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T.S. Eliot

La Figlia Che Piange

More questions of a challenging nature!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 18 January 2014
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The poem commemorates a breakup with a young woman who is deeply hurt by the experience. But is this young woman real or imaginary? Indeed, is the breakup itself real or imaginary? There are many clues in the poem who could lead us to conclude either way.


Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St Louis (Missouri) in 1888. He attended Harvard University and graduated with a Masters degree in Philosophy. While there, he published several poems in the Harvard Advocate.

The poet left the United States in 1910, moving first to France, then Germany and finally London. He married Vivienne Haigh-Wood in 1915, which caused him to settle permanently in England. His marriage was never successful, however, and they separated in 1933. In 1956 he would remarry, this time to Valerie Fletcher.

Early during his stay in London, Eliot fell under the influence of the great American poet, Ezra Pound, who also assisted in the publication of his early work.

The publication of his first book of poetry - Prufrock and Other Observations, 1917 - revealed Eliot as a forerunner of what is known as "Modernism", the philosophy of Modern Art. His next book - The Waste Land, 1922 - is claimed by many to contain some of the most important poetry of the 20th century.

Eliot was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. He died in London in 1965. He was 77 years old.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

"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."
  • What is the difference between "would" and "should"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • When the poet says, "So I would have had him leave", whom does he mean by "him"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • If the poet could have orchestrated or directed the breakup, how would he have done it - according his words in this stanza? (4)

[Need help?]

"So he would have left
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,
As the mind deserts the body it has used."
  • What is the image which the poet uses when he says, "As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Explain the image "As the mind deserts the body it has used". (4)

[Need help?]

"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."
  • Notice that the poet has now switched from "would" to "should". Contrast the way he wished to breakup with the way he probably would have done so. (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why does the poet speak of the "smile and a shake of the hand" as being both "simple" and "faithless"? (4)

[Need help?]

"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."
  • The first two stanzas conveyed ideas of the breakup as it would have been if the poet had directed it or as he would have wished it. This third stanza presents the breakup as it probably would have been. Explain how this would be. (4)

[Need help?]

  • What is the reference to "the autumn weather"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What does the poet mean when he says, "I should have lost a gesture and a pose"? (4)

[Need help?]

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