"The Waste Land, Prufrock, and Other Poems" is a collection of T. S. Eliot's early poetry. This collection brings together "The Waste Land," arguably T. S. Eliot's most famous poem, with the poetry originally published in "Prufrock and Other Observations" and "Poems (1920)." This collection of 25 poems in all will provide even the most serious of poetry readers with ample evidence of the genius of T. S. Eliot's work.
Thomas Stearns Eliot was a poet, dramatist and literary critic. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948 "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry." He wrote the poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday, and Four Quartets; the plays Murder in the Cathedral and The Cocktail Party; and the essay Tradition and the Individual Talent. Eliot was born an American, moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 (at the age of 25), and became a British subject in 1927 at the age of 39.
I measured out my life with coffee spoons in the hours, weeks, indeed months between when I first picked this up and when I subsequently set it down unfinished. It gets two stars in deference to the world of literary critics and english PhD's who call Eliot a master.
I want to believe that good poetry has something to share with us. I even keep a copy of Garrison Keillor's anthology "Good Poem's For Hard Times" on my night stand, for Pete's sakes! It's there right now, see? (Ok maybe there the tv remote is sitting on top of it). But, some of those poems I understand - I think.
Ole' T.S. is smarter than me and I think that's the problem here. I could get through a Lovesong for J. Alfred Prufrock well enough, but so much of The Wasteland is unintelligable to me that I found myself reading a page and setting this down. It's disgraceful - the thing can't be 75 pages and here I sit, unable to get through it.
I think the last time I understood poetry was in fifth grade when I had to recite a passage from "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere." Since then I've found that most poetry completely and utterly befuddles me.
"The Waste Land" is the big attraction everyone comes to see in this collection. I greeted this seeming slim volume, never expecting pages stacked high with archaic namedrops, erudite references, and clumsy callbacks; I felt beleaguered by my reading of "The Waste Land," this performance of academic self-indulgence, if nothing else. So beset was I by Eliot's "fun," that I did not have any, as I ended my reading of the poem with no real clear idea of what I had read, and no desire to cover the material a second time.
I was moved however by my readings of other poems, such as "Whispers of Immortality," "The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock," and especially "The Hollow Men," in which I read a great deal of meaning during the depression I experienced during my reading of this collection. Favorite lines:
This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper "The Hollow Men (V) p65
rating 4.0 recommended for fans of modern or contemporary poetry
I am always on the quest to find more good poetry because I believe poetry to be extremely underrated. However, this was not the read that I hoped it would be for me...
I didn't really take anything from this poetry. I like to believe poetry gives us something. Although I did look into the historical context and could see how it was compatible, it failed to make me feel any emotion or hold a connect. There some pretty language, but really, that was it for me.
I dont know how to review this because it always feels like I am still in the process of reading it and untangling it and pealing away it's layers. at times i find my self reciting the parts that i know of some of these poems. when I am really done with it. if I am ever, I might give a proper review.
T.S. Eliot takes a lot of work. I wouldn't recommend just plowing through The Wasteland on your own. It's the type of poem you only really understand when you discuss it in a group. If I hadn't studied it in a class in college, I'm sure I never would've understood it.
I would give 5 stars to Prufrock alone, and probably 3 or 4 to the rest. I especially loved Prufrock when I was single, b/c I think it captures the essence of male timidity. The language is oblique, but has some powerful contrasting imagery. And it boasts probably the best opening lines of all time: "Let us go now you and I, and watch the evening spread against the sky, like a patient etherized upon a table." That's the gist of it anyway. Never a more jarring simile than this.
I recommend Prufrock if you're up for a little challenge, and the Wasteland only if you're really ambitious.
Not only did I not get the "beauty" of most poems, or their "brilliance" for that matter, but the provided interpretations seemed rather bold. How does a person come up with such ideas? Why are they accepted? E.g. I interpreted Prufrock completely different and I admit it, I like my interpretation much better!
I don't understand Eliot's poetry. But at least I tried.
