Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning
Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning
Those who sit in the stye of contentment, meaning
Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning
Death (Lines 6-13)
The expression occurs in Marina, of T.S.Eliot’s Ariel Poems, containing the revelation of his spiritualism. This is Eliot’s sharp criticism of the dreadful earthly sins to which modern men are subjected. Through the monologue of Pericles, after the restoration of his daughter Marina to him, the poet implies here the utter non-existence of those who indulge in different deadly sins and deviate from spiritual happiness.
Marina is a religious poem. This records Eliot’s own longing for a spiritual experience and a revival of Christian faith. The speaker, Pericles, is made to dissect here the nonentity of temporal temptations, tending to moral depravity. The poet is found to have recourse to different symbols to indicate different moral lapses in modern life. There are the moral wrongs of malice, vanity, lethargy, and animality that have the grip over temporal ambition and existence. Malice is represented through the symbol of the ‘sharpening tooth of the dog,’ and this popularly serves to indicate menace and evil. “The glory of the humming bird’ signifies the sin of pride or vanity, that makes man senseless ‘The stye of contentment’ finely symbolizes another moral evil, lethargy or sloth, that suspends human resourcefulness. Finally, ‘the ecstasy of the animals’ stands for animality or lust, and this is a denial of human morality. All such moral deficiencies are indicative of degeneration and corrosion in man’s life. Whatsoever their temptations may be, they are actually the forms of spiritual death and quite unsubstantial and immaterial by the side of the bliss of spiritual life.
The passage is illustrative of perfect imagism and symbolism in Eliot’s poetry. His images are here very precise but wonderfully meaningful and appropriate. Different symbols, as explained already, are found to have been aptly used to suggest man’s spiritual death in his moral failing, in his moral lapses of envy, pride, sloth, and lust.