elisi: (Poetry)
[personal profile] elisi
Alternative title: Why Moffat Who is Poetry

Welcome to the meta café! Although this time it's more The Poetry Café (not that there's ever much difference). What I mean is, this post is like a follow-up to The Hollow Men and will be formatted in a similar way: I.e. first up is the poem/imagery, which will then be followed by lengthy, complex and in-depth notes. No really, this is enormous. (I will also write a more regular meta post later, with all the stuff that does not fit into this very specific reading.) Also, although this meta mostly centers on The Doctor Falls, it meanders through a lot of S10, and even further back. And as always, Promethia owns at least half of this.

But first, here is the second half of the fifth and final part of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, as filtered through Moffat Who:










4 Kissx

5 DeadCyberx



Empty Room2y










2 Diary-y

3 Gaily-y















The Waste Land and Moffat Who
by [personal profile] promethia_tenk

The Waste Land is a poem by T.S. Eliot detailing the spiritual, emotional, and physical wreckage of Europe after World War I and the search for the kind of regenerative belief that could restore life and meaning to the people. Famously difficult to read, it is a sort of fabulous mish-mash of disparate voices, allusions, and imagery. A central metaphorical figure of the poem is that of the Fisher King, an archetypal fertility myth that is linked to the Arthurian Grail Legend. In the myth the wounding or infirmity of the Fisher King has caused desolation and infertility to his lands and people. (Fish are an ancient symbol of life. As Jessie Weston states in From Ritual to Romance, a key book that Eliot referenced in the writing of his poem, ‘the title of Fisher has, from the earliest ages, been associated with the Deities who were held to be specially connected with the origin and preservation of Life.’ Note the frequent use of fish in Moffat Who to symbolize life and people.) In some versions of the Fisher King myth the damage is linked explicitly to a war. The damage can be healed only by a questing knight, who must travel to the chapel where the Fisher King holds the grail and, by asking certain ritual questions, will heal the King and therefore his lands.

The similarities between Steven Moffat’s agenda with Doctor Who and Eliot’s poetry first occurred to me back in season five:

Moffat’s seeming instinctive need for healings, regenerations, renewal, restoration, transcendence (the “everybody lives”), reminds me very much of Eliot’s fumbling for the same in his poems. Moffat even embraces much of the same vocabulary: the natural elements (especially water, earth, and sun), the wasteland (the cracks), the linking of damage to individuals (Amy) society (her family, Leadworth) and the landscape (the whole universe), the effects of war and the experience of refugees, the concern with fertility and misplaced sexual desire . . . And it would in no way surprise me to find out next season that the Doctor’s own psychological damage, his own personal demons, are somehow either responsible for the Silence or the weak point through which the Silence was able to operate, in which case the Doctor is the Fisher King and to heal him is to heal the Kingdom. If Davies gave us the Time War and its subsequent traumas, I think Moffat is doing his darndest to heal us all.

I turned out to be far more right than I ever could have hoped. The cracks, Trenzalore, and the whole River Song storyline, we discovered, were a reaction to the threat of Gallifrey’s return and its potential to re-ignite the Time War. Moreover, the psychological fallout of the war on the Doctor has come raging back to our attention after the fleeting respite of the Pond era, and we have made a deep dive into the Doctor’s relationship to the warrior mentality he had to build himself to survive, and the ways in which his inability to put it aside continues to damage him and those around him long after the initial trauma has passed.

We have also made our journey to the chapel, the crux of that trauma, a barn on Gallifrey, and Clara, our questing knight, has asked the question that will ultimately heal the kingdom: You told me the name you chose was a promise. What was the promise?

In many ways the whole show after that point has been an extended meditation on her question and the power of that promise to heal both the Doctor and others.

Eliot, like Moffat, uses the elements metaphorically to mediate our journey towards renewal. Water features prominently in both as a source of both life and destruction (‘Death by Water’ is the key pivot point of The Waste Land as, indeed, it is in Moffat Who - see this post on The Wedding of River Song for an exploration of this.) Towards the end of the poem we find ourselves in the literal wasteland: a stony place of shadows and red rocks, with no water, haunted by the dry crackle of thunder before, finally, the rain begins.

