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The Waste Land and Other Poems

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Librarian Note: Also available as an Alternate Cover Edition.

“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”

When The Waste Land was published in 1922, initial reaction to the poem was decidedly negative. Critics attacked the poem's "kaleidoscopic" design, and nearly everyone disagreed furiously about its meaning. The poem was even rumored to a hoax. Eventually, though, The Waste Land went on to become what many regard as the most influential poem written in English in the twentieth century.

"In ten years' time," wrote Edmund Wilson in Axel's Castle (1931), "Elliot has left upon English poetry a mark more unmistakable than that of any other poet writing in English." In 1948, T.S. Eliot was awarded the Nobel Price "for his work as a trail-blazing pioneer of modern poetry."

In addition to the title poem, this selection includes "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," "Geronition," "Ash-Wednesday," and other poems from Eliot's early and middle work.

- The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
- Preludes
- Gerontion
- Sweeney Among the Nightingales
- The Waste Land:
I. The Burial of the Dead
II. A Game of Chess
III. The Fire Sermon
IV. Death by Water
V. What the Thunder Said
Notes on 'The Waste Land'
- Ash-Wednesday
-J ourney of the Magi
- Marina
- Landscapes:
I. New Hampshire
II. Virginia
- Two Choruses from 'The Rock'

88 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1922

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About the author

T.S. Eliot

931 books4,881 followers
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.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.S._Eliot

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,342 reviews
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,462 reviews3,611 followers
March 4, 2022
The everlasting themes: time, nature, moonlight, existence, eternity…
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

Man, woman, relations, emotions, passion, sadness… The poems are a genuine cornucopia of literary and historical allusions…
With ‘I have saved this afternoon for you’;
And four wax candles in the darkened room,
Four rings of light upon the ceiling overhead,
An atmosphere of Juliet’s tomb
Prepared for all the things to be said, or left unsaid.

Transience, mortality, brevity, futility… The imagery is rich, vivid and lavishly metaphoric…
‘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?

Time is the only real ruler in the universe.
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book934 followers
May 1, 2021
With regular works of fiction, and possibly regular works of poetry, the reader expects to get his/her bearings with ease. Most of it feels familiar, some surprises or exotic elements are laid out here and there for enjoyment, but the way home is straightforward; go with the flow and enjoy the ride. Not so with The Waste Land (1922, the same year as Ulysses; a couple of years before Mrs. Dalloway). In this cabbalistic poem, the reader is cast right into the middle of a scorching desert of rocks, a charred forest of words, reverberating multiple voices and languages — to the untrained eye, there is no way home anywhere. You have to grab your machete and carve your path into this thick bramble of verses and stanzas. Indeed, to get a sense of the poem, Eliot requires from the reader a level of effort that is almost commensurate with that of the poet himself. And so, borrowing from Baudelaire, Eliot calls on to him (or her), as an unreliable brother (or sister), for support: “Hypocrite lecteur, — mon semblable, — mon frère!” (v. 76)

Here is a possible hint, though: “Son of man, / You cannot say or guess, for you know only / A heap of broken images” (20-22). Eliot’s poem refers to a crumbling world and, indeed, may itself seem like such heap of broken reflections of virtually everything, an entire library (The Bible, The Upanishads, Homer, Ovid, Augustine, Dante, Chaucer, Malory, Shakespeare, Milton, Verlaine, Whitman, etc.) folded and wrapped and packed and compressed into a symbolic card game, tumbled, scattered chess pieces, a ragged tapestry, an intricate and elliptical origami. It starts with the cry of the Sibyl from Petronius’s Satyricon, exhausted with old age: “άπο ϴανεΐν ϴέλω”. Soon after, we hear the young heavy-hearted sailor at the start of Wagner’s Tristan, “mein irisch Kind, / wo weilest du?” (33-34). Then, again, Tristan’s shepherd, staring at an empty ocean in the last act, “Öd und leer das Meer!” (42).

And on it goes, in a wild lyrical collage where all the biggest hits of European high culture are smashed, shattered, recollected, pastiched and sewn up again, into the chequered verses of a lustrous Harlequinade. There is much affinity between Eliot’s opaque and ambiguous poetry and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and his critique of Western culture; or even Stravinsky, who borrowed from every musical tradition imaginable, melted them together into his crucible, and created some of the most (sometimes) strident, (always) mind-bending pieces of symphonic music.

