Departure and Arrival by T.S Eliot, A Critical Summary
In this idealistic poem, T.S. Eliot wants to reaffirm our faith in man. No doubt, he admits that man has made numerous mistakes in the past. But the poet still believes that "we" can "wipe out" "misery", pain and sorrow from the scene of the world. He encourages us that the same desert can be transformed into a "lane where rose and hawthorn grow". Nineteenth century departs. Twentieth century arrives. The history of man is like sea voyages. Previously, man earned nothing but sorrow and shame.
The poet refers to the past history of mankind in which man has deceived, cheated, destroyed for the trifles of this world. The poet, wishes to draw our attention to the misdeeds of past to remind us that nothing could be gained from the hatred and anarchy of the past; therefore, man of today must look forward to a brighter future with the will and wish to helping each other for a better world tomorrow.
The poet wants this voyage, twentieth century, to be safer. Man needs light of knowledge and a map to determine the destination. The poet wants to make this century great. He urges us to be "greater" than those that came before to make a "legacy of benefits" for coming generations. He wants us to work collectively beyond personal benefits.
The message is clear and loud that nations and individuals must work beyond personal gains. It does not matter who holds the "flag" but it does matter that it must be kept high so that it reaches the final destination. The poet also clarifies that the journey to prosperity is neither short nor easy; it does take a lifetime to do something good and see it prosper.
This poem is particularly relevant to the political wisdom and struggle for relieving the troubles of mankind. We have individuals as well as groups proclaiming human betterment but nothing good comes out of their hollowness except the echoing of their evil and baseness. The poet tries to manifest that true service is unnamed and effectual and factual heroes don't work for their own names; they work for a cause and a purpose beyond individualistic approach and outlook. This is the aim and state of mind which can earn us a "legacy of benefits" and the same legacy must be upheld by the inheritors to prove that we, the humans, are truly worth our creation.