Datta, Dayadhvam, Damyata

What the Thunder Says centers on these three words. Here is what Eliot says in his footnotes:
“‘Datta, dayadhvam, damyata’ (Give, sympathise, control). The fable of the meaning of the Thunder is found in the Brihadaranyaka—Upanishad, 5, 1. A translation is found in Deussen’s Sechzig Upanishads des Veda, p. 489” (CP 75).

Being curious as to what the meaning of the fable might be I then I googled it, which gave me this, which I shall just copy & paste. It's a bit dense/scholarly, but please bear with me:


The fable describes a conversation between Prajāpati, the creator god, and his three species of children: gods, human beings, and demons (also divine creatures, though adversaries of the gods). The Deussen translation Eliot mentions is in German; this one was published by Robert Hume in 1921:

The three cardinal virtues

1. The threefold offspring of Prajāpati — gods, men, and devils (asura) — dwelt with their father Prajāpati as students of sacred knowledge (brahmacarya).
Having lived the life of a student of sacred knowledge, the gods said: “Speak to us, sir.” To them then he spoke this syllable, “Da.” “Did you understand?” “We did understand,” said they. “You said to us, ‘Restrain yourselves (damyata).’” “Yes (Om)!” said he. “You did understand.”

2. So then the men said to him: ‘Speak to us, sir.’ To them then he spoke this syllable, “Da.” “Did you understand?” “We did understand,” said they. “You said to us, ‘Give (datta).’” “Yes (Om)!” said he. “You did understand.”

3. So then the devils said to him: “Speak to us, sir.” To them then he spoke this syllable, “Da.” “Did you understand?” “We did understand,” said they. “You said to us, ‘Be compassionate (dayadhvam).’” “Yes (Om)!” said he. “You did understand.”

This same thing does the divine voice here, thunder, repeat: Da! Da! Da! that is, restrain yourselves, give, be compassionate. One should practise this same triad: self-restraint, giving, compassion. (Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Bṛihad-Āraṇyaka Upanishad 5.2.1–3)

Eliot incorporates pairs of words from this story at intervals near the end of The Waste Land: “DA / Datta.... DA / Dayadhvam... DA / Damyata” (WL 401–02, 411–12, 418–19). In other words, he gives us not only what the thunder said, but also what his students understood his words to mean.


If I appreciated the poem before, now I was in awe at how perfect it was. Let me break it down into the different parts and link them to our main characters:

Datta; give. (men/humans) Bill, Nardole, companions

Dayadhvam; sympathise/be compassionate. (devils) Missy, the Master

Damyata; control/restrain yourselves. (gods) the Doctor

I'll now proceed to go through the poem, line by line, or cap by cap, and explain the thought processes/imagery/meta.

Text of the Poem


I thought I should start with the banner/the 'DA's. Believe it or not, but it took forever to choose this cap. Once decided on, it was perfect, but for weeks and weeks I was tearing my hair out since nothing would seem to fit.

But then I thought of the view through the windows, and how they frame the whole story. After that the choice was obvious, and I like that there's both fire and rain (at least that's what it looks like). However, most importantly, it has the quality that I wanted above all: It conveys that the Thunder spoke, that it's not the Doctor or Missy or Bill, that the viewpoint is further out; observing, instructing.

I have also used the same cap for the three 'DA's, hopefully easily signalling that they are the voice of the Thunder.

(And yes, we have only used the second half of 'What the Thunder Said'. We did consider doing the whole thing, but it would have been endless. The first half - as you may be aware - is a description of the Waste Land as arid red rock, imagery that has been incredibly prevalent in the late stages of Twelve’s run, and obviously fitting with Gallifrey.)

           In this decayed hole among the mountains
           In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
           Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
           There is the empty chapel, only the wind’s home.
           It has no windows, and the door swings,
           Dry bones can harm no one.
           Only a cock stood on the roof-tree
           Co co rico co co rico
           In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
           Bringing rain
           Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves
           Waited for rain, while the black clouds
           Gathered far distant, over Himavant.
           The jungle crouched, humped in silence.
           Then spoke the thunder

I think this is all pretty self-explanatory. The caps are from the moments when they are waiting for the cybermen to attack, and the sense of expectant anticipation - the calm before the storm - is palpable.

