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La Figlia Che Piange
Transcript of La Figlia Che Piange
To introduce the poem, Elliot alluded with an epigraph: "O quam te memorem, virgo". This is a quotation from Virgil, Aeneid, I, 326, where Aeneas addresses his mother Venus who had appeared to him disguised as a Carthaginian huntress so that he does not recognize her, though he is well aware she is a goddess.
MEMOREM - it is the present subjunctive 1st.person singular of the verb ‘memorare'( to call, to name, to bring to remembrance, mention, recount, relate, speak of, say, tell ).
This subjunctive is a "deliberative subjunctive" which is used in questions, asked in some confusion, when no answer is expected, when someone is thinking about a course of action.
QUAM - in this phrase, an indeclinable form meaning “what”, “how”, while VIRGO is the vocative of the noun VIRGO(virgin) and TE is the accusative of the pronoun TU (you).
When we read the english translation, initially, we believed that this would tie in to the interpretation of the man being a bystander who just happened to come across such a scene. However, once we further researched what the epigraph meant, our opinions changed. The epigraph could then further support the idea of a parent-child relationship.
How Aeneas spoke to Virgo, his mother, is how Elliot’s character spoke to his daughter, the weeping girl.
La Figlia Che Piange is the concluding poem in T.S. Elliot's
Prufrock and Other Observations (1917).
Grover Smith, the author of T.S. Eliot's Poems and Plays, noted that La Figlia Che Piange is a stele that one of Eliot's friends urged him to see at a museum in Northern Italy. However, Eliot never found the tablet and later wrote the poem instead.
The poem was written during the First World War.
Elliot never had any children.
La Figlia Che Piange
La Figlia Che Piange - "The Girl Who Weeps"
La Figlia che Piange by T. S. Eliot
O quam te memorem virgo…
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.
Internal conflict with himself:
“Sometimes these cogitations still amaze
The troubled midnight and the noon’s repose.”
This image in his mind of this girl and the actions that took place still affect him.
If he was emotionally connected to the girl (either the father or lover of her) he feels regret for the course of action that took place. He also feels guilty that he would have had it happen the same way.
This is the conflict with himself; would he change what happened or does the image of the incident and the way it happened bring him more satisfaction?
The changing nature of gender roles
Eliot simultaneously lauded the end of the Victorian era and expressed concern about the freedoms inherent in the modern age. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” reflects the feelings of emasculation experienced by many men as they returned home from World War I to find women empowered by their new role as wage earners. Prufrock, unable to make a decision, watches women wander in and out of a room, “talking of Michelangelo” (14), and elsewhere admires their downy, bare arms.
La Figlia Che Piange,
we can sense that the speaker initially deludes himself of how women are still submissive by nature. He portrayed the male speaker to have authoritative control and desire to inflict as much emotional pain as he could towards her. However, he subtly admits to himself that that what he is imagining may not have occurred in reality and that she just “turned away”.
Tensions with the girl:
Who is she?
Why is she upset?
“With a fugitive resentment in your eyes”
Is she is the daughter of the narrator, there are family tensions. Why doesn’t he help his daughter?
If she is the lover of the narrator or even a stranger, there are sexual tensions. Why does this image of her give him so much satisfaction?
If she never existed, there is more sexual tension within himself. Why does he picture this imaginary girl again and again?
Mockery to Melancholy - State of Denial
From the past lover's perspective, his aesthetic image of her allows him to believe he still has control. He mocks her in his mind of how easily manipulated she can be, however, by the end of each stanza you can feel that his memory of that day may have been inaccurate.
1st stanza - Authoritative to Awareness of his past lover's feelings
From the first few words he began each line with: STAND, Lean, Weave, Clasp, Fling.
to "fugitive resentment in [her] eyes” (Line 5)
2nd stanza - From wanting to inflict emotional pain to sympathy as he thought of ways to comfort her
have had him leave, / So [he]
have had her stand and grieve, ‘ so he would have left" (Lines 8-10)
find/ [s]ome way incomparably light and deft, / [s]ome way we both should understand, / [s]imple and faithless as a smile and shake of hand.” (Lines 13-16)
3rd stanza - the speaker then notes that although a season has gone by, the image of their break up “compelled [his] imagination many days”(Line 18). He still imagines how “they should have been together!” (Line 21)and how if they were, he "should have lost a gesture and a pose". Although he gave off the impression that it was him who broke off ties with her, it was actually the woman who he loved so much that left. Over and over again he replays the scene as if trying to persuade and delude himself from reality.
We generally believe it is a
who is recollecting the memories of when he separated from his female lover. It can also be justified that the speaker was a random bystander that happened to come across such a scene and came to be engrossed with the image of the girl (More interpretations to come!). However, the former is our main interpretation.
Speaker? Who do you believe the speaker is? A man? A woman? A HORSE?
Conflicted -> Admittance
Choice of words - the mood of the first stanza is not indicative but imperative, and the first five lines all begin with strong commands: Stand; Lean; Weave; Clasp; Fling. In other words, rather than the tone being descriptive, as to what Elliot would usually write -a more authoritative command can be heard.
Compulsive repetition of the second stanza - in which almost every line is linked to another (or to two others) through the use of the same syntax and initial word.
Structure of the sentences - The two exceptions to this rule of initial repetition are significant. The first, line 13 ("I should find"), is the shortest line in the poem, and rhymes only internally with "mind" in line 12. These differences mark an important shift, since it is in this line that the third-person "him" gives way to an "I" who is both speaker and actor.
