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Eroticism versus mysticism in T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of St. Sebastian" and "Death of St. Narcissus".

T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of St. Sebastian" was written in 1914, but it was first published in Inventions of the March Hare in 1996. It was intended to be included in a collection of poems entitled Descent from the Cross. This poem, which depicts a male speaker's sadomasochistic relation with a lady, attests to misogyny and the deviant sexuality that marks Eliot's early poems. Eliot himself admits the morbidity of the poem in a letter to Conrad Aiken dated 25 July 1914. He writes: "Do you think that the Love Song of Saint Sebastian part is morbid, or forced?" (1)

In the first part of the poem, Sebastian seems to be a devoted lover, who is infatuated with his beloved and who shows readiness for sacrifice to win her heart. Sebastian is not just a slave in the service of his beloved, he is a masochist who wants to dash himself to pieces for the woman he loves: "I would flog myself until I bled./And after hour on hour of prayer/And torture and Delight/Until my blood should ring the lamp/And glisten in the light;" (2) This mentally disturbed lover seems to be madly in love with the woman. He goes ahead to her room and tries to perform acts of martyrdom and bravery to affirm his worthiness. He flogs himself till bleeding in order to show his heroism and masculinity.

The speaker's masochism and self-maiming is to win the shred of honour by being her first lover, which is akin to being a neophyte. His martyrdom seems to be for the sake of his beloved with whom he falls in love irretrievably and who arouses in him savagery. He makes herculean efforts to gain her love and dwell in her heart. His fervid desire for her impels him to vindicate a heroism that might end in his demise. Sebastian, who is in the throes of his romantic and sexual yearnings, resorts to aggression to assert masculinity. The latter, for him, is equivalent with violence.

The first lines of the poem recall to mind the famous romantic love story of Eros and Psyche, especially in its reference to the bed, the lamp, and the stunningly beautiful lady, who is given divine attributes. The title of the poem also gives the illusion of an exalted romantic love. But though he performs formidable acts of heroism, his love song, for the woman who possesses his heart, is never spelled. St. Sebastian disrupts the conventions of love, because the lovers conjoined tragically; their union ends with his death between her breasts. The speaker says; "You would take me in without shame/Because I should be dead/And when the morning came/Between your breasts should lie my head" (78). The magnetic relationship between the two lovers reaches its climax when Sebastian lays dead between his beloved's breasts, who seems to have lulled him to an eternal slumber. As in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Pruffock," there is no love in this poem and no romantic conversation issues. The woman is both weirdly fascinating and viscerally disgusting. Their embrace is a mere mechanical coupling.

In the second part of the poem, Sebastian murders his beloved to squeeze the drops of his passion. He says: "I would come with a towel in my hand/And bend your head beneath my knees" (78). Sebastian's erotic devotion is tinged with sadistic violence. The strength of his affection turns into an erotic sexual strangulation, because he fails to consummate his love with the woman. he loves madly. One might opine that his passion is a mere pretense or even an alibi for sexual violence. In fact, "The Love Song of ST. Sebastian" is a sadomasochistic fantasy of flagellation and murder. Sex is these poems is never associated with pleasure or love: it is anxious, sordid, urgent, unwanted, unfulfilled, at best masturbatory, at worst a crucifixion in a garret. So, like the other poems, in "The Inventions of the March Hare," "The Love Song of St. Sebastian" is ridden with misogyny.

Sebastian's murder of the woman he loves is reminiscentofPorphyria's lover in Browning'spoem, which is a misogynistic poem, and of Desdemona's husband in William Shakespeare's Othello. Very much like Porphyria's lover, whose sexual drives result in a rapacious desire to destroy the woman he loves, Sebastian also murders his beloved, who becomes his victim. In Robert Browning's poem, the sick lover says: "The moment she was mine, mine, fair/Perfectly pure and good: I found a thing to do [...]/And I strangled her." (4) Sebastian kills the woman by forcing, strangling, and squeezing her head beneath his knees. His coming with a towel is probably to cleanse the evidence of his crime. Sebastian's lady is so precious that her demise signals an apocalyptic end of the world. In the last look he casts upon the lady he worships, while she is dead, he delights in seeing her dumb curved ears, which will never hear his love song from her eternal slumber. His love is so overwhelming that it will outiivd the end of the world to amuse himself with the sight of her curled ears, which is one of her most appealing physical attributes: "Yours ears curl back in a certain way/Like no one's else in all the world./When all the world shall melt in the sun,/Melt or freeze/I shall remember how your ears were curled" (78). The image of the curved ears, which is reiterated thrice, evokes subjection because the ear, in the Bible, signifies obedience. The speaker experiences enormous pleasure in killing the woman, which is evident in the refrain "your head beneath my knees" The line indicates humility and submission, and hence, the triumph of the male speaker over the feminine. The mangling of his beloved procures him bliss and pleasure. He loves this woman only when he punishes her and makes her suffer.

Sebastian is encumbered by a profound feeling of horror and insecurity in regard to the lady. The woman seals the man not out of love, but probably to harm him and take his life. As he says, "Then you would take me in/Because I was hideous in your sight" (78). The female is not an ardent lover, because the sight of her beloved is not pleasant for her.. The lady the saint worships is a cannibal, who embraces his body, not out of love, but out of a murderous necrophiliac desire. The woman whose sexual desire is ineffable is a horrifying, overpowering vampire, who wants to slake her emotional thirst. He says: "You would take me in without shame/Because I should be dead (8) And when the morning came/Between your breasts should lie my head" (78). This line is reminiscent of Pruffock, who vested his repressed fear that his "head [grown slightly bald]/brought in upon a platter (5) Sebastian's outburst of emotions belie his deep-seated misogyny. James Miller, who psychoanalyses the speaker, assumes that "he is, like Pruffock, a man who cannot love women in any normal sense; and beyond Prufrock, he is, like Sweeney [...] a man who despises women for their sexuality and wants to do them in" (6) Though he seems enflaming with love, within Sebastian, there lurks a vicious hatred for the feminine. As in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Pruffock," there is no vestige of love in this poem. Its title is also ironic, because there is no romanticism but only sadomasochism and murder.

In fact, Sebastian's sadism is due to his latent misogyny. He finds in violence the only means to vent his repressed misogynistic feelings. According to Gordon, "[a]t the end of his student years," the time when he composed "The Love Song of St. Sebastian" and "Death of Saint Narcissus," Eliot "set up the notion of an Absolute or Pure idea or soul over against ordinary experience. His strategy was to prove to himself that women, time, society were the Absolute's enemies." (7) The critic M. Teresa Gibert-Maceda, who shares Gordon's view, claims that Eliot's poems are misogynistic. . She states that "The recurrent association of sex and murder in Eliot's works, from one of his unpublished early poems until The Family Reunion, has been interpreted as a sign of psychological disturbance. Whatever the cause of his obsession, it contributes to making the charge of misogyny" (8) So, the pains of martyrdom and the crime of murder in Eliot's "The Love Song" attest for his disgusted and misogynistic view of heterosexual relationships. Heterosexual union is destruction. It is equated with masochism and sadism. According to Freud, heterosexuality involves aggression. In his words, "the sexuality of most male human beings contains an element of aggressiveness-a desire to subjugate" (9) So, aggression is emblematic of virile masculinity. Sebastian reveals a propensity towards violence by dispatching the woman and enrapturing himself by quelling and relieving his overcharged masculine passion. Richard A, Kaye remarks that masculine heterosexuality in the poem is morbid and erotic. As he puts it, "Eliot refigured the Roman martyr as a stark Symbolist icon of a heterosexual perversity, a man gone self-destructively mad through excessive devotion to his female lover" (10) Male-female encounter results in soaring masculine violence and savagery. According to Richard A. Kaye, "Sebastian's silent lover does not simply embody the archetypally feminine; she represents female sexuality in its imagined potential to induce murderous psychic disorder in the male" ("A Splendid Readiness for Death" 120).

