality of our mind, of its desire.