La Figlia Che Piange
Stand on the highest pavement of the stair—
Lean on a garden urn—
Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair—
Clasp your flowers to you with a pained surprise—
Fling them to the ground and turn
With a fugitive resentment in your eyes:
But weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.
So I would have had him leave,
So I would have had her stand and grieve,
So he would have left
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,
As the mind deserts the body it has used.
I should find
Some way incomparably light and deft,
Some way we both should understand,
Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand.
She turned away, but with the autumn weather
Compelled my imagination many days,
Many days and many hours:
Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers.
And I wonder how they should have been together!
I should have lost a gesture and a pose.
Sometimes these cogitations still amaze
The troubled midnight and the noon’s repose.
“the girl who weeps”
A remembered love-
& the way the mind uses memories,
reworks, arranges things,
into a pattern that is more to its liking.
Hence the directorial tone that begins the poem,
the string of verbs in the imperative voice.
The poem is surely inspired by Emily Hale whom
Eliot fell in love with while at Harvard,
who shared a love for the theatre,
and would remain semi-attached to Eliot for the rest of her life,
and would become a recurring figure, in a veiled sense,
through several of his early works.
“So he would have left / As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised, /
As the mind deserts the body it has used.”
reflects Eliots’s innate asceticism, his revulsion at sexuality,
and the misogyny that these feelings, perhaps inevitably, engender.
We witness here an artificer deriving a cruel pleasure
from a rearrangement of the memories of the incident.
Finally the auxilliary “woulds” are succeeded by a firm verb in the past tense:
“She turned away…” Are we finally getting at the truth?
Stepping back, as it were, he notes, both amusedly and pathetically:
“I should have lost a gesture and a pose”,
as though the arranged memories and his smug air of superiority
could be more fulfilling than an authentic loving relation.
Finally,”Sometimes these cogitations still amaze / the troubled midnight and
the noon’s repose.”
both the “sometimes” and the supercilious “cogitations”
create a distance and containment of the unfulfilled longing the speaker feels,
while, in the end, hinting at other imaginative practices.
see: Lyndall Gordon’s T. S. Eliot: an imperfect life London, Vintage 1998 pp. 75-85.