He abhors the flesh, the scorn enemy that he wants to vanquish. His vitriolic and vehement hatred for the body may explain his self-flagellation and masochism. Sebastian comes in a shirt of hair, and he flogs himself until he bleeds. This physical mortification is extremely enjoyable for Sebastian, because it makes his body vanish into absence and nothingness. Lyndall Gordon remarks that Eliot has a profound disgust for the body, She states that "Eliot was refining his idea of love to pose an almost unattainable ideal. This begins as early as 1910s with a ruthless rejection of the body's uncleanness. Long before Eliot's conversion, his fierce disgust for the flesh appeared in his unpublished "First Debate Between Body and Soul" in the violence of three martyr poems of 1914-1915 ("The Burnt Dancer," "The Love Song of St. Sebastian," and "The Death of Saint Narcissus")." (11)

The woman, who is nameless and speechless, is associated with the flesh, which is attractive, but also repulsive for the saint. She is described in fragments and not as a whole. The male speaker refers only to her "white feet," "white gown," "braided hair," and "curled ear". To use Julia Kristeva's term, the female's body is abject. It is both attractive and repulsive. In her words, the abject is "something rejected from which one does not part, from which one does not protect oneself as from an object. Imaginary uncanniness and real threat, it beckons to us and ends up engulfing us." (12) Sebastian has a sexual proclivity to the woman, but at the same time, strives to recoil from her. Hence, the woman's corporeality is abject because it makes his heart throb between lure and aversion. In explaining the paradoxical nature of the abject, Kristeva states: "One does not know it, one does not desire it, one joys in it [on enjouit], Violently and painfully. A passion" (Powers of Horror 9).

Eliot was cognizant of the homosexual innuendo of the figure of Sebastian, which was rife in the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century in photography and literature. In the 1890s, authors like Pater, Wild, and Symonds, associated Saint Sebastian with homoeroticism and homosexuality. Carole Sey mo our- Jones asserts that "St. Sebastian was already established as a gay icon in European art by the early twentieth century, and Eliot was unlikely to have been unaware of this" (13) According to Valerie Eliot, "St. Sebastian became something of a homosexual icon in the late nineteenth century " (The Letters 49).

Richard A, Kaye states that "Sebastian's historical role as a "plague saint" throughout the Middle Ages contributed to his transformation into a "homosexual martyr," given the medicalizing tendencies in the late-Victorian sexology of Richard Kraffi-Ebing and Hevelock Ellis. Both of these influential theorists linked the psychosexual dynamics of sadomasochism with homosexuality, therefore establishing clinical categories for what previously had been moral transgressions" ("A Splendid Readiness for Death" 114). Though he dissociated himself and defended his art, in his essays, against the 1890s aestheticism, which was homosexual, Eliot's poem reveals his fascination and vested interest in the aesthetes' decadent sensibility.

Saint Sebastian, the early Christian martyr, who might have inspired Eliot poem, was rendered into a homosexual figure by artists. According to Paul Murphy, "Sebastian's conversion to Christianity and his subsequent martyrdom have been transmuted into both a homoerotic parable, and a sadomasochistic ritual. Saint Sebastian was a favourite subject for the artists of the Italian Quattrocento, for they were able to disguise an overtly homo-erotic subject within the confines of church patronage" (14) Despite his overt disavowal, the homosexual layer of the poem is shrouded in secrecy. In a letter to Conrad Aiken, dated 25 July 1914, Eliot writes:

Does it all seem very labored and conscious? The S. Sebastian title I feel almost sure of; I have studied S. Sebastians-why should anyone paint a beautiful youth and stick him full of pins (or arrows), unless he felt a little as the hero of my verse? Only there 's nothing homosexual about this-rather an important difference perhaps-but no one ever painted a female Sebastian, did they? So I give this title faute de mieux.

(The Letters 49)

Interpreted as a sign of psychological disturbance. Whatever the cause of his obsession, it contributes to making the charge of misogyny" (8) So, the pains of martyrdom and the crime of murder in Eliot's "The Love Song" attest for his disgusted and misogynistic view of heterosexual relationships. Heterosexual union is destruction. It is equated with masochism and sadism. According to Freud, heterosexuality involves aggression. In his words, "the sexuality of most male human beings contains an element of aggressiveness-a desire to subjugate" (9) So, aggression is emblematic of virile masculinity. Sebastian reveals a propensity towards violence by dispatching the woman and enrapturing himself by quelling and relieving his overcharged masculine passion. Richard A. Kaye remarks that masculine heterosexuality in the poem is morbid and erotic. As he puts it, "Eliot refigured the Roman martyr as a stark Symbolist icon of a heterosexual perversity, a man gone self-destructively mad through excessive devotion to his female lover" (10) Male-female encounter results in soaring masculine violence and savagery. According to Richard A. Kaye, "Sebastian's silent lover does not simply embody the archetypally feminine; she represents female sexuality in its imagined potential to induce murderous psychic disorder in the male" ("A Splendid Readiness for Death" 120).

He abhors the flesh, the scorn enemy that he wants to vanquish. His vitriolic and vehement hatred for the body may explain his self-flagellation and masochism, Sebastian comes in a shirt of hair, and he flogs himself until he bleeds. This physical mortification is extremely enjoyable for Sebastian, because it makes his body vanish into absence and nothingness. Lyndall Gordon remarks that Eliot has a profound disgust for the body. She states that "Eliot was refining his idea of love to pose an almost unattainable ideal. This begins as early as 1910s with a ruthless rejection of the body's uncleanness. Long before Eliot's conversion, his fierce disgust for the flesh appeared in his unpublished "First Debate Between Body and Soul" in the violence of three martyr poems of 1914-1915 ("The Burnt Dancer," "The Love Song of St. Sebastian," and "The Death "of Saint Narcissus")." (11)

The woman, who is nameless and speechless, is associated with the flesh, which is attractive, but also repulsive for the saint. She is described in fragments and not as a whole. The male speaker refers only to her "white feet," "white gown," "braided hair," and "curled ear". To use Julia Kristeya's term, the female's body is abject. It is both attractive and repulsive. In her words, the abject is "something rejected from which one does not part, from which one does not protect oneself as from an object. Imaginary uncanniness and real threat, it beckons to us and ends up engulfing us." (12) Sebastian has a sex ual proclivity to the woman, but at the same time, strives to recoil from her. Hence, the woman's corporeality is abject because it makes his heart throb between lure and aversion. In explaining the paradoxical nature of the abject, Kristeva states: "One does not know it, one does not desire it, one joys in it [on enjouit]. Violently and painfully. A passion" (Powers of Horror 9).

