Review of “Sweeney Among the Nightingales” (1920)


T. S. Eliot (writer).

Read in 2022.

Sweeney’s one of Eliot’s personal stock characters. The nightingales are probably sex workers, though the title alludes to “Bianca Among the Nightingales” (1862). With allusions to antiquity, Eliot the modernist seems to play at classicism or Parnassianism, or at least he willingly takes on the intellectual elitism of those eariler styles despite the low/punk subject of animal-like Sweeney. The allusions fuse together badly in the death of Agamemnon: Eliot places nightingales at the scene of the king’s death in a “bloody wood”, which is contrary to the Greek mythological source. That dissonance may be intentional, but I don’t think the intention is good.

References here: “The Shield of Achilles” (1952), Modern utländsk lyrik (1975/1985).

text poetry