Summary

The 3rd of the Quartets, “The dry Salvages”appeared in 1941.The word “salvages” in the title must be pronounced, together Eliotmentions in a keep in mind to the poem, to rhyme v “assuages,” v theemphasis top top the penultimate syllable. The dry Salvages room a groupof small, rocky islands with a lighthouse off the shore of Massachusetts.Eliot presumably visited them or at the very least knew that them as a boy.This quartet departs native the pessimism and also human damages of the otherthree to think about humanity together a whole, as an entity through a unified subconsciousand storage that produce mythic structures. Mankind is, thus, placedon a level with the natural human being as something v a background andwith cycles of rebirth and renewal.

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The very first section of “The dry Salvages” makes an explicitcomparison between a river and the sea as models because that the unknowable.A river, while it may figure prominently in human mythologies, issomething that can at some point be crossed and also conquered, while thesea to represent an countless reserve of depths and mysteries: male canlive through the ocean yet he will certainly never grasp it. The 2nd sectionof the poem appears to represent a reconciliation v the human lot.The sea will never ever be either a blank slate or an quickly circumscribedpond; “there is no end of it,” and also man must always keep workingin good faith. Time destroys yet it also preserves, and also just asthere is no mastery there is also no escape. The 3rd section ofthe city ruminates on native attributed come Krishna, advising humanitynot to “fare well” yet to “fare forward.” This is an exhortationto offer up aspirations—to stop seeking to carry out “well”—and to it is in satisfiedwith mere existence. Again Eliot provides a ghostly figure, in thiscase a voice from high in a ship’s rigging, to represent a levelof awareness unattainable for the series of travelers the describeshere. The fourth section is a prayer come the Virgin Mary, figuredas a frosting watching end the sea, questioning her come pray because that thosewho trip on the sea and those that wait for them in ~ home. Boththe sailors and their love ones was standing in for all of humanity, facedwith unsure conditions and also a lack of knowledge. The final sectionof “The dried Salvages” in ~ last uses something akin come hope. If manwill constantly strive in vain to “apprehend / The point of intersectionof the timeless / through time,” day-to-day existence nevertheless containsmoments of only half-noticed grace—moments in ~ which “you space themusic / when the music lasts.” Moreover, “right action,” whileit will never ever be entirely successful, is nevertheless virtually theonly way available to guy to subvert the “daemonic” pressures thatdrive him.

Form

This quartet return to some of the very same easy music of“Burnt Norton.” Again, Eliot plays v words (“womb, or tomb”),and, an especially in the 2nd section, there space moments in whichthe heaviness of the concepts forces the poetry right into a somber, prose-likemode. In general, though, Eliot uses far less repetition and also circularlanguage in this section, properly lightening the tone. The poemalso provides use of extended “landscapes”—the river and also the sea— thatallow Eliot to engage in flights the descriptive language totally free fromthe thoughtful seriousness of the rest of the Quartets. Again,too, formal frameworks are borrowed from religious and philosophicalsources, as in the prayer of ar four and the Krishna materialin the third section. In a way, Eliot is shortcut his poeticefforts v the various other struggles for knowledge noted in the finalsection—astrology, palm-reading, pet sacrifices—and this leadshim to take it himself much less seriously, come look instead for themoments of covert beauty in his language.

Commentary

“The dry Salvages” is interrupted at the very least twice by theringing that a bell. In both cases it is a bell at sea, either on aship or top top a buoy. The bell is a person intervention that is meantto illuminate the vastness both of the sea and also of mere existenceand to suggest out the futility of trying to understand it through anythingas ineffectual as a bell. In both cases, the bell goes unheard:In the an initial mention, that is a bell on a buoy out to sea, i m sorry willbe heard most most likely only by those around to be wrecked ~ above the rocksthe buoy is supposed to mark. Inserted there by man, the bell hasnevertheless come under the control of the sea and also has come to be irrelevantas a mite of human being intention. The second bell is rung for thedead, because that those shed at sea. They are where the sound that the bellcannot with them; the bell, therefore, tolls no for them however forthose left behind. This bell is mentioned in the exhortation tothe Virgin mar to pray for those lost and also those still here. Likeprayer, the bell represents an effort to appeal come a higher power,to recognize one’s own mortal limits. The bell straight refutes poetic endeavor,too: human-made, a bell’s ring is an attempt to connect withoutwords, an admission that words have actually failed.

Perhaps the many famous part of this poem is that is opening,with the summary of the river together “a solid brown god.” Theselines are often coopted and used to describe the Mississippi andto talk about the mythological importance of rivers. Curiously,though, Eliot is actually demoting the river to the standing of afalse god, by stating its inferiority to the sea as an objectfor contemplation. Famous culture’s glorification of this linesindeed illustrates the an extremely inanity that human action that Eliot describeslater in the poem: Dazzled by the lines’ rhetorical force, we tendto attribute greater an interpretation to the language than is yes, really there,while we ignore what is in reality being said. In the 2nd sectionof the poem, the flow becomes a conduit for refuse and unpleasantmemories, a shallow channel fairly than a “strong brown god.” Justas we can neither escape no one romanticize the river, nor deserve to we masterthe past.

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The last lines of “The dried Salvages” incorporate a resignedpessimism v a ide of hope. Couched in the beauty beauty of thelines is a dark meaning: “our temporal reversion” is death, whichis valuable only if we can become “significant soil” the mightnourish a tree. Through hiding behind such flights that language, Eliotonce again retreats into the refuge that the poet. He might not be ableto grasp time and also experience however he is master of the civilization thathe writes into being. Futility does no diminish beauty.