In various places, Eliot overlays these artistic allusions with modern urban scenery to exceedingly striking effect. “A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, / I had not thought death had undone so many” (62-63) mashes up the usual urban herd of stupefied, undead-like commuters with Dante’s vision of Hell (Canto 3, 55-57). Similarly, the evocation of the River Thames, poisoned with “empty bottles, sandwich papers, / Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends” (177-178), echoes, with some irony, the “Weialala leia” incantation, from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung (III, 1). All in all, there is a general feeling of disgust about modern life and, at the same time, a conscious effort to re-enchant, to re-poeticise, to re-mythicise — albeit with sombre, prophetic imagery that alternates between floods and droughts — a world deprived of light, warmth and mystery.

Other parts of the poem are structured like off-kilter, dark-comedy playlets. For instance, the one starting with “My nerves are bad to-night” (111) or the scene that supposedly takes place in a crummy barroom with a yakking cockney woman (139-172). These sections — which, in a way, herald Samuel Beckett’s plays — read like snippets from everyday conversations, mingled with highbrow cultural allusions. “I think we are in rats’ alley / Where the dead men lost their bones” (115-116) hints at Ezekiel, 37, or perhaps at the WWI trenches... Meanwhile, the pub owner’s last call “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME” is, perhaps, a parody of Brangäne’s warning in Tristan (II, 2): “Habet acht! / Bald entweicht die Nacht."

Modern love, however, as Eliot depicts it — under the guise of Tiresias, with his “wrinkled dugs” (228) —, is nothing like Tristan und Isolde; instead, it is a loveless, nauseating hookup between a sluggish woman and a “carbuncular”, pathetic loser (220-256). Once the dude is done shooting his load, the girl concludes: “Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over” (252), and mindlessly “puts a record on the gramophone” (256)... or, say, checks her Insta... How much lower could Isolde still sink?

If books were celestial bodies, most would be intergalactic vacuum, some would be barren rocks, some hostile worlds, some lush planets teeming with life, some would be colourful nebulae, others burning stars, others still, dazzling supernovae. The Waste Land is a black hole of virtually infinite density. It swallows up and siphons in all languages, all pictures, all slices of ordinary life, all the books that came before it, and crushes them inside, beyond the horizon of comprehension, perhaps leading up, in the end, to a universe of pure sound, syncopated rhythms, (dis)harmony and divine thunder.

“Shantih shantih shantih” (433): peace which passeth understanding.
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
1,028 reviews17.7k followers
September 22, 2023
In 1918 the boys began their demobilization, and trickled back from the trenches. Did they get a hero’s welcome?

Not on your life!

For bitter cynicism had descended upon Europe like a ghastly pall, like “the yellow fog” which as T.S. Eliot wrote, had submerged Britain in its lacrustine depths, and then, simply “fell asleep.”

For it was the beginning of our current long sleep of reason and decency.

Nietzsche had forecasted the day correctly. It was the day of the Great Reversal - the quick and efficient Transvaluation of all Values - the advent of our Upside-Down Kingdom.

Now it’s the air that we breathe, bitter Postmodernism. There is no Hiding Place anymore. Progress has demolished and flatlined it all!

It’s like The Waste Land’s Tom Eliot described the working of his own mind in Rhapsody on a Windy Evening: his mind “beat like a fatalistic Tom-tom (pun intended).” But don’t we ALL mentally do that number on ourselves?

Well, you might say, I may have OCD, but so what? At least the world is simple and understandable... but what jeering monsters has our proud cynicism NOW begotten!

But that’s what the jeering masses did as the boys returned: turned cheers into I-told-you-so jeers. Good riddance to the hoity-toity tea & crumpets elite!

But hey, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water, guys.

Trouble is, the thoroughly educated, like Eliot and many of us, were numbered among this elite. All were being jeered. As well as his - and our - timeless intellectual treasures.

So his - and our - most cherished values started to crumble when the boys returned, and the masses turned their backs on them.

Jose Ortega y Gasset later described it in his epochal Revolt of the Masses, and their new ascendancy to the role of social arbiters.

