I’ve never been a fan of T.S. Eliot. The other day, however, I was reading “Effects of Analogy,” an essay by my favorite poet, Wallace Stevens. In it, he quotes from Eliot’s Rhapsody on a Windy Night. It’s passage full of striking, if desiccated, olfactory imagery.
“. . . A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,
Her hand twists a paper rose,
That smells of dust and eau de Cologne,
She is alone
With all the old nocturnal smells
That cross and cross across her brain.”
The reminiscence comes
Of sunless dry geraniums
And dust in crevices,
Smells of chestnuts in the streets,
And female smells in shuttered rooms,
And cigarettes in corridors
And cocktail smells in bars.