Virginia Woolf Meets T. S. Eliot

Pythagoras: The Life & Times (new episode) Human Voices Wake Us

Tonight, I'm thrilled to read a poem that I began working on three years ago on the life, teachings, and mysticism of the Greek philosopher, Pythagoras (c. 570- c.495 BCE). I am also thrilled that the poem is being simultaneously published at The Basilisk Tree. Many thanks to its editor, Bryan Helton, for coordinating all of this with me. For anyone who wants to look closer at the earliest Classical accounts of Pythagoras, his life, and his teachings, check out: The History of Greek Philosophy Volume 1: The Earlier Presocractics and the Pythagoreans, by W. K. C. Guthrie, and The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, ed. Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie. Don’t forget to support Human Voices Wake Us on Substack, where you can also get our newsletter and other extras. You can also support the podcast by ordering any of my books: Notes from the Grid, To the House of the Sun, The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, and Bone Antler Stone. Any comments, or suggestions for readings I should make in later episodes, can be emailed to — Send in a voice message: Support this podcast:
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From Virginia Woolf’s Diary on November 21, 1918:

I was interrupted somewhere on this page by the arrival of Mr Eliot. Mr Eliot is well expressed by his name – a polished, cultivated, elaborate young American, talking so slow, that each word seems to have special finish allotted it. But beneath the surface it is fairly evident that he is very intellectual, intolerant, with strong views of his own, & a poetic creed. I’m sorry to say that this sets up Ezra Pound & Wyndham Lewis as great poets, or in the current phrase “very interesting” writers. He admires Mr Joyce immensely. He produced 3 o 4 poems for us to look at – the fruit of two years, since he works all day in a Bank, & in his reasonable way thinks regular work good for people of nervous constitutions. I became more or less conscious of a very intricate & highly organised framework of poetic belief; owing to his caution, & his excessive care in the use of language we did not discover much about it. I think he believes in “living phrases” & their difference from dead ones; & so making this new poetry flower on the stem of the oldest.

As an illustration of Eliot’s views I may add what Desmond has just (Thursday 21st Nov.) told me; D. asked him how on earth he came to add that remark at the end of a poem on his Aunt & the Boston Evening Transcript that phrase about an infinitely long street, & “I like La Rochefoucauld saying good by” or words to that effect. [“I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning/Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld,/If the street were time and he at the end of the street”] Eliot replied that they were a recollection of Dante’s Purgatorio!

The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Volume 1: 1915-1919