Arbiters indeed, Eliot said. The Tasteless Condemnation of all Taste - literary or otherwise!

And Eliot, of course, saw it all. And he collapsed.

He was admitted to a private sanatorium on the Continent, where he started to write this chaotically long masterpiece.

Have you read it? Do you understand it? There are plenty of amazing books on it available!

In a nutshell, it’s just like U2 sings it:

I was shaking from a storm in me
Haunted by the spectres that we HAD to see
Yeah, I wanted to be the melody
Above the noise, above the hurt

For it was in a nutshell - as Oswald Spengler said it - the Decline of the West. Where we are NOW.

It was then, as many foresaw, the beginning of a Brave (Foolhardy? Precarious?) New World.

And the beginning of the end for Eliot’s upper-crust employer, Lloyd’s of London - for they are the ones who superciliously scrawled ‘Nervous Breakdown’ on his Sick Leave form.

But Eliot didn’t care.

For, as he says in the Waste Land about his breakdown:

Phlebas the Phonecian, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the (fruitless) profit and the loss...

He had seen far too much to be ever-so-politely cowed now. And guess what? When he published this one poem he was catapulted to International Celebrity status.

No more profit-and-loss balance sheets!

He was world-famous.

And a Rock Star to the kids who were starting to learn his stuff in school.

And you know what?

On the success of his books, he had secured his place in British Society - and was offered an excellent job as one of the founding editors of a fledgling new publishing house...

The prestigious Faber Limited!

For which company he became the principal Guiding Light, mentoring and publishing many of the younger British Writers who nowadays are ranked among the Great Masters of Modern Literature.

The very ones who would warn US not to be too cock-sure of ourselves as social arbiters.

Or has our cynicism forgotten that pivotal day, now that our own glory is threatened?
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,301 reviews22k followers
January 11, 2008
Eliot is such a pompous old fart, how could anyone not love him? When I was still in high school if you wanted to be in the group of people who had any pretensions as ‘intellectuals’ or whatever else it was we had pretensions of – Eliot was de rigueur. I know large slabs of this poem by heart and when I worked as a house painter would quote it at length at the top of my voice when I ran out of Irish songs to sing while I rolled the walls – which probably misses the point of the poem, but I love how it feels in my mouth – like having your mouth full of chocolates and then coffee and then brandy, no, better, Cointreau.

There is something Romantic about this poem, despite it being the definitive Modern poem – all that stuff about, “The chair she sat in…” could be straight from Byron or Wordsworth.

I love the jokes, the sex in a punt and the pocket full of currants and I still love all of the horrible sexual adventures that are all ‘whip it in, whip it out and wipe it’ for the men and so totally unsatisfying for the women. And that bit about fore-suffering all enacted on this same divan or bed with the wee typist woman and her drying combinations, is just so damn good. One final, patronising kiss and gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit.

All the same, this is one of the masterworks of the language, some of it still forms a lump in my throat as the currents rise and fall and I pass through all the stages of my youth and age.

Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t quite agree with him now that ‘if you want to read me, learn my language’ – pretty much meaning learn the whole of European poetry to read a single poem – but very young men find this is exactly the sort of thing that draws one to Nietzsche – and Eliot was always my favourite right-wing wanker.
Profile Image for Alok Mishra.
Author 9 books1,194 followers
April 24, 2020
As a poet myself, I would thank T. S. Eliot for what he did by writing the most debated and influential poem of the previous and the current (this far) century. The Waste Land had shaped an entire generation of poets, giving them the free will to explore their thoughts without any fear of being judged by the meter... expression comes to Eliot naturally and The Waste Land is just an exceptional example of that. It's still relevant, contemporary and a must-read. For those who understand Poetry, The Waste Land will never be second on the lists that they make...
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,118 reviews44.8k followers
October 10, 2018
I consider The Hollow Men one of the greatest poems in the English language, and certainly the greatest from the 20th century.

Here’s the start of it:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


It just captures so much of the era and so much of the desolation and emptiness that followed the war; it reflects the melancholy that swept through the world. It’s a sad poem. It feels cold, detached and lonely. And I love it because it is so effective. If I was reviewing this book based on my opinion of that poem alone then this would be a five-star rating.