I studied this during my A Level English Literature class. I had absolutely no idea what it was about back then, and having picked up and perused this book recently, I am still totally and completely baffled. I remember the long, long, drawn out agony of the endless reading aloud of this poetry in my English Literature classes, and the feelings of utter and total crazed despair, frustration and boredom that made me want to stand up and scream "no more!!!!" I'm know this poetry is an accomplished literary masterpiece, but I could not understand anything or relate to anything TS Eliot wrote, though I wish it were not so. The one star merely reflects my limited understanding and the fact that I sadly got nothing at all from this poetry, which is blighted and biased, I know, by the nightmarish memories of an 18 year old self studying this. It is an acknowledgement to my feeble and limited brain rather than Elliott's writing.
These are amazing to read out loud with friends. The Wasteland is particularly good for this; it is longer than the others, can be read within half an hour, and spurs a lot of good conversation. Eliot often inserts characters, place names, and lines from other classical artworks; I lack a general background in literature and so was ignorant of all of the referents aside from one. Nonetheless, I found it highly readable. It is chock-full of metaphors and images that are amazing and can be understood independently of the referents. Moreover, it makes for good conversation to look up the referents afterward and unravel further meaning. The accessibility of the language in combination with its length makes it particularly immersive. There are five parts, each taking you deep into a particular setting, atmosphere, character, and dilemma. It's not evident at first how they are related. Figuring that out also makes for exciting conversation. A note to self: overall, this time while reading it I was mainly sensitized to themes and images of the pain of the transience of passionate love. This comes out in aim to escape life that is shared between passionate love and death; and the delusory character of the apparent purity of love, when one is the heat of the moment. I wonder what I'll pick up next time I return to this.
Some favorite parts:
"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. Oed’ und leer das Meer"
"And other withered stumps of time Were told upon the walls; staring forms Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed. Footsteps shuffled on the stair."
"A current under sea Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell"
"Dayadhvam: I have heard the key Turn in the door once and turn once only We think of the key, each in his prison Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison"
I read this for a challenge (shortest book on my shelf) and I'm not rating this because I'm not smart enough to read poetry, clearly. (To be clear, I didn't enjoy it, but I doubt it was the fault of the collection.)
Once upon a time I was sitting in a college poetry class being assigned to read a collection of T.S. Eliot’s poetry and being completely out of my element and over my head. And even though time has passed, and I have recently finished this collection again, I still confess to having to try to work my way through their meaning. But isn’t that the beauty of poetry? Years later, I have come to appreciate and love the profound level of depth contained in these remarkable poems after fumbling my way through years ago.
Eliot captures and illustrates with precision such themes as ethics and morality, politics, religion, the essence of time and lost chances, and many other weighty issues. Although this collection is brief, it contains many of his hallmark and signature poems.
Obviously, the main event in this book is the title poem and one of the most significant poems of the 20th century, “The Waste Land.” There is so much to say and think about this poem that it is quite difficult to articulate in words. So, I will just describe this one as an explosion of ideas and thoughts. Eliot interposes his own take on society and its ills and depicts it in terms of a proverbial and literal wasteland. So, we see images of this in a fragmented, stream of conscious form of thought. The imagery of this poem is really off the charts, and the repeated mental pictures of decay and disillusion make for a vivid scene. I will admit that I was stuck on this one for days, and am still trying to sort it all out, but there is an undeniable power to this poem despite it being such a daunting poem to read.
I think one of my personal favorites from my reading years ago is “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” One of the striking things about this poem is simply the rhythm and the lyrical quality. In this one, Eliot takes on several subjects: disillusion, the element of time, lost opportunities, insecurities. This one, like many of Eliot’s poems, has so many quotables, and here is an example of one of my favorites: “For I have known them all already, known them All:--- Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;”
Another important poem regarding Eliot is “Ash-Wednesday”, which is his “conversion” poem. I thought it a very thought-provoking poem. It deals with and examines the struggle of one who is going from not believing to turning towards God. One of the recurring ideas seems to be that the struggle to keep faith is an ongoing struggle with the various pitfalls and obstacles that life throws our way on a daily basis, and that it is a continual renewal the individual must make along this daily struggle. There are some very powerful lyrics, and as is Eliot’s trademark, he incorporates both symbolism and allusions to strike home his message:
“Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still”
Other notables contained within the collection: “Sweeney Among the Nightingales”, “The Hippopotamus”, “Whispers of Immorality”, “The Death of Saint Narcissus”, and “Journey of the Magi.”