The image of the barn is also important - Bill sleeping in the barn mirrors the young Doctor sleeping in the barn on Gallifrey; the same barn where he would later bring The Moment and doom his people. And where he returns after the loss of Clara. And Bill of course has her own little child!mirror to show her the truth.

Note also that the barn is connected to some kind of collective living situation for children and that Hazran echoes the woman in the apron who finds the Doctor back in the barn in Hell Bent and was presumably the one talking about him as a child in Listen.

This stanza even follows the events of the episode, as it starts to rain after the battle. And of course the rain fits perfectly with the refrain of ‘where there’s tears, there’s hope.’

Rain and tears have also been linked to renewal and an end of stagnation before, with the tears of a family crying over the death of Victorian Clara melting the ice in The Snowmen and dissolving the cloud where the Doctor has been grieving the loss of the Ponds. In both cases properly admitting grief is an inextricable part of the renewal.

Finally we have: 'Then spoke the thunder'. And what follows is its voice; that is, the conversation between the creator god, and his three species of children...

           Datta: what have we given?

I have here chosen to go back to the beginning of the season. 'What have we given?' Most obviously - given the cap - Heather gives Bill her tears. And, subverting the line somewhat, both give each other up. Heather chooses to let Bill go, and vice versa.

However, although Bill does reach out to Heather, it takes a long time for her to get to that point. Heather chases Bill all across the universe before Bill finally understands that it's about the promise she gave.

Neither Bill (or Nardole for that matter) are 'typical' companions, jumping headfirst into danger. 'Giving' in the sense of happily sacrificing themselves doesn't come as naturally to them as say, Clara or Rose. Which makes them not only more 'normal', but it also makes their journeys different to what we are used to.

The subject brings to mind 'Oxygen', when they realise they are essentially on a zombie ship:

NARDOLE: Okay then! Back to the Tardis! Lovely in there. Nice and cosy.
BILL: Yeah. Yeah, he's right.

And the Doctor's admonition:

DOCTOR: Four. Four, Bill. Four survivors, one distress call. The universe shows its true face when it asks for help. We show ours by how we respond.

But here, at the beginning of her journey, Bill made the leap. Both to help, and to let go. And it shaped her story from then onward. Often things happened to her, but when she could, she took a stand. Right until the end, when she chose to give what was left of her life to stand with the Doctor.

More generally, humans are instructed to give because they are naturally avaricious (gods are unruly, demons cruel — this is from the notes in 'The Waste Land: Norton Critical Edition, ed. Michael North'). Now, this dovetails nicely with Nardole’s assertion that left with three people he’ll start a black market between them. Going Biblical for a moment, we see the virtue of giving extolled when Jesus points out The Poor Widow: “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

However, we also need to look at avarice not strictly in the money sense, but in a stinginess of self. Fear of being imposed upon, of being asked to give more than one can, which leads to withholding the self (coupled with a fear of imposing on others in turn, which leads to not asking for or expecting anything of others). Bill, I think, is very much afflicted with avarice in this sense.

Nardole (whom I am neglecting shockingly in this meta, due to my focus) also deserves a word here, since his 'ending' is very much a giving of self in the sense laid out above. A continual giving of self, day by day, which he finds much more difficult than a quick sacrifice. Which is why it's being asked of him.

Briefly returning to Heather, she hovers between human and god, and her gift symbolises both; she gives something of herself, but she also abandons her 'unruly' behaviour and exercises control over herself and her wishes, only using her powers when they are needed and wanted.

           My friend

The story of Bill and Heather The Magic Space Lesbians is lovely, but it's important to remember that it all started because Bill was kind to Heather. She noticed someone who seemed unhappy and she reached out. What makes Heather rescuing Bill at the end work so well, is that Bill tried to rescue her first. But someone caring enough to save her in return is not something Bill is used to...

           blood shaking my heart
           The awful daring of a moment’s surrender

And then the reaching out became literal. We had the Doctor dancing around in worry, telling Bill that it was dangerous, but Bill saw through Heather's new shape and recognised the young woman she had first met. And the wording is just gorgeous, especially when paired with the imagery.