But, alas, I am not because there is also a poem I detest in here. I consider The Waste Land one of the worse poems in the English language because of it’s incomprehensibleness. Every time I read it I get lost. Critically speaking, it a weird and wonderful construction but it is so inaccessible. I’ve read it several times over the years, and it really doesn’t get any easier.

So for me this is a very mixed bag, worth a read though!
Profile Image for Jonathan Terrington.
595 reviews572 followers
July 25, 2013

My ode to T.S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot,
You walked among the stars
In your words,
light trails blazing.
Master of the modern,
Ruler of the poetic.
There is, and was, no poet to compare.
Your mythology and legend stand immense.

Behold the waste land of the world,
Behold the glorious prose of a world shaker.
Though some have called thee,
Mighty and dreadful plagiarist,
Such slander upholds your greatness,
The potency of your reinvention.
There is a power to you - in rewriting the eloquent

So behold T.S. Eliot.
A masterful poet.
One who walked among the stars
And brought the heavens a little nearer.
What more can a poet do?

There is a simplicity to the greatest poetry. And at once there is a complexity. There is a simplicity, in that the greatest works of poetry don't contain wordiness or explicitly state their intentions. They strip back language to allow for a nice flow and rhythm to what they are doing. But at the same time there is a complexity generated by a presumed sense of intent and knowledge. The poet assumes that you will get, from the scarcity of language used, what they are aiming to convey. And that is part of the beauty of language, that because the poet strips everything down, there is so much which you can read into and draw as your own understanding of what the poem is about.

And that is what I sensed in The Wasteland and the other poems. The Wasteland is universally accepted as one of the most important pieces of modernism - regardless of all the arguments about it being a plagiarised piece of fiction. For an interesting breakdown on that idea of plagiarism and literature read this article . And no matter how you read Eliot's work: as a reinvention of older myths and narratives; as a depiction of a destroyed post-war landscape and the people affected by that world; or as a beautiful piece of art; there is so much to gain from reading this work. It really all proves that simply because older ideas are drawn upon and referenced that it doesn't have to be stealing.

Upon further reading and analysis it has come to my attention that what Eliot does in this masterpiece is to both play off the worlds of the common peasants and bourgeoise with those who would be considered academic royalty. He sets up a comparison of white collar and blue collar workers, essentially creating a poem that works like a giant chessgame. In some ways a game of oneupmanship in which Eliot tells the reader that he is better than them but still sympathetic to them. This can be seen in the classical references to high forms of literary art that Eliot draws upon. But there are also elements in which Eliot shows that he is not supercilious and in fact appears to both sympathise and empathise with the proletariat working class (the second section for instance and in lines such as "consider Phlebas" particularly seem to suggest this).

Regardless of how you want to read it I challenge you to go and read one of the great works of literature. It is a notoriously difficult poem to understand and I know I got very little of it, but it was powerful and moving. And I am now looking forward to further discussion and dissection of this in upcoming classes. Isn't the greatest power of literature apparent in how it lives on after we have read it?
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews41 followers
February 8, 2019
The Waste Land and Other Poems, Thomas Stearns‬ ‎Eliot, T.S. Eliot (1888 - 1945)
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.
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.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هفتم: ماه سپتامبر سال 1972 میلادی
عنوان: دشت سترون و اشعار دیگر؛ اثر: توماس استرنز الیوت (تی.اس. الیوت)؛ مترجم: پرویز لشگری؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، انتشارت نیل، بهار 1351، در 160 ص؛ موضوع: شعر معاصر جهان - سده 20 م
دشت سترون، دفن مرده
آوریل ستمگرترین ماه هاست؛ از زمین مرده، گلهای یاس میرویاند؛ یاد و هوس در هم میآمیزد؛ با باران، بهار ریشه های بیحال را، برمیانگیزد
زمستان ما را گرم نگه داشت؛ زمین را در برف فراموشی پوشانید؛ با خشکیده ساقه های زیرزمینی؛ زندگی ناچیزی را پرورانید. تابستان بر ما شبیخون زد؛ ... ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Seemita.
180 reviews1,613 followers
June 8, 2015
Thomas Stearns Eliot. A lot is hidden between those three words. A whole world perhaps. A depth measured by many oceans, a mystery viewed from bewitching lenses, a song marrying numerous notes, a candle thriving on inexhaustible wax.

