by Jonathan Vold

Friday, November 25

TWL, Lines 418-423: Thunder To The Lesser Gods

418 Da
419 Damyata: The boat responded
420 Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
421 The sea was calm, your heart would have responded
422 Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
423 To controlling hands

419. THUNDER’S THIRD DISCIPLINE: This is the third DA, after lines 401 and 411. Damyata means “Control yourself,” what lesser gods understood in hearing “Da.” See note 400.

DADAISM: Apart from any meaning heard in what the thunder said, the da da da passage also evokes the concept of Dadaism, a pre-surrealist art movement that began in Switzerland in 1916 and was reaching its peak at the time of The Waste Land. The movement, which ranged from visual arts to literature and poetry to theater, spurned the bourgeoisie reasoning and hard logic that were at the roots of World War I and instead placed a value on abstract nonsense. In contrast to Eliot’s objective correlative theory (note 417), compare this with the ostensible “gibberish” of the jazz movement (notes 130 and 433).  See Eliot’s comments, in The Lesson of Baudelaire (1921; see note 76): “Dadaism is a diagnosis of a disease of the French mind; whatever lesson we extract from it will not be directly applicable in London”; and again in James Joyce, Ulysses, Order and Myth (1923), in which he criticized another critic: “Mr. Aldington treated Mr. Joyce as a prophet of chaos; and wailed at the flood of Dadaism which his prescient eye saw bursting forth at the tap of the magician’s rod.”

420. THE BOAT RESPONDED: See line 280 (Elizabeth and Leicester, on the Thames barge) and note 280 for more on oars.

421. CALMNESS: Compare the calm sea with the calm night after leaving the Chapel Perilous (see note 388) and the calm day of a riverside wedding in Spenser, Prothalamion (see note 176).

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