By Lachlan Mackinnon
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Additional info for Eliot, Auden, Lowell: Aspects of the Baudelairean Inheritance
It is conversational and demotic ('newspapers from vacant lots'). The scrupulous denotation shows the authority with which the poet, a strolling observer, afllmeur, can speak of the city. In the second Prelude the poet observes the collective experience which the city contains (a 'street/With all its muddy feet'). The second stanza marks a tentative poetic advance. The poet's imagination ceases to transcribe the immediate. He imagines the disparate lives of the dispossessed in their rented lodgings.
The precision of his style, a characteristic of all Eliot's work, is a care for appearance which is the literary equivalent of sartorial dandyism. Style for Eliot, like clothes for Baudelaire, gestures towards the poet's ambition of inner perfection. Baudelaire and Eliot 25 The third Prelude addresses a woman by night. She dozes, and watches 'the thousand sordid images' of which her soul is composed. As in 'Le Voyage',86 self-knowledge is identified with the sum of perceptions. The woman is no greater than her experience, whereas the poet rises above his by virtue of his poetry.
They go And Hodge himself becomes a sottish bawd Who takes his city vices secondhand And grins, ifhe hears Paris mentioned. Naught Remains but wind-sough over barren pastures The bleak philosophy of Northern ridges Harsh afterglow of an old country's greatness Themes for a poet's pretty sunset thoughts. In an earlier poem, 'The Turbine-House' ,5 Auden spoke with the inhabitant of the scene. Now he is an excluded eavesdropper. The life of his youthful landscape has lost the accessibility of 'Appletreewick'6 which celebrated a pastoral 'Fair land where all is brave and kind': And there are inns where one can go And meet the finest men I know.