“Departure and Arrival” by T.S. Eliot is a beautiful blend of realism and idealism along with the confusion of modern man. Realism remains on earth whereas idealism is sky-high. The poet expresses his faith in idealism and optimism for the future of mankind. The opening of the poem speaks out the confusing conditions of modern man. Modern man entraps in the intricacies of life. He is just like a man in the pathless jungle having no light, no hope, no direction, no map, and no struggle to survive. But the poet does not leave him in this confusion. He imagines that we are all standing on the shore of future life.
The Poem presents the problems and expected prospects of modern man. Our ship of life may collide with rocks. We are in doubtful condition yet we should try to sail our ship while singing a song. Thus, we can only hope, as we do not have a searchlight to warn of the rocks lying hidden below the surface of the seawater. We do not have the seas chart to have exact directions. We should set sail without any chart and lighthouse.
The poet calls our attention to our present responsibilities. He says that the 20th century has greater and more complicated problems and greater challenges than the previous centuries. Great duties call us and we must respond to their call. We are her sons and it is our responsibility to meet the challenges of this century with determination. It is also our responsibility to leave a better legacy for the coming generations. We don’t know what the future holds in store for us. What sort of conquests to overcome the pains and miseries of human beings will be made in the future? And what type of greater heroes the future will produce. (Departure and Arrival)
The people living anywhere in the world during the 20th century must make a positive contribution to bring peace and prosperity to the world. They must play their part in leaving a proud legacy. We should contribute towards the betterment of the entire world, irrespective of race, color, and religion. With our sincere efforts, we should include ourselves in that selected class of people who devote their energies for hoisting the flag of human victory without asking any rewards.
Our life will become meaningful as we will be serving a great mission, hence our contribution will become immortal. We will be shareholders of that legacy for our age. To pay their debt we must strive for a bright future. THe present century expects us to eliminate pain and misery and assures better future. THe only thing required from mdoern man is determination. The poet gives encouraging arguments to modern man. He preaches the dictum, “We are on earth to do good to others, what for others are we do not know.”.
Hence our decisions to devote ourselves for a great mission will be included in the group of human beneafctors. We shall also be graded as sacred as our predecessors for their invaluable services to the humanity. Whe we have grown old, we will be anxious to revive and identify that sacred moment of our life. Thus we shall also be remembered in future course of life.
Explanation with Reference
Standing upon the shore of all we know
We linger for a moment doubtfully
Then with a song upon our lips, sail we
Across the harbor, bar-no chart to show
No light to warn of rocks which lie below,
But let us yet put forth courageously
In this stanza, the poet pinpoints modern man’s wavering state in the ocean of future life. He compares man’s life to the sea and says that we are hesitant at the shore to decide to sail. Then we muster up the courage and start our journey. We do not possess a map or light to warn us of danger below the surface of the water. Despite all these handicaps, we must sail with courage and patience. The poet does not leave man to grope in darkness.
Great duties call the twentieth-century
More grandly dowered than those which came before,
Summons who knows what time may hold in store,
Or what great deed the distant years may see,
What conquest over pain and misery,
What heroes greater than were ever of yore.
In this stanza, the poet throws light on the prospects of the 20th century and draws our attention towards responsibility. The present century has great duties on us. It has wider and better prospects for us than the previous centuries. We cannot predict what great heights and glories lay before us. Greater heroes than those of the past may be born. Pain, poverty, and misery may be eliminated from the world forever. That is the reason; this century calls upon us to struggle to achieve their ideals.
A legacy of benefits — may we
In future years be found with those who try
To labor for the good until they die,
And ask no other question than to know
That they have helped the cause to victory,
That with their aid the flag is raised on high
In these lines, the poet focuses on the benefits that we can have. He draws an optimistic conclusion that we can leave the best heritage for future generations, we must put in real efforts. Ideas should be brought into practical shape. We should live in deeds, not in thoughts. We shall be ranked with those persons who struggle for a great cause. So, we shall be remembered with those who do not indulge in non-constructive discussions. They are rather committed to actions. They earn name and fame. Due to their relentless sacrifices, the flag of the country is raised high.
Sometimes in distant years when we are grown
Gray-haired and old, whatever be our lot,
We shall desire to see again the spot
Which, whatsoever we have been or done
Or to what distant lands we may have gone,
Through all the years will never have been forgot
In the last stanza of this poem, the poet lays bare his idealistic attitude towards life. He says that glorious deeds done in the past can comfort us in our old age. We should not be dejected over the gray-haired, lean body, drooping gait, hollow cheeks, sunken-eyes, and shivering voice. So, we should learn that we are on earth to do well to others, what force others are we should be least bothered about it. We should ignore the bleak element of life and keep in mind the best prospects, we have gained. Throughout the rest of life, we shall be inspired by our noble deeds.
“Departure and Arrival” as a Metaphor
The title of the poem “Departure and Arrival” is quite appropriate. It runs on different levels. On a literal level, it may be the departure of humans from the stage and the arrival of people on the stage. It may also be the departure of the previous century. It may further be the departure of humans through death and the arrival of man through birth.
The span between birth and death is very important and demands constructive activities. As man’s stay is temporary, he should try his best of every best level. Confusions, contradictions, and doubts are part of life. Such things should not vacillate our commitment to excellence. A man comes to this world alone, he goes back to eternity alone so he must set sail on the ocean of life alone. He sets high goals to achieve in his stimulated time. And, he works hard to achieve the target of life. He seeks guidance from the information, experiences, and reflection of others.
He finds the future of mankind in danger because of the clashing social-political values of the world. Many centuries are atomic power, so the threat of devastation cannot be ignored. Such devastating shadows make modern man horrified. However, he has to go ahead courageously. He has to break through all the problems and thus pave the path for others to follow.
During the time of Eliot, the European countries had suffered world wars. The post-war society of Europe was dominated by depression and oppression. The mind of people was boggled. They needed some kind of idealism and optimism for a brighter future. THe poem is replete with ideals and idealism.
T.S. Eliot presents before us the ideal picture of bold and courageous persons who work silently for the betterment of mankind. They have the courage to face all the dangers that come their way. Also, they have the guts to cross the perilous seas of life without the help of a map and light. They are brave people who are not afraid of the thorny path of life and have the natural talent to see flowers among the thorns. Also, they are great people who work in silence without any reward. They know that they are fighting for a just casue.
We can have a bright future for mankind through the assistance of committed people. The poet assures us of a golden time that is ahead. It is yet, conditional with constant struggle and optimistic approach .Nothing can be predicted about future but the poet is sure about its wonderful prospects. Thus man will be able to conquer miseries and life will be quite smooth. This is what we see in the Western world.