Eliot was cognizant of the homosexual innuendo of the figure of Sebastian, which was rife in the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century in photography and literature. In the 1890s, authors like Pater, Wild, and Symonds, associated Saint Sebastian with homoeroticism and homosexuality, Carole Seymoour-Jones asserts that "St. Sebastian was already established as a gay icon in European art by the early twentieth century, and Eliot was unlikely to have been unaware of this" (13) According to Valerie Eliot, "St. Sebastian became something of a homosexual icon in the late nineteenth century " (The Letters 49).

Richard A, Kaye states that "Sebastian's historical role as a "plague saint" throughout the Middle Ages contributed to his transformation into a "homosexual martyr," given the medicalizing tendencies in the late-Victorian sexology of Richard Kraffi-Ebing and Hevelock Ellis. Both of these influential theorists linked the psychosexual dynamics of sadomasochism with homosexuality, therefore establishing clinical categories for what previously had been moral transgressions" ("A Splendid Readiness for Death" 114). Though he dissociated himself and defended his art, in his essays, against the 1890s aestheticism, which was homosexual, Eliot's poem reveals his fascination and vested interest in the aesthetes' decadent sensibility.

Saint Sebastian, the early Christian martyr, who might have inspired Eliot poem, was rendered into a homosexual figure by artists. According to Paul Murphy, "Sebastian's conversion to Christianity and his subsequent martyrdom have been transmuted into both a homoerotic parable, and a sadomasochistic ritual. Saint Sebastian was a favourite subject for the artists of the Italian Quattrocento, for they were able to disguise an overtly homo-erotic subject within the confines of church patronage " (14) Despite his overt disavowal, the homosexual layer of the poem is shrouded in secrecy. In a letter to Conrad Aiken, dated 25 July 1914, Eliot writes:

Does it all seem very labored and conscious? The S, sebastian title I feel almost sure of; I have studied S. Sebastians-why should anyone paint a beautiful youth and stick him full of pins (or arrows), unless he felt a little as the hero of my verse? Only there's nothing homosexual about this-rather an important difference perhaps-but no one ever painted a female Sebastian, did they? So I give this title faute de mieux.

(The Letters 49)

So, in the letter, Eliot denies the existence of any homosexuality in his poem. This denial of homoeroticism is perhaps to hide this deviant sexual desire. In this regard, the critic Harvey Gross writes;

Eliot recognized the sexual ambivalence implicit in his handling of the character of Sebastian. In his letter of July 25 to Aiken, he raises the question of homo-eroticism. He immediately dismisses the question and wonders why no painter ever represented a woman as St. Sebastian. Eliot's meaning is not very clear, but he seems to be saying that a woman pierced with arrows would be free of homoerotic overtones. (15)

Miller also views "The Love Song" as ridden with homoeroticism. He asks: "Why did Eliot call it "The Love Song of St. Sebastian" and then claim to Aiken that it was not homosexual, knowing as he obviously did of the homoerotic cult-worship of the Roman Saint?" (T.S. Eliot: The Making of an American Poet 245). Very much like Prufrock, behind Sebastian's sadistic violence, there lurks a homosexual passion. Harvey Gross maintains that "Overt forms of sado-masochistic behavior often characterize the sexual life of homosexuals" ("The Figure of Sebastian" 110). Miller, in turn, asserts the interrelatedness between misogyny and the inclination towards the same sex. He states that

Sebastian

Is sadomasochistic, enjoying the pain that he inflicts on himself and on others. In short, he is sick. And lying beyond or beneath his sickness is, perhaps, a repressed homoeroticism that he refuses to admit. As we have seen in his earlier poems, Eliot views women sometimes as pure and saintly; more often, he views them with contempt, condemning them especially for their sexuality.

(T.S. Eliot: The Making of an American Poet 245)

Miller traces the composition of the poem to Eliot's sojourn in France, between 1910-1911, with his intimate friend Jean Verdenal. In writing the poem, Eliot was probably inspired by Gabriele d'Annunzio's Le Martyr cle Saint Sebastian. In this respect, Miller states:

While Eliot was in France in 1910-1911 living along with Jean Verdenal in his Paris pension, the Ballets Russes presented a new ballet written in French by the Italian poet Gabriele d'Annunzio, entitled Le Martyr de Saint Sebastian. The dancer who took the part of the saint was a famous female bullet dancer [...] In the bullet, as the arrows begin to pierce Sebastian's body, he only calls for more: "EncorelEncore! Amour eternal!" And at a critical moment, Sebastian says to the archers: "II faut que chacun tue son amour " [...] This is the French rendering of Oscar Wild's famous line in "The Ballad of Reading Goal": "Yet each man kills the thing he loves". By selecting a woman to take the part of Sebastian, and by putting Wilde's words in Sebastian's mouth, d'Annunzio was perceived by his audience as identifying the saint with the most notorious homosexual of the time.

(The Making of an American Poet 245)

One of the multifarious sources for Eliot poem is the early Christian St. Sebastian, who was killed by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. The latter ordered his soldiers to martyr him because he was found to be a Christian. Sebastian is longing for a spiritual love, which is better than the human degraded love. His divine love is a substitute for love of a woman, which he wants to transcend by defeating the flesh and ending his woman's corporeal existence. In his commentary on the poem, Donald Child writes:

The language in the first stanza is explicitly religious. As though his beloved was the Virgin Mary Mary, the speaker aspires through 'hour on hour of prayer' to become the beloved's 'neophyte' The word 'neophyte' recalls the new converts to the early Christian Church. The devotional programme also includes self-flagellation and the wearing of 'a shirt of hair'-practices reminiscent of medieval asceticism at its most extreme. (16)

The woman, the speaker loves madly, seems to be a deified lady, a Madonna. The poem, which is rampant with violence, depicts the saint's religious struggle and his ordeals to reach religious faith. In his suffering, Sebastian is in search for purgation and purification.

Eliot's "The Love Song," like his other early poems, attests for his deprecation of the body and his aspiration for spiritual transcendence. Shannon McRae states that "Mortification of the flesh magnifies religious passion. To receive the spirit, [...] must tear the body open so that the spirit might enter him." (17) To enter God's kingdom, one must abominate the flesh, which stymies religious yearning. The sought-after body is banished and suffocated in the second stanza because the flesh is a trammel that impedes the speaker's religious quest. Hence, it is deemed abject. According to Julia Kristeva, "The corpse, seen without God and outside of science, is the utmost of abjection. It is death infecting life" (Power of Horror 4). Murdering the woman is the only way possible for salvation. Lyndall Gordon discusses Theresa's "Awakening, unworthiness, mortification of the senses, and illumination," (18) Suffering the abjection of the physical body are central to Christianity. However, Sebastian's religious quest is in vain. The putting out of the light, in the first stanza, indicates his spiritual decadence and blindness, and it foreshadows violence in the coming lines.