I think it is easy to see why Eliot had such an influence on the modernist poets and why his poems have become so regarded and significant over the past century. This collection is a fantastic sampling of his genius and his power to craft language to create meaning through various timely themes.
Once again my wife encouraged me to wrestle with a classic of English literature—The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. I have never been one to read works of poetry. I like poetry fine, but I have never found a love for it beyond using a poem for a particular purpose. (I used Billy Collins's poem The Lanyard in a talk on motherhood, for example). In my initial reading of The Waste Land, I found myself bewildered and disoriented. It seemed obvious the content lacked meaning without context. I didn't think much more about until I decided to research an analysis of the poem. Everything changed. (I read The Waste Land and Other Poems, but I'm only going to write about The Waste Land in this reflection and poems generally; I haven't studied Eliot's other poems to provide any kind of worthwhile commentary on them).
The books of Acts in the New Testament records an exchange between Phillip and a eunuch who was the servant of the queen of Ethiopia. Phillip hears the man reading from the book of Isaiah and asks: "Understandest what thou readest?" (Acts 8:30). The servant responds: "How can I, except some man should guide me?" (v. 31) I can't think of a more relevant story for my experience with Eliot's famous poem. I imagined the poem had underlying meanings, allusions, and symbols. I simply had no idea how deep and profound the poem truly was. In fact, knowing its underlying meaning—at least according to the analysis I reviewed—I was deeply moved by the poem. It is bleak and disheartening, but the quest for the holy grail embedded in its lines teases hope. We must believe there is a hope somewhere out there, awaiting discovery; something that can heal the land and our souls. The poem's final words—"Shantih shantih shantih"—once informed by definition—are bursting with faith and possibility. I have to avoid wandering any further into my own analysis of Eliot's work. My knowledge and skill are simply not up to the task. In more straightforward terms, The Waste Land seems to deserve all of the attention it has received over the decades.
Yet, here is my hesitancy with it and other works of art similar in approach. Should something be able to be enjoyed independent of other works? Of course, this is an unreasonable expectation. Every work of literature borrows from others—themes, structure, and even our shared psychology. But how arcane is too arcane? Eliot's poem is bursting with references to other works. I have read some of those stories, including Shakespeare's Hamlet and Dante's Inferno. However, I don't know those stories intimately and missed important connections. The Waste Land requires a foundational knowledge lacking by a great many people—myself included. Is it so unapproachable that only a few can appreciate and benefit from it? Is that the point? And if only the sages in ivory towers can find the value in Eliot's work, how can his deeper and important meanings help the great mass of humanity who wander in waste lands of their own? I don't have answers to these questions, but I'm fascinated by the debate they instigate.
My initial experience with Eliot was ephemeral. I didn't understand much of what was being read, and I don't think I cared. Thankfully, I took a few extra steps into the literary darkness looking for clarity. The moral and intellectual power of what I found changed my mind. The Waste Land and Eliot's work generally demands more of my time, more study, and more lessons learned. My feelings toward poetry are starting to shift. I'm excited to see where my newly found curiosity takes me, and I have T.S. Eliot to thank. In Eliot's The Waste Land I found a new verdant and thrilling landscape of intellectual exploration for a holy grail I didn't even know was there.
So embarrassed to be giving TS Eliot 3 stars, but now that I've read it, I probably won't do a re-read. I liked Prufrock more than The Wasteland. I could spend days reading the commentaries and then the literary allusions from the poems. I felt Prufrock was delightful and read it several times. I felt I read The Wasteland multiple times (with commentary) because it was imperative to a decent poetic education. It seemed like a lot of World War I angst and soldiers returning with PTSD - a sad poem, really. I read this small book which I've owned for years because my sister decided to read his poems so we might have a discussion about it.