           Which an age of prudence can never retract

The tear is the link between Heather and cyber!Bill, which makes it a perfect pivot point. And I just like the idea of all of Bill's time with the Doctor (having done the sensible thing and letting Heather go) and also her conversion into a cyberman (with its implication of suppressing emotion) could not 'retract' that connection. A gift cannot be taken back.

           4 Kissx
           5 DeadCyberx
           By this, and this only, we have existed
           Which is not to be found in our obituaries

BILL: Am I dead?
HEATHER: Does that feel dead to you? You're like me now. It's just a different kind of living.

What is life? The Doctor lays it out beautifully in the voice-over to Bill and Heather's meeting in the bar (italics mine):

DOCTOR: Imagine if time all happened at once. Every moment of your life laid out around you like a city. Streets full of buildings made of days. The day you were born, the day you die. The day you fall in love, the day that love ends. A whole city built from triumph and heartbreak and boredom and laughter and cutting your toenails. It's the best place you will ever be. Time is a structure relative to ourselves. Time is the space made by our lives where we stand together, forever.

Which is just a different way of saying 'By this, and this only, we have existed'... The fall of the dead cyber!Bill only emphasises how shape and identity are different things.

And this is the moment it starts to rain. Water symbolising life and rebirth - and Heather is of course a creature of pure water.

           Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
           Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor

The Doctor makes the connection between the Monks and the cybermen explicit, in how both try to turn Bill into someone else, controlling her. And she successfully fights both. Clinging onto the memories of her mother and her humanity throughout, no matter who tries to invade her, body and soul.

           Empty Room2x
           In our empty rooms

Watching that scene, all I can think of is the idea of flying the nest. Like, literally, she flies out the door. And it's all circular, of course. There's that beat in The Pilot where they're hiding from Heather in the TARDIS and the Doctor tells Bill she will always be safe in here. So of course we end that story with Bill flying away from the sanctuary with the very thing they were hiding from. The daring of a moment's surrender.

Having the Doctor in it brings it back around to the cap of the tear; reaching out, giving, saving.

Datta; give

And it also ties it into the caps of Missy and the Master dying in their 'rooms' too.

However, where Missy/the Master and the Doctor all die alone, never quite able to bridge the gap, Bill and Heather can fulfill the same dream that once united our 'Best Enemies':

DOCTOR: We had a pact, me and him. Every star in the universe, we were going to see them all.

           Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
           Turn in the door once and turn once only

Eliot links these lines back to Dante's Inferno, XXXIII, 46:

Then at the foot of that grim tower I heard
Men nailing up the gate, far down below;
I gazed in my sons' eyes without a word

It is from the story of Count Ugolino, who was locked in a tower with his sons (and grandsons) to starve to death, and the turning of the key essentially marks his (their) death sentence.

However, I thought it interesting to turn that almost on its head, and let the 'key' be Missy's wakening conscience, which cannot be undone, and which will eventually doom her.

DOCTOR: The alternative would be much worse.
MISSY: Really?
DOCTOR: The alternative is that this is for real, and it's time for us to become friends again.

           We think of the key, each in his prison
           Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison

From Eliot's footnotes:

Also F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, p. 346.
“My external sensations are no less private to myself than are my thoughts or my feelings. In either case my experience falls within my own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and, with all its elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround it.… In brief, regarded as an existence which appears in a soul, the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul.”

And this is where having two different regenerations of the same character is so fascinating. Missy and the Master are the same, and yet the key has 'turned in the lock' for Missy, in ways the Master cannot understand.

From DWM’s interview with Moff:

Can we talk some more about The Doctor Falls? In particular, I want to ask about the Doctor’s magnificent speech about how he does what he does simply to be kind. It really struck a chord with people.

“It did seem to, yeah,” Steven smiles modestly. “I was really, really pleased with the reaction to that. I knew I wanted to do it from the start. And I knew that was why I wanted two versions of the Master. It just was all for that. So the Master has to listen to it twice! It’s the same person reacting twice. ‘But now that I listen to it again, maybe it makes some sense.’ I did a lot of work on that speech. I remember when Peter was performing it, he made a very bold actor decision. The Doctor says, ‘When I say no, you turn back around.’ At which point in the script, it said, ‘Such is his force, they stop, and find themselves turning around.’ Peter said, ‘Can I not do it that way? Can I fail to make them turn around, so that I have to run around in front of them? I don’t want to be pompous. It’s not The Zygon Inversion, where I am putting on the swagger.’ In that Zygon Inversion speech, he absolutely knows he’s going to win, from the moment he opens his mouth. And this time, what Peter wanted to do, is it’s ripped from his soul.”