In his early years, Eliot was tremendously influenced by the religious poems his mother wrote. At Harvard, he read about the lives of saints, which helped him develop a mystical sensibility, which is fostered by the moral imprints of his family and its view of sex as nastiness. According to Gordon, "The sexual instinct and associated sense of sin, flickering rather half-heartedly in Eliot's undergraduate years, came suddenly to life sometime during his graduate years at Harvard (from 1911 to 1914), when he wrote 'The Love Song of Saint Sebastian'" (Eliots Early Years 27). In his early years, Eliot was obsessed with the martyrdom of the Christian fathers. Paul Murphy states that "T.S. Eliot's fascination with the early Christian Patriarchs may be seen as another articulation of his concern with the obligations of a prophet, and his eventual martyrdom" (T.S. Eliot: Post-Modernist Complaint 70). In the same vein, Peter Ackroyd maintains that Eliot had a religious sensibility before his conversion. His voracious readings about mysticism and Buddhism paved his way to Anglo-Catholicism. In Ackroyd's words,

a religious sensibility, as opposed to religious conviction, had already been apparent in his graduate reading in the literature of mysticism and Buddhism. Although it is likely that his youthful interest in the martyred saint or visionary was a dramatic extrapolation from his own sense of uniqueness and thwarted power, he was instinctively attracted to the spectacle of the organized Church: his extension lectures of 1916 had suggested that a 'a classicist in art and literature' (the sphere in which he placed himself), would be likely to 'adhere ... to the Catholic Church'. In other words, his conversion was not a dramatic or unexpected reversal of interests which some have claimed it to be; but rather the culmination of a lengthy and consistent process which at least in hindsight seems inevitable. (138).

Thus, Eliot's religious inclinations find an echo in his early poems, especially "The Love Song of Saint Sebastian" and "Death of Saint Narcissus." Sebastian's mysticism is errant. The blind religio-erotic devotion to the woman signals his failed mysticism, which is of a romantic sort. This kind of mysticism is due not to a fusion, but rather to a confusion between human and divine love. Donald Childs comments on the first stanza as follows: "On the one hand an elaborate compliment to the beloved, it is on the other the disastrous end of a false romantic mysticism descended as far as possible from the Cross " (Eliot, Mystic, Son, Lover 88). Sebastian's heroic martyrdom is sterile because he partakes emotions between God and a woman. The speaker's heart is throbbing between lure and aversion to the feminine. In the first part of the poem, in particular, erotic love is mingled with spiritual yearning. In his self-torments, Sebastian, seems to be in a torture and struggle between being a mystic saint and being a romantic lover. His religious ecstasy while performing the neophyte's Christian rituals is confused with his sensual pleasure when entering the woman's bed.

The speaker suffers from religious and emotional agonies. He is tom between the spiritual and the sexual path. In fact, his spiritual yearning is sick and morbid. The speaker resembles St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross whose religious devotion involves a kind of sexual surrender. Eliot, in his early years, criticized the kind of mysticism, which is sensual and erotic. According to Donald Child,

'The Love Song of Saint Sebastian' is an example of such false mysticism. As though in justification of the tentative title for the sequence of poems. 'The Love Song of Saint Sebastian' traces from the crucifixion (the 'Cross'), the descent-on the one hand suggesting lineage, but on the other suggesting 'fall', 'decline', 'sinking'- of Christ's passion as a model for Christians of the attitude to be taken toward suffering both in one's spiritual life and in one's everyday life. ('Cross' itself has come to stand for the trial or affliction that Christians are to endure with patience).[...] The first stanza thus traces the descent of these Christian practices from the crucifixion, but it does so against a background of sexuality that reveals their decline into sexual perversion,"

(T.S. Eliot, Mystic, Son, and Lover 87)

Sebastian despairs of striking a heterosexual relationship with his potential lover, and his spiritual journey is doomed to failure. Hence, he finds himself in a spiritual maze. The critic MacDiarmid views religion in Eliot's poems as morbid and erotic. She writes: "One could assert that religion is eroticism, a masochistic pleasure, in Eliot's world, as his vision of that authority, or Absolute, takes on increasingly sacrificial overtones. " (19) MacDiarmid conceives Eliot's mysticism as an alibi to escape sexual morbidness and to hide his debased desires. She states: "In a tum-of-the century age characterized by pervasive skepticism, Eliot's intellectual (and yet eroticized), Christian mysticism strikes us as an impotent attempt to escape his own domestic horrors and perverse sexuality" (T.S. Eliot's Civilized Savage xiv-xv).

Carole Seymour-Jones attributes the mystical experience in the poem to a sexual crisis in Eliot's life the time he was writing the poem. This sexual malaise relates to homosexuality. In her words,

Certainly Eliot was much preoccupied with mysticism and the lives of Saints [...] but Eastern texts interested him as much as Christian ones [...] It is easy to argue with hindsight that the poet's psychological distress of the time, the fears and night panic expressed in his early poetry, were the product of a spiritual struggle, steps along the pathway of an aspirant saint to his God. But it is more likely this was a very different psychic crisis for Eliot, precipitated by the intimate relationship with Jean Vedenal, in which the poet was forced to confront his sexuality with all its implications for his future life.

(Painted Shadow 56)

Eliot's "Death of St. Narcissus" is said to be written between 1911 and 1915. But it was first published in 1967 in a collection of poems entitled Poems Written in Early Youth. According to the myth of Narcissus, when he reached the age of sixteenth, Narcissus's beauty became unbelievable. Both young men and women were allured and hypnotized by his perfect beauty. The vied to win his heart, but they failed. Horace Gregory writes: "For when Narcissus reached/His sixteen year he seemed to be a boy/As much as man; both boys and girls looked to him/To make love, and yet that slender figure/Of proud Narcissus had little feeling/ For either boys or girls" (20) Narcissus refuses to acknowledge any Other beyond himself. He lives in his confined self. One of Narcissus's lovers whom the latter rejects asks the gods to punish him for not reciprocating others' love. As a result, he fell in love with his own image, which he one day saw in water. Ignorant of the fact that what he sees is his own reflection, Narcissus could not resist the image's seductive power.

Narcissus's inability to "live men's ways" (21) indicates his incapability of romantic love, He refuses to strike a romantic relationship either with a man or with a woman. Because of his disavowal of sex, no woman could shake his heart. He deserts the city to escape female encounter, and he shelters in the desert to lead a life of solitariness and extreme introspection. His wandering in the desert is to escape emotional and sexual relations and avoid integration in a social community. The desert where he wanders alone is not just literal; it is also emotional. Nancy R. Comley maintains that Narcissus's detest of sexual life initiates his pilgrimage in the desert. In her words,

Indeed, these transformations are all involved with sex: the primal stirrings in the tree, adolescent masturbation in the fish, and finally sexual intercourse itself, but seen as a degraded act. It is knowledge such as this, of the extremes of sensuality and the impossibility of transcending the body and its insistent desires, that Eliot's Narcissus finds unbearable, and which leads to this ascetic retreat to the desert. (22)

After knowledge, which is sexual, Narcissus repudiates and detests emotional relations and romantic love. In the original version of the poem, the speaker says, "So because he was struck mad (down), by the knowledge of his own beauty/He could not live men s' ways," (23) In his commentary on the lines, Murphy points out that "The knowledge that Saint Narcissus feels he knows may be sexual for in the Old Testament 'knowledge' connotes sexual intimacy" (T.S. Eliot: Post-Modernist 74).

