ELIOT AND CAVALCANTI II

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Nov 17, 2018 01:15
ELIOT AND CAVALCANTI II

The personal pronoun ‘I’ is very important for both poets. A tormented self is what distinguishes Cavalcanti from Dante, positioning Eliot closer to the former. While Cavalcanti`s identity is fragmented into different entities, with the American poet, the question needs to be put differently. As Maria Corti points out, the Tuscan poet`s use of these entities called spiritelli, (literally little spirits) is an unicum in the corpus of the whole Medieval poetry. Cavalcanti deploys these entities as a medium between the body of the soul; they have an Aristotelian origin and have the poetic function of signaling the iteration of the love process, its being an act that implies passivity and iteration. The self cannot completely control the action of these entities, which have a separated lives and will. The lover`s soul, mind, and self, are completely subjugated to these little spirits that bring emotions, such as fear terror love and desire, to the loved one. Poet`s self does not operate a real synthesis of all these feelings; the only hope is to describe what happens during the process of love, with vivid and detailed words. The poet commits himself to poetry as the only way of being with his lover; a plurality of words replaces any possibility of unification of the will.
In his ballatetta, Cavalcanti gives an example of the fragmentation of the self discussed above: he refers to the ballatetta itself as a separated entity which as the task to bring poet`s emotions to his woman. Yet the operation of division of the self is not completed: he asks his poem to take with it his soul as well; since he despairs to be able to return in Tuscany ever again. Finally it is the poet`s friendship to his lady, the last sentiment that the ballatetta has the task to take and bring to her. As said, Cavalcanti`s world is a intricate puzzle in which no precise and definitive order is set once and for good. There is a complex situation of fragmentation of the self; the ‘I’ is the one organizing the poetic discourse; but the same cannot be done with the reality itself.
The reality is presented as a plurality of wills and desires which stay together only because they are addressed to the same woman. The woman loved by the poet is the only force, working as a magnet, who can attract the divided self of the lover. This attraction calls for an aggregation of the mentioned entities toward the pole constituted by the woman. However, such an aggregation does not present any elements of a precise order or hierarchy. Cavalcanti`s reality shows itself only thanks to the medium of the words, which are always part of his meta-reflection on poetry. There are not values or principle to reach, only words of desire and love. As matter of fact, words are the only things that makes reality real, same as plurality is the only thing that makes the self possible of investigation. It is this quality of being divided into different entities the only way to name and to get to know it. On the opposite pole of the question, there is the woman, the desired object that attracts every sentiment and emotion granting iteration to the process of love. This circularity is what gives meaning to life. The only it has.
Eliot`s poetic self is not fragmented into different spiritelli but tormented -as well as Cavalcanti- by will and desires . Recursion and iteration hunt the poet`s self in a way that does not really end with the last words of his poem . He starts with the description of an ‘I’ who wishes to not return again, and finishes it, in the last stanza, with an ‘I’ who wishes to not wish earthly goods again. It is a sort of paradox; in Eliot`s Ash Wednesday the purification is the wish for a purification. There is no other ultimate attainment. He starts off from Cavalcanti`s tormented self and reaches a self who seeks peace, without really gaining it. All of considered, his desire to emulate Dante`s climb to safety - if it ever was- miserably fails. God itself is presented as doubtful. “Shall these bones live?” He wonders, echoing the poet`s torment. Eliot doubts, tormented in anguish, begging for a resignation that is still to come. Eliot does not even allow himself to wish for a climb to Paradise, his foot are stranded in the lands of Massachusetts, as Jones points out analyzing the landscape presented in 'Ash Wednesday'. His whisper for eternal salvation is the only thing that differentiates him from Cavalcanti; in the Tuscan poet`s poem despair and fear are extremely painful, yet not hope for the salvation for his bones is granted to the self, whose only wish concerns the soul. The dichotomy between body and soul, regarding Eliot and Cavalcanti, with this latter mostly interested in carnal pleasures and the former only interested in the soul, it is a false representation of the matter, probably due to the sensuality of some of his lyrics. As well as Dante, Eliot believes in a divine order that encompasses all the aspects of human life, therefore the body is not left out of this vision. The reference he makes to the Garden of Eden, that Dante in his Purgatorio , clearly compares to the golden age sung by poets, it is a reference that has much to do with our bodily experience of life, with our senses and the memory to which, they are connected. Eliot asks himself about the resurrection of the bodies; the Lady of Silence, the blessed sister, the holy mother is the spirit of the fountain, the spirit of the garden. And the garden is the triumph of the innocent body, the rebirth of the pure corporeality from forgetfulness and oblivion.
Eliot goes to the rescue of the body where in Cavalcanti`s ballatetta, life is abandoning the body, the heart is shaking of fear and pain, the mind is destroyed , and only for the soul there is hope to see his lady again. Yet, the vision of the tormented self is more similar to Cavalcanti than Dante. His dramatic pain emphasizes by a fast pace writing, the continuing reference to something still to come, the verses almost cut and isolated, standing by themselves, are all characteristic of a tormented writing that has found no peace:
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The dramatic flow toward the end, has the same powerful and desperate touch of Cavalcanti. Their final words remain a cry for help, full of negativity and torment. Cavalcanti is sbigottito dolente deboletto, his mind is strutta. Only the woman is pleasant. In spite of the presence of God, Eliot`s final verses are almost more dramatic than the Italian: there is sufferance, mock, falsehood and rocks. This all means discomfort, pain, suffering. The only enjambement he uses for emphasis purpose is for the word 'Garden'. His final hope is all put in this Garden, a place where bodies come to life again and experience the joy of the rebirth. Is there anything similar in Cavalcanti or his supposed atheism leaves no space for transcendence? The only enjambment he use is for sempre. Anima, he says, always adore my woman. Is that ‘always’ a hope?