That choice really changes the feel of the scene.

“He just really means it. There’s no music on it. Which was [composer] Murray Gold’s decision. He just looked at it and said, ‘No music.’ It’s absolutely naked, that scene. He’s not grandstanding. He’s not making any jokes. He’s just saying it in the simplest, most heartfelt way. It’s sort of ‘naked Doctor’, as it were, which makes it extremely powerful. Also, if you think about it, that speech literally kills the Master. Because it divides him against himself. And it kills him.”

And it all comes down to 'Dayadhvam': sympathise/be compassionate

MASTER: Becoming a woman's one thing, but have you got empathy?

I love the cap of Missy's eyes glimpsed over the Master's shoulder, and the duality of the speech (listened to twice, filtered through the Master to reach Missy), reminded me - oddly, maybe - of this description of ghost!Spike (from [personal profile] the_royal_anna's post on Lineage):

And I loved Spike fighting. Because there's the Spike we know and love - Spike punching through his friends to hit his enemies, and seeing through his enemies to hit his friends.

There is something similar going on here. The Doctor speaks to the Master almost exclusively, but Missy is his audience...

And then Missy kills her former self, knowing that the Master will never understand, trapped as he is a prison of his own, that she has only just managed to escape. So she both confirms the singularity of his reality, and helps bring about her own. (And of course vice-versa... They are both caught in the end.)

           Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours

It just seemed to fit. I love the illusory feel of 'aetherial rumours', which also seems the perfect description of the Doctor repeating 'Without hope. Without witness. Without reward.' - as if he has heard aetherial rumours of Missy's demise.

Goodness is not goodness that seeks advantage. Good is good in the final hour, in the deepest pit without hope, without witness, without reward. Virtue is only virtue in extremis. This is what he believes, and this is the reason above all, I love him. My husband. My madman in a box. My Doctor.

And so Missy abandons the cruelty of her demon nature, listens to the voice of the Thunder, allowing compassion in. Dying surrounded by a flowering forest, symbols of life and renewal. The circle of life...

           Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus

From Wiki:

Coriolanus is the name given to a Roman general after his more than adequate military success against various uprisings challenging the government of Rome. Following this success, Coriolanus becomes active in politics and seeks political leadership. His temperament is unsuited for popular leadership and he is quickly deposed, whereupon he aligns himself to set matters straight according to his own will. The alliances he forges along the way result in his ultimate downfall.

Which really is rather spot-on:

DOCTOR: Well, let's see how I do. Your Tardis got stuck. You killed a lot of people, took over the city, lived like a king until they rebelled against your cruelty. And ever since then you've been hiding out, probably in disguise, because everybody knows your stupid round face.

I also like how it talks of him being broken and only transitory (revived). Because the Master is fading here, clinging on to what he knows because he has nothing else, but essentially lost. It's almost a mercy-killing.

And so the Master descends back into the hell he came from, a cruel devil to the last, never listening to the voice from above.

           Damyata: The boat responded
           Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar

I hope that 'sailing = killing cybermen' is not a metaphor too far. But then, it is what the Doctor does. And he's so happy. Practically dancing through the forest.

           2 Diary-y
           The sea was calm, your heart would have responded

River here, of course, through her diary. His wife, the one who holds and directs his hearts, whose words and life made him change the course of his. And it makes for a very nice inversion of 'your Missus wouldn't approve'.

           3 Gaily-y
           Gaily, when invited, beating obedient

Again with the joy, the peace he has made with himself and his choices.

           4 DoctorKind-y
           To controlling hands

This cap was very deliberate.

Damyata; control/restrain yourselves

The Doctor knows who he is, what he does, and why. We see it in the way he doesn't tear the world apart to fix Bill (so unlike the destruction he caused when he lost Clara).

