In his poetry T. S. Eliot experimented with a number of techniques, one of the best known of these being the persistent use of direct and indirect allusions to other poets and poetry. These allusions are from an impressively wide range of sources, but one of the most important sources is the poetry of Dante.
The epigraph of Eliot’s first volume of poetry, PRUFROCK AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS, is from the PURGATORIO, while the epigraph to the poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” is from the INFERNO. There are a number of allusions to these sections of THE DIVINE COMEDY in THE WASTE LAND, and Eliot himself identifies them in his “Notes on ’The Waste Land.’” One of the central images of “The Hollow Men” is the “Multifoliate rose,” which had been for Dante a symbol of Paradise, and which for Eliot represents the only hope of the hollow man. There are allusions to Dante’s poetry scattered throughout Eliot’s work. In “Little Gidding,” the final section of Eliot’s last great work of poetry, FOUR QUARTETS, the long concluding passage of Section II is, as Eliot himself said, intended to be as close an equivalent as possible to a canto of the INFERNO or the PURGATORIO.
The point need hardly be stressed: there is value in this study of Dante, not only for the student of Dante, but for the student of Eliot as well. In the preface to DANTE,...
(The entire section is 1291 words.)
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