Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Silk handkerchiefs

According to Alex Abramavich: 'One day, midway through a course on The Waste Land, someone (possibly me) asked about the "silk handkerchiefs" – "testimony of summer nights" – floating in Eliot’s Thames. Those handkerchiefs had probably been used as prophylactics, my old thesis adviser Stanley Sultan said.'

I can't believe so. Which is to say, I can imagine somebody using a silk handkerchief as a prophylactic (though it's not going to be a very reliable one); but I can't imagine anyone being so profligate as to chuck one in the river after using it. Silk is very expensive. Silk can easily be washed. This interpretation is, I'd say, bogus.

1 comment:

Alison said...

It was only when I heard Paul Scofield's reading of the Wasteland that I realised that '...other testimony of summer nights' meant condoms floating in the river. I am slow. But the hankies are separated from the condoms by fag ends and cardboard boxes, so surely they aren't supposed to be identified with them? In any case, as you say, wash rinse and hang out to dry.