We see it in the way he quietly accepts his fate, in the way he fights because it's the right thing to do, not in order to win. He has power, but it is controlled, used with care. It is a world and lifetimes away from Ten in Waters of Mars, declaring himself The Time Lord Victorious. And it is also a very different war to the one Eleven waged in A Good Man Goes to War, which was a war against him personally.

So the 'controlling hands' are the Doctor's own. He doesn't need 'someone to stop him', he stops himself. His speech is a thing of pure beauty, laying out his reasons; deeply heartfelt and with perfect precision.

                             I sat upon the shore
           Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
           Shall I at least set my lands in order?

From Eliot's footnotes:
V. Weston, From Ritual to Romance; chapter on the Fisher King.

And here we come to the Fisher King. Promethia has run through a lot of this already, but I liked the cap, because it is a moment of quiet reflection.

We still have Christmas to come, which is good since he currently wants to die, and he needs to find something to live for. But he has come a long, long way. As we stand on the brink of a new era, here is to the healing of the pain and the scars from the Time War.

The Doctor is setting his lands in order.

           London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down

Firstly: We chose to interpret 'Setting his lands in order' as a walk down memory lane. Hence some of these caps being de-saturated and sepia-tinted. They mark a look back, taking stock of his past.

Now, onto the meaning...

Most of the place names in The Waste Land are in the vicinity of London Bridge. The obvious choice would be a cap of the actual bridge, since it features in 'Thin Ice'. However that would be to miss everything that it symbolises.

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

And at the beginning of The Fire Sermon (part III of The Waste Land) we have an unidentified voice which we might as well call the Fisher King, who is fishing, presumably on the bank of the Thames. So we can tie this line to River:

1) Because of Stevie Wonder singing under London bridge
2) Because River and rivers
3) Because the section in The Fire Sermon of Elizabeth I and her lover on the barge in the Thames is tied to the wife in A Game of Chess (who I associate with River) through the imagery of Cleopatra coming down the Nile from Anthony and Cleopatra (and how perfect is that conflation of personages/imagery/symbolism? Elizabeth I/chess/queens/rivers/Cleopatra).

All that said, in the end I decided to go with this cap from Extremis.

To quote from Eliot's notes:

Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman

And I am sure you recall all the parallels I laid out in my Extremis meta (LJ/DW) between River and Missy. And Extremis was the episode where they met (metaphorically), River's words saving Missy. So 'the fair lady' is River/Missy.

It's also important to remember the nursery rhyme itself. One theory of origin is that the rhyme relates to the supposed destruction of London Bridge by Olaf II of Norway in 1014 (or 1009). It then chronicles the difficulties of rebuilding.

This interpretation of course fits beautifully with the 'narrative' of The Waste Land/The Fisher King; the attempts at re-building/restoration after a war.

However I also loved these alternative verses (included in five of nine versions published by Alice Gomme in 1894):

Who has stole my watch and chain,
Watch and chain, watch and chain;
Who has stole my watch and chain,
My fair lady?

Off to prison you must go,
You must go, you must go;
Off to prison you must go,
My fair lady.

Immediately they center on River/Missy and their imprisonments. And also tie in with the key turning in the 'Dayadhvam' section. And the 'watch and chain' is easily seen as a symbol of time. War, water, time... I could easily write an essay about this one line.

But to summarise - there is definitely a ‘world-crumbling’ feel to this moment: wife dead, oldest friend being executed, the two of them conflated. The bridge is fallen indeed.

           Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina

From Eliot's footnotes:

Purgatorio, XXVI, 148.

“‘Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
‘que vos guida al som de l’escalina,
‘sovegna vos a temps de ma dolor.’
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina.”

As you can see, the line he uses is the very last line of the last stanza, but I'll quote the last two stanzas, for a little more context:

"I am Arnault, who weep and, strolling, sing.
With sorrow I see now my bygone folly
And see ahead with joy my hoped-for bliss.

"Now I petition you, by that kind Power
Escorting you to the summit of the staircase,
At the appropriate time, recall my pain."

Then he hid himself in the refining fire.

That final line is of course a perfect fit for regeneration, but there are a lot of layers to this.

