You know, as much as I love learning new things, and even discovering that what I thought I knew was wrong or too simplistic, there are times when I find myself guiltily wishing the world would just let me keep my old mumpsimus. A minute ago I ran across a line of Eliot quoted as “Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow,” and I thought smugly “Ha, some sort of weird typo; it’s ‘uti chelidon.’” I got down my good old Complete Poems and Plays to make sure, and yes, it had “Quando fiam uti chelidon—O swallow swallow.” But could I leave it at that? No, I had to google it, and here’s what I discovered, to my horror (The Annotated Waste Land with Eliot’s Contemporary Prose, p. 50):
Line 428 of the Boni and Liveright edition reads, “Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow.” The text reads the same in every early printing: in the Dial, in the Criterion, in the 1923 Hogarth, and in the 1925 Faber edition of Poems, 1909–1925. It also reads that way in the 1932 American edition of Poems, 1909–1925. Only in 1936, in Collected Poems, 1909–1935, does the text suddenly undergo a change, with the first words now reading: “Quando fiam uti chelidon.” But the authority of that edition is deeply suspect, as we have already seen. Moreover, there can be no doubt whatever about which version of this passage Eliot had in mind when he wrote the poem: in both his autograph fair copy of part V and the typescript fair copy of it which he prepared for Ezra Pound while he was in Paris in early 1922, Eliot unequivocally wrote and typed “ceu chelidon,” not “uti chelidon” (see TWL:AF, 80–81, 88–89).
I imagine this is old news to Eliot fans, but it came like a thunderclap to me. Sure, ceu and ut(i) are interchangeable in the context (‘When shall I become like the swallow,’ a famous quote from the last stanza of the Pervigilium Veneris), but I learned it as “uti” and that’s how I have it in head and heart: QUANdo FI(am) uTI cheLIdon? No, I’ll not change my old uti for your new ceu.