During his writing season, that spanned over three decades, T S Eliot penned many evocative and luscious poems, with his pen always leaving a signature cryptic mark over his dotted sheets. Often a source of delusion to an enthusiastic poetic heart, his labyrinthine lyricism was like a lashing downpour on a parched heartland: one surrendered to the torrent at the risk of bearing undecipherable strokes on one’s soul. I belong to this clan.

In this volume, his celebrated and most popular poems rub shoulders with their relatively lesser known but still dense cousins. And while my soul may curse my mind for being picky about Eliot’s poems, I might go asunder for a while and share with you three gems, whose themes, narratives, cadence and wholeness can be adorned by adjectives from the ‘superlative’ family alone.


In his most celebrated poem, his thoughts, meandering through five reverberating alleys of melancholy and despair, purport to create an image that oscillates between our meretricious values and late realizations. It begins with The Burial of the Dead where a collage of pictures bearing subdued trees, stony lands, dried showers and insipid sun leaves a young girl with a heavy heart who is further introduced to the throbbing futility of it all.
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.
Leading us to the next alleys, Eliot plays A Game of Chess, issues A Fire Sermon, condemns us to a Death by Water and lets us hear What The Thunder Said. All through this trail, we are trembling; more with remorse or excitement, is something we can’t guess without ambiguity. Touching the themes of vengeance, repentance, nostalgia, penance and decay, he halts at ”Datta, Dayadhvan and Damyata” as the final rousing call. This mantra in Sanskrit translates to “Give, Sacrifice and Control” respectively. This trinity, capable of resurrecting our being in a more dignified and buoyant fabric, is left for the reader to comprehend and validate.
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms

Thou hast nor youth nor age
But as it were an after dinner sleep
Dreaming of both.
Thus starts this splendid poem, which is a mighty paean to a person’s journey from youth to mellow. And as always detected by a fatigued eye, this journey is laden with discolored beliefs and stung steps.
After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities. Think now
She gives when our attention is distracted
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
What’s not believed in, or is still believed,
In memory only, reconsidered passion.


We are always in a vicious circle of creation and destruction. This engaging activity provides momentum to our lives and reinforces our core strength.
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice.
A pity, then, that we can’t always control this rigmarole. What if, dotting the circle, we reach a point from where a deviation threatens to derail our movement, propelling our faith engine to go kaput? The tumultuous fall, then becomes impossible to confine in words, for it pervades everything: our skin, our bones, our heart. Should we be foolish enough to expect a hand to pull us out of this ditch, at this hour, when all we have done till now, in our sturdy capacity, is overlook meek yet expectant eyes? Is hope of such benevolence, an absurdity? Well, there is someone, indeed, to whom we can always look upto.
Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose.

"Shantih Shantih Shantih - The Peace that passeth understanding."

These poems are like pearls; the metaphorical oyster may pose a formidable guard but caress it with patience and stimulate it aloud and it will open up to a mesmerizing world of mellifluous prose and inspiring gist.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
656 reviews7,099 followers
October 16, 2014

The Unreal Wastelands & Labyrinths - What Memory Keeps and Throws Away; An Exercise in Recollection: in flashes and distortions.


You! Hypocrite lecteur! – mon semblable, - mon frère!


Chimes follow the Fire Sermon:

A rat crept softly through the vegetation;
departed. A cold blast at the back, So rudely forc'd, like Philomela.
It was Tiresias', it was he who doomed all men,
throbbing between two lives, knowing which?

Et O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole!
Excuse my demotic French!


Let us go then, him (that carbuncular young man), and you -
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

You may come or go, but speak not
of Michelangelo.

When there is not solitude even in the Mountains,
When even the sound of water could dry your thirst,
Then you can lift your hands and sing of dead pine trees.

Have you yet been led,
through paths of insidious intent,
through every tedious argument,
To that overwhelming question?


Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

Sweet Thames, sweating oil and tar,
Sweet Thames, run on softly till I end my song,
for I speak not loud or long,
for I speak not clear or clean,
for I speak in the hoarse whispers of the last man,
for it was I who murdered you,
and Ganga, right under the nose, of mighty Himavant!

You who were living is now dead.
We who were living are now dying -
With a little patience!