From 'Digital Dante':

The last terrace of purgatory is the terrace of lust. Lust, we learned in hell, is a sin of incontinence in its Aristotelian sense, meaning excess desire, along with gluttony and avarice/prodigality: the word “incontenenza” is used in the outline of the moral structure of hell in Inferno 11 for the sins punished above the gate of Dis. Lust is a sin of excess desire. The corollary, often forgotten, is that desire in moderated form is not sinful.

The shades are being purified/cleansed in the fire, and entreat Dante to pray for them, to remember their pain. Which of course ties in with:

Damyata; control/restrain yourselves.

I very almost used a cap of Ten regenerating, as 'Then he hid himself in the fire that refines them' fits him most of all. Ten's arc was very much about excess and lack of control:

DOCTOR: Yes, because there are laws. There are Laws of Time. Once upon a time there were people in charge of those laws, but they died. They all died. Do you know who that leaves? Me! It's taken me all these years to realise the Laws of Time are mine, and they will obey me!

DOCTOR: For a long time now, I thought I was just a survivor, but I'm not. I'm the winner. That's who I am. The Time Lord Victorious.

But in the end he realises his sin, and goes to hide in the refining fire:

WILF: No really, just leave me. I'm an old man, Doctor. I've had my time.
DOCTOR: Well, exactly. Look at you. Not remotely important. But me? I could do so much more. So much more! But this is what I get. My reward. And it's not fair! Oh. Oh. Lived too long.

We see an echo in Twelve's quiet 'Doctor. Let it go.'

And although he fights against the fire this time, he is only one step away from that final burning. Indeed, Arnault's words could be Twelve's in The Doctor Falls:

I am Arnault, who weep and, strolling, sing.
With sorrow I see now my bygone folly
And see ahead with joy my hoped-for bliss.

The Doctor at this point very much sees living as Purgatory, and wishes for that hoped-for bliss. We know he does not believe in heaven, he just wants to rest. So he wraps himself in fire - not just the fires of regeneration, but burning the whole world, burning away the destruction of the cybermen.

This is of course taking place in 'the now'. But it is important to look at what the Doctor is letting go of, what he is looking to burn away in his refining fire...

           Quando fiam uti chelidon—O swallow swallow

And so we return to the past...

From Eliot's footnotes:

V. Pervigilium Veneris. Cf. Philomela in Parts II and III.

Proton's book gives some verses of the poem this comes from, which is referencing Philomela, from the story of Tereus and Philomela:

She sings, we are mute: when is my spring coming?
when shall I be as the swallow, that I may cease to be voiceless?
I have lost the Muse in silence, nor does Apollo regard me:
so Amyclae, being mute, perished in silence.

The basics of the myth, from Wiki:

The general depiction is that Philomela, after being raped and mutilated by her sister's husband, Tereus, obtains her revenge and is transformed into a nightingale.

So, the bit of poem is Philomela, after her tongue’s been cut out, yearning to escape.

Thankfully, there is no direct correlation to anything in Doctor Who, but it’s hard to ignore the association of Clara with birds, and Clara sure had some troubles and trials for herself and ultimately flew away. Hence this cap of Twelve standing by the TARDIS with Clara’s portrait on it. That way ‘when shall I be like the sparrow?’ is Twelve yearning after Clara (and her perception of him/their friendship), and the unfulfilledness speaks to how we’ve never really gotten closure on her departure and the Doctor’s loss of her memory.

Finally, what remnants the Doctor has of Clara has been preserved as a song. She, like Philomela, is gone, but survives as a voice.

           Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie

Again in the past, and we get one of the reasons Twelve is so exhausted and longs for rest.

The line is a reference to Sonnet El Desdichado by Gerard de Nerval (see further explanation by following the link):

I am the man of gloom,—the widower,—the unconsoled,
The Prince of Aquitania, his tower in ruins:
My only star is dead, and my constellated lute
Bears the Black Sun of Melancholia.
In the night of the tomb, you who’ve consoled me,
Give me back Posillipo and the Italian sea,
The flower that so pleased my desolate heart,
And the arbor where the vine and rose are intertwined.
Am I Amor or Phoebus? … Lusignan or Biron?
My brow still burns from the kiss of the queen;
I have dreamed in the grotto where the siren swims…
And twice I have crossed Acheron victorious:
Modulating on the lyre of Orpheus
Now the sighs of the saint, now the cry of the fairy.
(Rainey 123–24; ellipses in original)

This seemed very apt for Twelve in Heaven sent, especially given the flower imagery that has always been attached to Clara, and she can very well be seen as his star also ('My only star is dead').