Narcissus's repudiation of the life of sensual pleasure is symbolized by the imagery of the shadow, which is "sprawling over the sand at daybreak, or/ [The] shadow huddled by the fire against the red rock" (28). Narcissus's retreat to the redrock, from the outside world, is to escape from the fierce heat of love.

Because he dislikes the flesh, Narcissus aspires to get rid of his human nature, by undergoing many metamorphoses. He struggles to overcome his flesh by climbing the ladder of transcendence. First, he imagines himself a tree, then a fish. Then he imagines himself a girl raped by a drunken old man. At the end, he imagines arrows piercing and tearing his flesh. In her Commentary on the poem, "Death of Saint Narcissus," Gordon states: "The raining arrows of 'The Death of Saint Narcissus' are one attempt to punish the flesh" (Eliot's Early Years 98). Narcissus's imagination of himself as a girl raped by a drunken man is sadistic. If affirms man's aggression, masculinity, and mastery over his feminine victim. In fact, this sexual violence, which is followed by a murderous act points to Narcissus' sadomasochism. According to Murphy, "There is, it seems, a direct correlation between sadomasochism and narcissism, the former desiring mastery [...] the latter desiring the other, which is itself' (T.S. Eliot: Post-Modernist 74).

Narcissus's imagining himself raped by a man expresses the poem's overt masculinity, which is equated with rage and violence. Sexual intercourse risks effeminacy, because it renders Narcissus like a girl. Male aggression and violence towards women are conveyed in the myth of Narcissus. This myth depicts heterosexual relations as violent and sordid. In fact, Narcissus's aversion to heterosexually relations might be due to the fact that he is the product of a violent sexual encounter. He is the son of Liriope, who was raped by Cephisus.

The Narcissus myth, which tells Narcissus's relation with the nymph Echo, is misogynistic. In Ovid's Metamorphosis, Echo was punished by a goddess by making her mute. She lost the power of speech and expression, and she could repeat only the last words of what she heard. The speechless woman, who is a victim and a sufferer, feels powerless because she cannot declare her love to Narcissus with whom she fell madly in love. Despairing of his unrequited love, she can only reiterate his words. Hence, she has the status of the copy of something original, because she cannot initiate any talk. She can only repeat others' words, which makes her inferior. The word 'echo', itself, evokes absence. It is the imitation or the recurrence of something that has happened or that has been said previously. But though the absence of speech signifies Narcissus's mastery over Echo, her inability to speak led to his demise, because in his immersion and absorption in his own reflection to which he throw himself, he could have been prevented from doing so if she had spoken to him. She could have corrected his misunderstanding of the status of the image he saw in water. So, despite their powerlessness, women can procure disaster and doom.

In accordance with the Ovidian myth, when asked how long Narcissus will live, Tiresias says that he will five for long "if he never know himself" The enigmatic prophecy of Tiresias came true, because Narcissus saw his own reflection in water, and he was struck by his perfect beauty. The mythic figure Narcissus "loved the image that he thought was shadow/And looked amazed at what he saw" (Ovid, The Metamorphoses 77). Very much like the mythic Narcissus, Eliot's Saint Narcissus was amazed by his own beauty. His "eyes were aware of the painted comers of his eyes/And his hands were aware of long fingers". Henceforth, Narcissus was "struck mad by the knowledge of his own beauty" The mythic Narcissus finds himself in a dilemma, whether he is the lover or the object of love. He asks: "And what am I to do? Am I the lover/ Or beloved? Then why make love?" (Ovid, The Metamorphoses 78). Since the Saint's Narcissus's beloved Other is himself, his love autoerotic or narcissistic, According to MacDiarmid,

Lest we assume that Saint Narcissus' motives are altruistic or aesthetic, Eliot invents a psychic history for him that emphasizes erotic self-love [...] over religious witness. This Saint Narcissus obviously escapes the city in order to be with his beloved: himself. His dance involves ecstatic self-caressing, voyeurism turned inward, wild self-invention, and even the hair--raising taste of his own rape."

(Eliot's Civilized Savage 4)

Though he is supposed to be a saint, his association with the Ovidian myth makes his love erotic and deviant. Unable to strike up a sexual relation with the opposite sex, Narcissus's emotional yearnings have run in other directions. In this regard, Murphy states that Saint Narcissus "is unable to follow the way which is considered normal, natural, and good. Instead [..] he deliberately pursues sexual, moral, and artistic perversity" (T.S. Eliot: Post-Modernist 75). In fact, Narcissus's desire is carnal and unconventional. To put it very succinctly, his desire is queer. Anne Cranny-Francis et.al writes: "Queer challenges the concept of identity and the binaristic (self/other). thinking it encodes. It rejects the binaristic definitions of gender and sexuality that construct heteronormative descriptions of male/female, masculine/feminine, heterosexual/homosexual" (24) Narcissus, to use Julia Kristeva's critical jargon, is an abject. Abjection, as defined by Kristeva, is that "which disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite" (Powers of Horror 4). So, according Kristeva's definition, Narcissus is abject because he is the ravager and the ravaged, the lover and the loved.

In fact, Narcissus's charge of homosexuality has been made by many critics. Paul Murphy, who makes a reference to Butler's Lives of the Saints, associates Eliot's Narcissus with St. Narcissus Bishop of Jerusalem, who lived in the second century. This bishop was accused of committing a crime, which was unspecified. Thus, he left Jerusalem, as it had always been his wish, and he led a life of solitariness. Though the nature of Narcissus's crime was unclear, Murphy supposes that it was homosexuality (T.S. Eliot Postmodernist Complaint 70). James Miller also smears Eliot's Narcissus with a homoerotic innuendo, relying on Eliot's biography. According to him, the memory of his male friend Jean Verdenal whom Eliot loved immensely might have propelled his use of Narcissus who has long been deemed a homoerotic icon in literature and art. Commenting on "The death of Saint Narcissus," James E. Miller writes:

The question to be entertained is: what claim of association brought Eliot back to this old, discarded poem, to salvage lines that must have had at one time vivid linkage with the figure of a young homoerotic Saint Narcissus? The suggestion I wish to make is clear: The memory of April Lilacs, Paris, Germany, the mixture of "memory and desire," has conjured up a suppressed poem that is connected somehow with those long-ago days. Is it too farfetched to see "The Death od Saint Narcissus" as a poem distilling (not merely "presenting"), the character of Jean Verdenal, and perhaps written as a companion piece to "The Love Song of J. Alfred Pruffock"? Saint Narcissus is sympathetically, even tenderly treated in the poem, and suffers from the same malady (only in more intensive form), as does Prufrock-the inability to love women. (25)

The imagery of his metamorphosis is abundant with sexuality and eroticism. First, the self-indulgent lover imagines himself as a tree because he delights to twist "[his] branches among each other" (29). This image of the branches embracing each other is suggestive of a vile and morbid desire, because love, here, seems to be a complete union of bodies. It is deprived of the spiritual dimension. His view of himself as a tree with the branches fusing into each other is a metaphor for autoeroticism or same-sex love.