T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land is a collection of fragments. There are 5 parts to the poem and the connection between these parts are noted to be anything but obvious, yet they all hold different layers of voices and obscure elements to the non-traditional reader. The poem as a whole constantly shifts its point of view and is abundantly full of references of classic literature from varied cultures. The Waste Land is, in a more visual sense, bits of history—stories broken up by war and reassembled into a new frame. I mention war, because Eliot witnessed the after effect combat plagues upon a nation from its casualties, for he finished The Waste Land after WWI in 1922. Eliot wrote about what he saw not what he felt. He wrote disassociated from himself and in the form of many other voices because he wanted to cultivate an inclusive human consciousness—an ordered and collective truth.
Noted in The Observer, one of Britain’s top new leaders, The Waste Land has been said to be,”…one of the most important poems of the 20th century”. Arguably, this could be true to some, yet very false to others, namely those who have no knowledge of Eliot’s many allusions throughout the work. The poem is also noted to be difficult because of its ever changing scenes and at times various points of view and/or speakers. In one scene you’re a woman having a drink and discussing with your friend about getting dentures then, you are the bartender closing up shop and ushering patrons out. Yet, despite its difficulty to most, the poem has within itself a serious concern: the loss of our shared culture; predominately the classic and the public’s awareness of its life within our time. It’s ultimately important to read and care about this poem because, it is a work of art and a catalyst for one to not forget the past culture that is losing space, not only with time but, in the hearts and minds of us all.
A great deal of symbolic ideas came from Jessie Weston’s book, From Ritual to Romance. Eliot himself is quoted saying, “Not only were the title but, the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem suggested by [Weston’s] book.
From Ritual to Romance is a work that covers in depth the legend of the holy grail, also using terms such as ‘Fischer King’ and ‘ waste land’, which we can read and see in Eliot’s poem along with notes tarot cards. Eliot first introduces the cards in lines 46-54 with Madam Sosostris and ultimately follows through to the end in lines 427-430, foretelling the physical falling of the London Bridge but, also the fall of a great figure as well.
In using such symbols and grand myths, like presented in From Ritual to Romance, it allowed Eliot to suggest that beneath ones everyday streets, like his own London town, there is an old story we all share even though it’s all in pieces below our feet. Eliot connects past stories and myths to suggest our history, as a whole, is intertwined with our present and future life.
In the beginning of Eliot’s poem we are met with an epigraph. You may be asking yourself what is an epigraph? Simply, it’s like a quote or introduction for what your about to read. Furthermore, the epigraph Eliot chose is one of a Roman nature written around the 1st century A.D. This ancient manuscript, like The Waste Land was written in fragments, and was titled, “Satyricon” by Petronius.
The story tells of an oracle, Sybil, who wished for immortality yet forgot to add the favor of youth in accordance to so many years. So, she forever was cursed rather than blessed to live out the rest of her days getting older and older. What Eliot’s quote describes in the beginning is a conversation with Sybil and a group of boys which ask her if she has anymore wishes, and she replies that she does and that is to die. This epigraph is significant because it’s a foreshadowing for what’s to come as well as an allusion to the spiritual and cultural death of the western world.