'The Prince of Aquitania, his tower in ruins' - just the most heartbreaking description of Twelve.

Stepping sideways briefly, those who have read my Hollow Men meta might remember how I continually linked Time Lords with broken stone, imagery-wise. This is a nice callback, the Doctor being in ruins after his loss.

(It will also tie in with the lines about Hieronymo.)

           These fragments I have shored against my ruins

This could only ever be the companions, literally fragments of scenes and moments, gathering together to save him. They call out, from the past and into the present, trying to rouse him.

But he still has unfinished business.

           Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.

The whole poem is about restoration after war, but Twelve still carried the Time War with him, and no more so was this evident than after Clara's demise.

From footnotes in 'The Waste Land: Norton Critical Edition': Eliot’s note refers to Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedie (1592), the subtitle of which is Hieronymo is Mad Againe. In Act 4 of the play, Hiernymo, driven mad by the murder of his son, stages a play in which he convinces the murderers to act a part. In the course of the play, Heironymo actually kills the murderers and then himself.

The line ‘why then Ile fit you’ comes when Hiernymo is convincing the murderers to take parts in the play, and basically he is sounding congenial, saying he’ll make something to suit their moods, but it’s a veiled threat given that he’s planning to kill them.

So, we have Twelve storming Gallifrey, waging a one-man war.

He is far from congenial in the first cap of course, but the overall idea works - The Doctor at that point casts the roles, even if the threat is far from veiled:

DOCTOR: If you think because she is dead, I am weak, then you understand very little. If you were any part of killing her, and you're not afraid, then you understand nothing at all. So, for your own sake, understand this. I am the Doctor. I'm coming to find you, and I will never, ever stop.

And he carries that mindset with him, up to and including shooting the General. Indeed, 'Hieronymo’s mad againe' is a far too apt description for Twelve, almost literally driven mad by Clara's death, his metaphorical [grand]child.

Also it stands in contrast to 'Damyata; self-restraint'. Twelve in Heaven Sent/Hell Bent has no self-restraint at all, no control, his grief nearly destroying time itself. I have remarked how noticeable it is how he doesn't storm off to save Bill, although I am sure the fury is there. But he now keeps his anger and his destructive tendencies under control.

           Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

This is of course a call-back to the previous lines, and the obvious solution was a triptych. Bill's (Heather's) tear is echoed in Missy's cap, and we know that the Doctor's voice almost breaks during his speech; it nearly brings him to tears. We are drawing to a close, returning to the basic message.

And that too has now become internalised, he has dealt with his past and found peace...

                   Shantih        shantih        shantih

From Eliot's footnotes:

Shantih. Repeated as here, a formal ending to an Upanishad. “The Peace which passeth understanding” is a feeble translation of the content of this word.

A tiny detail, but one that's worth mentioning: Bill has had peace sign earrings ever since the pilot.

I like the three-image structure, and how it moves from Bill, to the Doctor. I love how it looks like her hand is raised in blessing, and how the tear glows. ('Where there's tears, there's hope', and of course tears/water symbolises rebirth, as we have touched on before.) The shantihs can be said to bring together what the Thunder said, all that past pain, and the memories of the people he’s loved, into a harmonious whole.

Because again, his friends are his hope. Bill saves his life, giving him the life that was passed onto her... “Datta, dayadhvam, damyata” (Giving, compassion, self-restraint) The three cardinal virtues; these are all here. It's poetry.

To once more borrow from Promethia, I have this quote of hers on my profile page:

"I always loved poetry because you can treat a poem like a puzzle. Everything matters on all the levels: literal meaning, symbolic meaning, allusions, associations, sounds, the rhythm, the relation of each part to the whole, the structure of it all, the configuration on the page... the sheer density of information you can encode in a poem is just awesome. There is NO WAY to read poetry passively."

And this is the show.

Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
Account name:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
HTML doesn't work in the subject.


Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.


elisi: (Default)elisi
September 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 2017