Narcissus knew that he was a fish, "With slippery white belly held tight in his own fingers" (29).The line shouts loudly to his fantasy and sensual pleasure in his own body. Narcissus seems to be a queer, who lives in homoerotic closet. In his commentary on the image of the fish, Miller writes:

Narcissus is making love to himself by masturbating, his root clutched in the sensitized tips of his own fingers. His 'ancient beauty'--perhaps that beauty of looks noticed in the water--has faded in the discovery of his 'new beauty'--the discovery, in short, of the 'beauty' in self-induced orgasm.

(T.S. Eliot: The Making of an American Poet 248-49)

His tergiversation into a fish is also suggestive of both narcissistic love and homosexuality. This traditional symbol of faith is erotic in the case of Narcissus,

The most interesting transformation that Narcissus undergoes is his metamorphosis into a girl. He views himself as a "young girl/caught in the woods by a drunken old man/Knowing at the end the taste of his own whiteness/The horror of his own smoothness/And he felt drunken and old" (30).. In her comment on the image, Comley suggests the following interpretation: "Eliot's Narcissus 'could not live men's ways' because he cannot love others, and his self-love becomes self-destruction. Even the rape of the young girl becomes is a rape of self; Narcissus becomes the victim and the victimizer in this final sexual transformation" ("From Narcissus to Tiresias" 284). Narcissus's imagination of himself as a girl raped by an old drunken man is masochistic. Indeed, rape points to a homoerotic encounter in which the Narcissus identifies himself with the feminine, because she is the object and the victim of rape. In this regard, Miller states:

In the Waste Land drafts "Narcissus," the possessive adjective is "her," not "his" [...] One persuasive interpretation of these ambiguous lines is that this is Narcissus's memory of his first homosexual encounter, with an older man who, in assuming the dominant (or male), role, places Narcissus in the compliant female role. This encounter brought its own knowledge to Narcissus--In this role he/she came to know the "taste of his/her own whiteness" (semen), and the "horror of his/her own smoothness" (the beauty of youth that attracted the "drunken old man"). At the end, Narcissus feels "drunken and old"--he identifies with his aggressive sexual partner and makes his decision to withdraw into isolation.

(T.S. Eliot: The Making of an American Poet 249)

So, after identifying himself with the raped girl, he, at the end, views himself as the ravager, which indicates his sadistic motives. Narcissus's imagination of himself as a girl signifies the loss of boundaries not just between self and other, but also between man and woman. His gender identity is in an utter crisis. His gender identification is a momentous query for him.

The saint's transformation into a girl is of pivotal importance, because it indicates the speaker's concern with gender identity and identification. His gender identity seems to be protean and precarious. In the first draft of the poem, and in his tergiversation into a girl, the speaker uses the pronoun 'her'; "To have known at the last moment, the full/taste of her own whiteness/The horror of her own smoothness" (93). In the poem's final version, the speaker refers to himself by using the pronoun 'he'; "Knowing at the end the taste of his own whiteness/The horror of his own smoothness/And he felt drunken and old" (30). This confusion of the pronouns indicates the speaker's crisis of masculinity or the bifurcation of his gender identity into male/female. In other words, Narcissus might be a bisexual, because he feels that he combines the two sexes. According to

Anne Cranny-Francis et. al,

bisexuality disrupts the social categorization of male and female, heterosexual and homosexual as binary opposites [...] Bisexuals, who have sex with both same-sex and opposite- sex partners, found themselves excluded by both homosexual and heterosexual society.

(Gender Studies 78)

This bisexuality might also be implied by the image of the fish. According to Comley, "Empedocles believed that trees were the first living creatures to grow up out of the earth, and he saw the two sexes combined in them " ("From Narcissus to Tiresias" 283).

Indeed, the crossing of gender boundaries, in the poem, which is clear in the transformations he undergoes, emphasizes the instability and queemess of gender. According to Murphy, "Saint Narcissus suffers the endless re-definition of self, or loss of identity, as he is driven through sado-masochistic love toward death" (T.S. Eliot: Post-Modernist 114). Before retiring to the red rock, the saint had three identities. The transformation of Narcissus's self many times attests to the instability and the absence of a unified self. The instability of his gender identity is emphasized by his change from a man to a girl. Narcissus suffers from a fragmentation of the self, which is said to be the essence or the defining quality of the individual according to the proponents of the queer theory. Murphy asserts the fluidity of Narcissus's identity as follows: "Eliot's Saint Narcissus is the mirror of art thrown up to life. Narcissus is identity-less, a perpetual mirror to that which surrounds him, he strives for unity through love, and it is masochistic love which drives him towards death. " (T.S. Eliot: Post-Modernist 11617). Child whose view collides head on with that of Murphy reads the poem as an evidence of the absence of a unified self. In his view,

the metamorphosis of self-transcendence is the proof of the lack of self-sufficiency; and to (for Eliot), proof against solipsism. The poem can be interpreted, therefore, not just as evidence of Eliot's quarrel with romantic self-absorption and inadequate spirituality, and not just as evidence of his own sexual tensions, but also as evidence of his quarrel with any post-Cartesian metaphysics that depends upon a substantial self.

(T.S. Eliot Mystic, Son, and Lover 91)

Narcissus's fragmented identity is evident in the multiplicity of perspectives in the poem. The three pronouns, he, you, and I, seem to be parts of Narcissus's shattered self. Narcissus' inability to live a purely human's life suggests his divinity. After his experience of being a tree, a fish, and then a girl, in which he experiences profuse sensual pleasure and bliss, Narcissus turns to God in search for spiritual life. Thus, he dedicated himself to religious devotion and he becomes a saint. His rejection of the city and the contact with people indicates his spirituality. The wondering in the desert in search for spiritual purification is reminiscent of the "The Waste Land'"s pilgrim, who abandons the emotional life and he rejects women in pursuit of the spiritual life. He is now seeking for unity with the divine and not with the feminine. The red rock in the poem is significant, because, in the Bible, it is symbolic of Christianity.

The poem might have a source in Narcissus, the bishop of Jerusalem. According to Butler's Lives of the Saints, "the malice of the wicked, and some, disliking his severity in the observance of discipline, laid to his charge a certain crime, which Eusebius does not specify [...] However, 5t Narcissus made it an excuse for leaving Jerusalem and spending some time alone, as had long been his wish. He spent several years undiscovered in his solitude. (26) According to Gordon, "Eliot named the character after Narcissus, Bishop of Jerusalem who, towards the end of the second century, hid himself in the desert for many years" (Eliot's Early Years 91). Eliot's Narcissus's seclusion in the desert is also reminiscent of St. Augustine with which he associates himself; "If he walked in the city streets, in the streets of Carthage/He seemed to tread on pale (many), faces, convulsive thighs and knees./So he came out to live under the rock " (The Facsimile 91). Narcissus is the cohort of Augustine, who was struggling to overcome sensual pleasure. Like Augustine, Narcissus flees from the city, which he associates with sex, and he follows an austere religious life, He takes the desert as his abode.