Allusions in The Waste Land are like an abstract painting, different voices telling the same story from different angles. Because allusion expands meaning, connects this story with what it historically or literally refers—all those different voices from other poems, essentially allowed Eliot to make this poem significantly larger than itself; because it in essence is all poems. Eliot chose this multi-layered writing, filled with obscure historical events and classic literature, because he had a specific audience in mind. T.S. Eliot’s polished ability to interweave pieces of literature gold within a 430 lined poem is not only genius but a test of sorts for those who pick it up; a test to ultimately see if you can understand Eliot’s mournful view—the loss of our shared culture through ever changing times.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This volume contains Eliot's first two books of Poetry and his magnum opus, "The Waste Land," with its much needed (and thankfully) introductions, foot notes and critical commentary. Without the afterword analysis, I don't think I would appreciate some of the earlier poems as much as I eventually was able to do. I particularily enjoyed several where I did not feel as lost as to the poet's thematic meaning or narrative. Mr. Eliot's literary aspirations and ideals for great poetry are that they maintain a "comprehensive" vision and many enlightening "allusions," from history, religion and literature the world over. He surely does this in "The Waste Land" and although I enjoyed reading his masterpiece, but finding it very difficult to follow at times, it must be read thoroughly and openly through numerous sittings to understand all the many thematic layers and enjoy a full appreciation and understanding. Appreciation, I can muster now, but a full understanding I may never do, due to the vast knowledge and intelligence of the man. But, I will read it again, and again.
Please read "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." It is my favorite poem and it quite possibly changed my life. Never have I experienced a piece of literature that I have heard interpreted in so many different manners--this, in addition to my personal reading of Prufrock, has led me to believe that everyone can find themself in it on some level. Moreover, everytime I read it, I pick up a new piece of something...a glimmering something that had slipped past me times before. I am in love with this poem. It is an anthem for artists of every medium--the struggle of the everyman who is searching for his place in the world--the hipster's conundrum: how do I wear my pants to make me look like I don't care? Or do I care? This poem epitomizes the essence of the existential crisis.
I enjoyed every poem in this collection, as well as Helen Vendler's brief introduction, but the main reason I'm giving it 5 stars is...The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. It floors me. It opened my eyes to what a good poem can do to you; how it can leave you a little different than you were before encountering it, can help you make peace with your overwhelming insignificance, make you feel a bit less alone. Which is funny because this is the loneliest poem I've ever read (granted, I haven't read a lot yet).
"I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, And in short, I was afraid."
Aquí no hay agua sino solo roca, roca sin agua y el camino de arena el camino que serpentea arriba en las montañas que son montañas de rocas sin agua si hubiera agua nos sentaríamos a beber en medio de la roca no puedo uno parar o pensar seco está el sudor y los pies en la arena si por lo menos hubiera agua entre la roca muerta montaña con boca llena de caries que no puede escupir uno no puede aquí estar ni yacer ni sentarse no hay siquiera silencio en las montañas sino seco trueno estéril sin lluvia no hay siquiera soledad en las montañas sino muecas en hoscas caras que gruñen en puertas de casas de barro con grietas en vez de roca si hubiera roca y también agua y agua un manantial una poza entre la roca si por lo menos se oyera el sonido del agua no la cigarra y la yerba seca cantando sino el agua resonante sobre una roca donde canta el zorzal ermitaño en los pinares Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop pero no hay agua _________________________________ - Versos 331-359 de ‘La tierra baldía’ de T.S. Eliot. Traducción de Andreu Jame. Lumen, 2015. Cien años de otra de las cimas de la Humanidad junto con Trilce.
So much dense writing, it just makes my brain turn off. I can see the reason Eliot is one of the most important and influential poets of the twentieth century and credited with having helped reshape modern literature. It just wasn't for me.
This collection gathers the most popular of Eliot's poetry together in one slim volume and the reader, depending on the quality of their high English school teachers, is sure to remember many of them. Whether it's Journey of the Magi, The Hollow Men, The Waste Land, or the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock these poems demonstrate why T.S. Eliot was one of the most important poets of the modern period. Eliot as a writer established a unique voice arranging the words in every poem in such a way that it spoke directly to the alienation of the reader and let them see inside of their own hearts.
For my own reading The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock remains the most powerful poem in the collection for the way it manages to express the pain of wanting to speak, but withholding for fear of being thought a fool.
Even if the reader is no fan of poetry this collection should still be considered because Eliot has, despite the time that has passed, managed to remain a writer worth reading and worth remembering.
If the reader would like to read my full review of the poem Prufrock they can follow the link below to my site White Tower Musings: