Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Little Tommy Turdman and the Waste Land
Posted by M.H. Forsyth
Incidentally, I am not alone in my infantile delight at the word turd. T.S. Eliot, in his notes on The Waste Land, needlessly annotated these lines thus:
But sound of water over rock
*This is the Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii, the hermit thrush which I have heard in Quebec Province. Chapman says (Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America) 'is is most at home in secluded woodland and thickety retreats. ... Its notes are not remarkable for variety or volume, but in purity and sweetness of tone and exquisite modulation they are unequalled.' Its 'water-dripping song' is justly celebrated.
The notes to The Waste Land were utterly unintentional. It was decided that the poem was too short to publish on its own, so T.S. Eliot composed them to fatten up the volume, and to mention the word Turdus.
Or, as the host says in the Canterbury Tales,
...pleynly, at a word
Thy drasty rhyming is nat worth a toord.