Narcissus's exodus in the desert is probably to purify and purge his emotions and to atone for his sins. In this respect, Seymour-Jones writes: "His punishment therefore is to be exiled to the desert, where he dances on the hot sand 'until the white and redness satisfy him'. Self-punishment has here become not only a habit, but a source of pleasure " (Painted Shadow 58). Narcissus martyred his blood for God's sake. He says, "I will show you his bloody cloth and Iimbs/And the gray shadow in his lips" (28). This martyrdom involves physical and psychological suffering as well as pleasure. The saint also sacrificed his body beautiful body by joyfully surrendering to the piercing arrows; "So he became a dancer to God./Because his flesh was in love with the burning arrows./He danced on the hot sand/Until the arrows came. As he embraced them his white skin surrendered itself to the redness of blood, and satisfied him " (30). So, to release himself from the burden of eros, Narcissus stretches his arm to embrace the arrows, which procure him pleasure and satisfaction, because they painfully pierce and dismember his 'white' body and punish his sinful flesh, which bums with the fire of emotions. Narcissus's corruption of his beauty is probably a case in abjection; "I will show you his bloody cloth and limbs" (28). So, the flesh is the enemy that precludes Narcissus's sainthood.

Narcissus's stages of transformation might be read as a step towards maturity and spiritual fulfillment. According to Paul Murphy, "The narcissist, it seems, has halted at a particularly early stage of growth. The growth of the individual is here in some way related to evolution where the narcissistic stage mimics a stage in the ascent of man" (T.S. Eliot: Post-Modernist 72). The spiritual journey Narcissus undergoes is in tandem with the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution, here, is applicable to this poem because the speaker concepualises himself a tree, then a fish, then he becomes a girl raped in the forest by a drunken man. After that, he became a saint dancing in the hot sand. Though his sainthood is still perverse, this stage is very significant because it evinces his development from the aforementioned primordial stages. MacDiarmid states that "Eliot's poem implies that masochistic Christianity springs from (and contains). Dionysian impulses" (Eliots Civilized Savage 7). In accordance with the myth of evolution, all religions develop from a primitive stage of savagery.

Interestingly, the poem also reveals Eliot's anti-romantic views and his search for an external authority to silence the inner voice. Commenting on "Death of Saint Narcissus," Lyndall Gordon states that "The strength of Eliot's analysis lies in the implied anti-Romantic need to curtail the self and its narcissism and to find a reliable external authority" (Eliot's Early Years 92).

The religious martyr, who strives to escape sexual desire, seems to reach his quest. By accepting death, Narcissus transcends his physicality, because martyrs are lovers of death. Vicki Mahaffey states that "Narcissus entered the divine world by sacrificing himself to God in a climactic dance, after which he at long last achieved 'satisfaction* through the love of his flesh for the 'penetrant arrows.' He had achieved his sensual apotheosis." (27) The pain of the arrows penetrating his body is pleasurable for the saint, which indicates his aspiration for a severe religious discipline. Murphy also suggests that Narcissus's death is a fulfillment of his mystic quest. As he puts it, "The suicide of selfhood which Narcissus undergoes is related to the transformation which occurs in the mirror stage. The discovery of the image of the self in the mirror prefigures the journey towards adulthood, where such infantile narcissism is thrown off" (T.S. Eliot: Post-Modernist 72).

The saint's dancing for God is rich with ramifications. It suggests pre-Christian rituals and Christian martyrdom. Nancy R. Comley maintains that "The fact that Narcissus becomes 'a dancer to God' suggests the act of ritualistic dancing as an attempt to 'transcend human limitation' and to achieve a union with God" ("From Narcissus to Tiresias" 285). In his comment on of the act of dancing, at the end of the poem, Audrey T. Rodgers suggests the following interpretation: "Unnoticed by the real world, Narcissus' dance nonetheless is a culmination of his unity with God" (28) Dancing for the saint is therapeutic because it enables him to release his pent-up repressed feelings outward. According to Audrey T. Rodgers, "Dance would appear to be an expression for Eliot of the unified sensibility, externalizing in paternal movement states of feeling that are otherwise inexpressible" ("Dance Imagery" 26).

In seeking transcendence, Narcissus believes that he is a God, This narcissistic mysticism is criticized by Eliot as follows, "But Catholic practitioners were, I believe, with the possible exception of certain heretics, not palpitating Narcissi; the Catholic did not believe that God and himself were identical." (29) Some critics have read the poem as an utter failure of Narcissus's dream of sainthood. Lyndall Gordon, for instance, states that Narcissus "feels most intensely alive when God's arrows pierce and mar his flesh. Saint Narcisuss wishes to be 'a dancer to God' and deliberately cuts himself off from his kind, but to his dismay sees no divine light, only his divine flaws-his self-enthrallment, his indifference to others, his masochistic delight in the burning arrows" (Eliot's Early Years 91). The failure of Narcissus' religious quest is probably on account of his overwhelming sexual desire. His mystical experience is tarnished and hindered by his morbid desires. The critic Joseph Maddrey maintains that

As in Ovid's, tale, the driving force in Eliot's poem is desire-but this desire, overtly carnal and destructive, is simultaneously an urge for spiritual transcendence. Saint Narcissus [...] is afraid of what he may become. He longs for religious purification but imagines the metamorphosis tainted by his carnal, destructive desire. In the end, Saint Narcissus welcomes the death's 'burning arrows' as Eliot's Saint Sebastian did, simply because they provide a deliverance from self. In an early draft of the poem, Eliot describes the arrows as 'penetrant'--a combination of penitent and penetrating. (30)

So, Narcissus fails to achieve his spiritual transcendence because he is, like St. Sebastian, a voluptuary of emotions. The "burning arrows," which tear his body is describe in the poem's original version as "penetrant," which reveals his religious/sexual masochism.

Narcissus's struggle towards the spiritual life is doomed to failure, because his spiritual longings are not pure. They are intermingled with sexual passions. Narcissus proves that he is no true saint, because his religion seems to be erotic. MacDiarmid states that Eliot's poem "Death of Saint Narcissus" describes a spirituality that is sick and deplores "Narcissus's sadomasochistic sexuality, equating religious 'worship' with solipsistic vampirism" (Eliot's Civilized Savage 3). The mysticism of Narcissus and that of Sebastian are alike, because they are driven by their passions and motions. Donald J. Childs also contends that the spirituality, in the poem, is deviant, Commenting on Eliot's two poems, "Death of Saint Narcissus" and "The Love Song St. Sebastian," he writes: "Although Eliot's portrayal of here of states of sick spirituality might suggest that he disapproved of mysticism, actually he is not suggesting that mystical spirituality is wrong [...] Rather, he is suggesting that his Saint Narcissus and Sebastian demonstrate a mystical impulse that is as inadequate, in its own way, as Bergson's." (31) In the poem, there seems to be a struggle or an inability to distinguish human love from divine love. In other words, there is a mingling of sexual and religious longing. The critic Rajni Singh notifies that Narcissus suffers from a deep psychic struggle: human love versus divine love. As he puts it, * The contrast between the 'gray rock' and the 'red rock' again is a contrast between desire and abstinence.* (32)

