Morning at the Window by T. S. Eliot
They are rattling breakfast plates in basement kitchens,
And along the trampled edges of the street
I am aware of the damp souls of housemaids
Sprouting despondently at area gates.
The brown waves of fog toss up to me
Twisted faces from the bottom of the street,
And tear from a passer-by with muddy skirts
An aimless smile that hovers in the air
And vanishes along the level of the roofs.
- Thomas Stearns Eliot, an American-born scholar, and poetic genius claimed by both the United States and England, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1888.
- His style transcended previous literary movements with a surprising sense of humor. Both frustratingly obtuse and dazzlingly memorable, his masterworks redirect attention from the collapse of Edwardian respectability to the birth of modernism.
- In 1921, he wrote the poem “The Waste Land” while recovering from exhaustion.
- Eliot won Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.
- Died in London, England, in 1965.
- Eliot’s relation to romanticism, his significance in the development of modernism, his role as an expatriate effecting a “reconciliation with America” in “The Dry Salvages” are all important considerations.
- Morning at the Window is an imagist poem that presents an image of poverty. The picture is that of a slum where people lead miserable lives.
- The speaker is at the window.
- The images that come to his eyes are ‘object correlatives’ or objects corresponding certain ideas and emotions in the poet’s and the reader’s mind.
- The images in the poem correlate with the idea of poverty and feelings of sympathy.
- The poem only presents them just the objective image, rather than romantically expressing his feelings and emotions.
- There is also a balance between feelings and ideas in the sense that the image arouses not only feelings in the reader but also provokes thoughts and idea.
- Eliot expresses the fragile psychological state of humanity in the twentieth century.
- Modernist writers wanted to capture their transformed world, which they perceived as fractured, alienated, and denigrated.
- Europe lost an entire generation of young men to the horrors of the so-called Great War, causing a general crisis of masculinity as survivors struggled to find their place in a radically altered society.
- Humanity’s collectively damaged psyche prevented people from communicating with one another, an idea that Eliot explored in many works, including “A Game of Chess” (the second part ofThe Waste Land) and “The Hollow Men.”
The person, who is speaking in the poem to be Eliot, However, it could be a character Eliot has created, a person of higher social status; because the person has a window and therefore does not live in a basement .
The poor people are rattling (making sound) breakfast plates early in the morning. It is an obligation for poor people to go to work early and work till late. Sun or shower, frost or fog, they have to set out early. The speaker says that he is aware of the condition of the households’ minds and souls, or their psychology. He doesn’t describe that. Such housemaids are appearing one after another at the city gate. They have no identity, dignity and meaningful life. They are ‘despondent’, or extremely sad.
The speaker seems to go along, or else look further away waves of “brown” fog which come up to him. This is perhaps because the city air is so polluted. Twisted faces of depressed people pass by. A passerby has tears in the eyes. The speaker takes another glance and sees her dirty skirt. Another person comes up and tries to smile, but fails. The smile vanishes among the city roofs.
The focus is on poor servant girls whose souls themselves are “damp” (moist and dirt). He arouses pity without telling his pity for the people. The poem presents only objective correlatives of poverty; the poet doesn’t describe his feelings put presents objects that correlate or correspond to sympathy towards the poor. He balances the underlying feelings of pathos (pity) with a thoughtful mind and serous art. Eliot shows how personal emotion can be transformed into a universal thought-provoking image. Eliot also presents things as his impressions recorded them. The twisted face, the aimless smile, the eyes with tears, the muddy skirts are fragments of his impressions.
The theme of the poem is poverty. The poem presents a set of typical images that suggest poverty, depression, misery and squalor in the slums (poor and dirty areas of the cities) where the poor live. The poet also mentions the state of the souls of the housemaids. So the poem thematically includes the issues of poverty, depression and squalor in the lives of poor people in the city.
Techniques or literary devices
- The title “Morning at the Window” may be viewed as paradoxical because the title evokes a joyful awakening, although the poem is not joyful as closer analysis reveals.
- Eliot opens “Morning at the Window” with a lot of sensory detail reflecting the hustle and loudness of urban life. The noise of breakfast plates rattle in basement kitchens and image of housemaids “sprouting despondently at area gates.”
- Eliot uses image to reflect the experience of the modern world and urban life.
- “Damp souls” saying that these people are deeply unhappy.
- In line four, the poet uses a verb, “sprouting”, the word sprouting gives me the an image of housemaids appearing out of nowhere .
- The word “despondently” clearly evokes to the reader that these people are immensely depressed with their life and the feeling of being trapped in their situations, seeing no escape from their repetitive and unfulfilling lifestyles.
- The basement in the first stanza visualize the symbol of poverty.
- “Fog” is symbolic of confusion; and the twisted faces and the aimless smile symbolizes the frustration and the emptiness in city life.
- “breakfast” and “basements”, “am” and “aware”, “souls” and “sprouting”. Eliot uses many poetic devices in this poem, the connotations of the morning and the basement,
- onomatopoeia is used when referring to the “rattling”,