In the same breath, the "would" of the first three lines-- a conditional indicating volition and the hypothetical-- gives way to "should." With this new modal, the setting shifts from the past and imagined to the present and actual: "should" refers to an obligation felt by a speaker deliberating on how to act in an unfolding situation-- even if his deliberation is not genuine. We learn that he is being sarcastic in the buildup to the second non-repetitive line (line 16, "Simple and faithless..."). In this alexandrine (a line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables), the meter swells along with the emotion and the speaker gives vent to the irritation which he has so far tried to contain.
At this point, it seems clear that the speaker remembers his former lover not in any of the poses described in the first stanza -standing, leaning, clasping, or flinging- and not in the handshake he suggests as a goodbye and comforting gesture in stanza two. He remembers, instead, her turn away from him: a simple gesture, indicative of pain for which she may be responsible for. It is a gesture, at any rate, that he relives in memory with a self-punishing persistence mimicked by the repetitiveness of his verse: "... many days / Many days and many hours" (lines 18-19).
In the last three lines of the stanza, the verse finally settles down into regular iambic pentameter and regains poetic control.
Tone - What attitude do you feel the author gives off in the poem?
Right from the beginning Elliot provides his readers a poem with an italian title. Similar to what the internet did to us, we lied to you.
La Figlia Che Piange does not literally translate to “the girl who weeps” but the “the daughter who weeps”.
How does that one word open yet another interpretation? Few minutes to discuss.
The very first sentence is on it’s own. This suggests that it carries importance. The importance of this could be to hint the reader in the direction of the interpretation. “O quam te memorem virgo… “ is an allusion to Aeneas calling to his disguised mother. This hints at the family interpretation, where the narrator is the father to the girl. As his mother was disguised, it could also hint at the unknown, or, the interpretation where the narrator does not actually know the girl.
The rest of the poem is laid out into three stanzas. The first stanza has the rhyme pattern 1,2,1,3,2,3,1. The second stanza has the rhyme pattern 1,1,2,3,3,4,2,5,5. The last stanza has the rhyme pattern 1,2,3,3,1,4,2,4.
There is only one line in the poem that doesn’t rhyme with another line. This is “I should find” This is also the shortest line in the whole poem. It is representative of a shift in the narrator’s presence in the poem. Originally, he uses the word “him”, however, after this line, “him” shifts to “I”. The narrator’s shift from third-person to first-person shows personal involvement in the situation.
The narrator repeats that the girl should “Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair” This is said in line 4 and repeated in line 8. The narrator also repeats how the girl holds her flowers. This is said in line 5 and repeated in line 21. The significance of repeating these is to create imagery. Through this, the narrator shows how he pictures the girl. It also shows her as an innocent person. As the sunlight is in her hair, it is like a light shining on her from above. As well, the flowers are representative of innocence and love. These are repeated to highlight the themes of love and innocence, as well as naivety that the girl portrays.
→ innocent, pure, naive
static character - the girl shows no change from our first impression of her. Even in the very end, the narrator does not see that she has changed because when he visualizes her, he imagines that same girl from that same day.
→ commanding, regretful, awe-filled
isolated character - he speaks about the girl from a distance. The girl shows no clear recognition that she is even aware of his presence, while the image of her still affects him. If the girl never did exist, he would be an apostrophe character. He tells her what to do, almost commanding her. If she never existed, however, he is addressing a girl who is not even in his presence.
Found the girl
In this poem, Eliot's narrator (a poet figure) ponders (perhaps a bit guiltily) the tension between his memory of a distraught, crying girl he once encountered and his feelings about the aestheticized image of her that he has since rendered in poetry.
In the first stanza, Eliot uses the imperative form of direct address, as though speaking to the girl. "Yes," the narrator is essentially saying, "Do show me all these bodily signs of your distress, but above all let the sunlight fall upon your hair just so, to preserve the aesthetic moment I am now capturing/creating." In the second stanza, the narrator perversely states that if he had had his way, the departing male lover would have left the girl broken just as badly and irrevocably as the soul/mind leaves a broken, twisted corpse, further (and more sadistically) sexualizing the metaphor with the image of a body that has been "used" and discarded like the proverbial used Kleenex. In the last stanza, the poet/narrator remarks that the image of the girl still haunts him, long after the event itself. He expresses ambiguous feelings (if not some measure of guilt) over his appropriation of the girl's misery. On one hand, he is satisfied, saying that if the couple hadn't broken up in this way, he never would have had the opportunity to aestheticize this "gesture and...pose" in poetry. On the other hand, the last two lines state that the narrator is still troubled by the idea that his poetic triumph came at the cost of his compassion.”
Interpretation of the Stele
Eliot traveled to a museum in Northern Italy where he went to look at a stele called “La Figlia che Piange”. He didn’t actually see the stele while on his visit there, but instead, he wrote this poem. This could be his interpretation of the stele he sought out to see, and the way his character seems isolated from the girl could be a representation of how, in Eliot’s life, he was separated from the stele (as he never actually saw it). This brings up the question of “did the girl in Eliot’s poem actually exist?” There is contemplation around this as well. He could have imagined her up from what he imagined the stele would look like, or, instead, he could have based it off of a real character.
Which interpretation do you think makes?
The First Stanza -compared to his usual characters, the choice of words found in the first stanza seemed a bit off. Although there was still a subtle isolated tone, there was presence of authority from the first words in the first five lines that strongly contrasted the typical timid character Eliot wrote -such as Prufrock.
At the end of the second stanza, the speaker begins to feel obliged to sympathize for her. He wished to find “Some way [they] both should understand,/Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand”(Lines 15-16). Through this the reader could see that if he is her father, he has an obligation to comfort his daughter. However, Eliot expresses how although one is a father, awkwardness between a parent and child can still exist.
By stanza three, the father concludes how his daughter has essentially moved on and how he cannot. As a father, he is still “troubled” by the image of the two together. He exclaims “And I wonder how they should have been together! / I should have lost a gesture and a pose.” (Lines 21-22)