In fact, the two saint poems, "The Love Song of St. Sebastian" and "The Death of Saint Narcissus" are closely related. They are both concerned with misogyny, sado-masochism and sexual perversion. "Death of Saint Narcissus" seems to be a continuation of "The Love Song of St. Sebastian," because the event of Narcissus whose body is shot by arrows never took place whether in the Ovidian myth or in the historical Sebastian, who was a bishop of Jerusalem. Eliot seems to identify St. Narcissus with St. Sebastian. In writing "The Love Song," Eliot was inspired by the three paintings of Sebastian, which he saw during his visit to the great art galleries of Italy and Belguim. Among these paintings, it is Mantegna's interpretation that had the greatest influence on Eliot. According to Harvey Gross, the Saint depicted in this painting is a well-muscled, nearly naked youth, whose carefully rendered flesh is everywhere riddled with arrows that penetrate and draw blood. He stands bearing his weight on his left leg; his right leg is bent slightly at the knee and the right foot is lifted off the ground. His head is tilted backwards; his open mouth is set in an agonized grimace that shows his teeth; his eyes are rolled back in his head. The pose conveys a sense of barely controlled suffering, a torment carried to the edge of what the human body can endure.

("The Figure of Sebastian" 105)

Donald Child also notifies the relationship between the two poems as follows: "Narcissus is [...] revealed as the Saint Sebastian missing from 'The Love Song of Saint Sebastian"' (T.S. Eliot, Mystic 89),

In conclusion, male/female relationships in Eliot's saint poems never procure any pleasure. Heterosexuality is associated with masochism, sadistic sexual violence, and pain. At the heart of the two poems is a stunning battle between male and female, body and soul. In fact, the saints are misogynists, who want to be shut from the world of sensuality. Violence in the poems is an exteriorization of a profound hatred for the body. The saints aspire to escape from the flesh by dint of mystical yearning. The saints' abhorrence of the physical body and their yearning for salvation impel them to erase it by murdering, distorting, or dismembering it into pieces and particles. However, their sacrifice and martyrdom is sterile. The spiritual yearnings, which attempt to transcend the body/female is doomed to failure because of the saints' carnal and monstrous desire. Their repressed forbidden wishes result in violence and murder. Their failure to gratify their spiritual quest is due to their romantic mysticism, which is the fusion and the confusion between ecstasy and divine enlightenment.

Endnotes

(1) T.S. Eliot, The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume I: 1898-1922, Ed. Valerie Eliot and Hugh Hanghton (London: Faber and Faber, 2009):48.

(2) T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of St. Sebastian," Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917, Ed. Christopher Ricks (London: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1996):78.

(3) Review Book, "Inventions of the March Hare: Poems". Modernism/Modernity, Vol. 5, No. 2 (1998): 164.

(4) Robert Browning, "Porphyria's Lover": 3, <pinkmonkey.com/dl/library l/br_2.pdf>.

(5) T.S, Eliot, "The Love song of J, Alfred Prufrock," The Waste Land and Other Poems, Ed. T.S. Eliot (London: Faber and Faber, 1968):

(6) James Miller, The Making of an American Poet, 1888-1922 (Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press):245.

(7) Lyndall Gordon, Eliot's Early Years (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977): 23.

(8) M. Teresa Gibert-Maceda, "T.S. Eliot on Women: Women on T.S. Eliot," T.S. Eliot at the Turn of the Century, Ed. Marianne Thormahlen (Lund University Press, 1994):106.

(9) Sigmund Freud, "Three Essays on Sexuality," The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol.7 (London: The Hogarth Press, 1961): 157-158.

(10) Richard A. Kaye, "A Splendid Readiness for Death": T.S. Eliot, the Homosexual Cult of St. Sebastian, and World War I, Modernism/Modernity, Vol. 6, N.2 (1999):112.

(11) Lyndall Gordon, "Eliot and Women," T.S Eliot: The Modernist in History, Ed. Ronald Bush. (Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 1991): 17.

(12) Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, Trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982):4.

(13) Carole Seymoour-Jones, Painted Shadow: A Life of Vivienne Eliot (London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2001):57,

(14) Paul Murphy, T.S. Eliot: Post-Modernist Complaint (Post Pressed, 2003):69.

(15) Harvey Gross, "The Figure of Sebastian," James Olney, ed. T.S, Eliot: Essays from the Southern Review (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988): 110.

(16) Donald Child, T.S. Eliot, Mystic, Son, and Lover (London: The Athlone Press, 1997):87.

(17) Shannon McRae, ""Glowed into Words": Vivien Eliot, Philomela, and the Poet's Tortured Corpse," Twentieth Century Literature, Vol 49, No.2 (Summer, 2003):200.

(18) Lyndall Gordon, T.S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998):61,

(19) Laurie MacDiarmid, T.S. Eliot's Civilized Savage: Religious Eroticism and Poetics (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2005):60.

(20) Horace Gregory, Ovid The Metamorphoses: A Complete New Version (New York: The Viking Press, 1958):75.

(21) T.S. Eliot, "Death of St. Narcissus," Poems Written in Early Years (American Book-Stratford Press, Inc, 1967):29.

(22) Nancy R. Comley, "From Narcissus to Tiresias: T.S. Eliot's Use of Metamorphoses," The Modern Language Review, Vol.74, N0.2 (April 19979):284.

(23) T.S. Eliot, "Death of St. Narcissus," The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts. 91.

(24) Anne Cranny-Francis, Wendy Waring, Pam Stavropoulos, Joan Kirkby. Gender Studies: Terms and Debates (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2003):76.

(25) James E. Miller, T.S. Eliots Personal Waste Land: Exorcism of the Demons (University Park and London: Tfie Pennyslyvania State University Press, 1977):69.

(26) Butler's Lives of the Saints, Ed. Herbert J. Thurston, S.J. And Donald Attwater, Eds. Foreword by Cardinal Basil Hume, O.S.B. Vol. 1. (Maryland: Christian Classics, 1990):217.

(27) Vicki Mahaffey, '"The death of Saint Narcissus' and 'Ode': Two suppressed Poems by T.S, Eliot." American Literature, Vol,50. No.4 (Jan, 1979): 608.

(28) Audrey T, Rodgers, "Dance Imagery in the Poetry of T.S. Eliot," Criticism, Vol.16, N.1 (Winter, 1974):27.

(29) T.S. Eliot, "The Function of Criticism," Selected Essays, Ed. T.S. Eliot, 1923 (London: Faber and Faber, 1986):27-8.

(30) Joseph Maddrey, The Making of T.S. Eliot: A Study of Literary Influences (London: McFarland & Company, Inc, Publishers. 2009): 66-7.

(31) Donald J. Childs, "T.S. Eliot: From Varieties of Mysticism to Pragmatic Poesis," Mosaic, 22:4 (Fall, 1989): 102-03.

(32) Rajni Singh in Tennyson and T.S. Eliot: A Comparative Study (New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2005).
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