T.S. Eliot (1888–1965). The Waste Land. 1922.

The Waste Land

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I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee

With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,

And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,

And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,

My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,

And I was frightened. He said, Marie,

Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.

In the mountains, there you feel free.

I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.


What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water. Only

There is shadow under this red rock,

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),

And I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Frisch weht der Wind

Der Heimat zu.

Mein Irisch Kind,

Wo weilest du?

'You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;

'They called me the hyacinth girl.'

—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,

Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not

Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither

Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,

Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

Od' und leer das Meer.


Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,

Had a bad cold, nevertheless

Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,

With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,

Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,

(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)

Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,

The lady of situations.

Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,

And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,

Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,

Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find

The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.

I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.

Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,

Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:

One must be so careful these days.


Unreal City,

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many.

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,

And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,

To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours

With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying 'Stetson!

'You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!

'That corpse you planted last year in your garden,

'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?

'Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?

'Oh keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men,

'Or with his nails he'll dig it up again!

'You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!'


Reading of The Waste Land by T.S Eliot<--- youtube link to his reading of the poem.

The Burial of the Dead was mostly written in 1921 and was fist published in 1922.
In the editing of the poem, Eliot was greatly influenced by Ezra Pound, who encouraged him to cut out large sections of the work and edit the rhyme scheme. Eliot's appreciation for Pound, is acknowledged in the dedication of the poem. In addition to Pound's large role in the final edition of the poems, it had been recently suggested that Eliot's first wife, Vivien, too contributed greatly to the final form of the poem.

voice of the poem:


The Burial of the Dead seems to have a confused voice. This is partly as the narrator's description takes place through fragments of memory and so even the narrator himself cannot be entirely clear in his description. In addition, the poem appears to have four separate narrators, each with a different perspective. In some ways, this gives the poem a quality similar to that of Prufrock, which is seen to modify the dramatic monologue. However, unlike in Prufrock, The narrators in The Burial of the Dead, appear to be more frantic in their communication with the reader. This is shown through the settings in which they describe the oppressive barren state of the land, and the use of direct communication with the reader through the personal pronoun 'you' as shown in the second stanza, which is forceful and targets the reader personally. The confusion the reader feels at the attack by the differing voices in the poem emulates the feeling of isolation felt by the narrator in the final stanza...
Unreal City,

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many.

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,

And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
The narrator does not belong in this crowd and watches it as it passes him by, unable to understand the lives of all these characters. This is similar to the reader in that we are an onlooker, and can only know of the characters what Eliot conveys through their voice, leaving us confused and somewhat unsatisfied in our understanding.

Social comment:
The Waste Land to some extent symbolises the degraded mess that Eliot associates with modern culture of the post WW1 Europe. A sign of the pessimism with which Eliot approaches his subject is the poem’s epigraph, taken from the Satyricon, in which the Sibyl (a woman with prophetic powers who ages but never dies) looks at the future and proclaims that she only wants to die. The Sibyl’s prophecy mirrors what Eliot sees as his own: He lives in a culture that has decayed and withered but will not expire, and he is forced to live with reminders of its former glory.


I chose "No Second Troy" for the first stanza- idea of war...lack of fertility...underlying sense of destruction

"Among School Children" for the second looking how both poets represent past memories