Break The Bough, and hang yourself from it,
Sweeney, Prufrock, The Fisher King and the sterile others,
all will follow first,
like corpses etherised on well-lit tables.


Remember me, me - Tiresias, once more, for we are all him,
yet not.

The present will always look at the mirror,
and see only a Wasteland,
The Past is always the heavenly spring,
running dry now.

Thy name is Poetry.


London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
These fragments you have shored against my ruins.

Why is it impossible to say just what I mean!

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

shantih shantih shantih



You! Hypocrite reader, my likeness, my brother!


Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
Profile Image for AiK.
545 reviews134 followers
October 27, 2022
Эта поэма богата на аллюзии, она, как лоскутное одеяло, составлено из обрезков цитат, и смыслов, и намеков, и даже имитаций звуков из опер, джаза и рэгги.
Вот список авторов, на чьи произведения сделаны отсылки: Гомер, Софокл, Петроний, Вергилий, Овидий, Аврелий Августин, Данте, Шекспир, Спенсер, де Нерваль, Кид, Чосер, Мидлтон, Уэбстер, Конрад, Мильтон, Марвелл, Бодлер, Вагнер, Голдсмит, Гессе, Хаксли, Верлен, Уитмен и Стокер. Очевидно, что чтобы легко понимать, о чём говорит автор, нам нужно изучить эти произведения. Если античные переводы и ряд всемирно известных авторов, таких как Гессе, Хаксли, Шекспир, Бодлер и другие, доступны, то переводы на русский некоторых английских авторов нужно еще поискать, а возможно, их вовсе нет.
Естественно, смысл этой поэмы остался вне моего понимания. Это сплошной хаос обрывочных символов - вставные зубы, крысиные тропинки, таблетки, Тиресий с вялой женской грудью, нетопыри с детскими лицами и прочее, и прочее. Пришлось воспользоваться комментариями. Я опущу построчные пояснения, а сгруппирую только выводы и увиденный комментатором смысл. Первая часть - "Похороны мертвеца". Несмотря на фрагментарность даже после всех пояснений - это идея смерти Бога и его воскресения. Вторая часть, названная "Игрой в Шахматы", также сплошь составленная из кусочков, как калейдоскоп, - говорит о любви, вернее о том, что люди разучились правильно любить. (Даже сам этот комментарий для меня непонятен - как любить правильно?). Между тем, я вижу в тексте четкое указание на насилие, в том числе, и через упоминание Филомелы. (Необходимо отметить огромное количество комментариев, как отечественных экспертов, так и зарубежных, соответственно, бесконечное количество вариаций и смыслов).
Третья часть, названная "Огненная проповедь" - это мир, погрязший в страстях, который не слышит Бога. Четвертая часть - "Смерть от воды". Делается сравнение водных метафор всех четырех частей - получается безводие/бездуховность, загрязнение воды/греховность страстей, смерть от воды/смерть от бездуховности. Как-то так.
Конечно, те, кто разобрался в этой загадке самостоятельно, не прибегая к комментариям, за счёт своей образованности и знания английской и античной литературы, будут чувствовать радость, чувство превосходства над менее образованными читателями, что они, как Шерлок Холмс, из мельчайших калейдоскопической деталей, дедуктивным способом воспроизвели спрятанный глубокий смысл. Мне это напоминает загадку "Составь из картинок предложение". Допускаю, что и чувство удовлетворения у разобравшихся самостоятельно примерно такое же, как у человека, собравшего сложнейший пазл.
Не будучи большим приверженцем модернизма, для меня в литературе важно содержание, а не форма, для меня важны идеи. Я ставлю 4 балла только за то, что Элиот считается отцом модернизма, и все восторгаются именно этим текстом, но честно - это не то, что мне нравится, хотя после детального разбора, наконец стал понятен высокий и благородный смысл, что бездуховное человечество ждёт смерть.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,254 followers
June 13, 2016
Hey, three stars from me for poetry is good! Why? Because I don't like the stuff. Yep, I'm a savage heathen.

I LOVED the stuff as a teen. I wrote notebooks filled with poetry (or at least something like poetry) back then. Somewhere along the line I lost my taste for it and now I can barely stand it.

Enter T.S. Eliot and his highly vaunted "The Waste Land". In some distant past, when I was in college or maybe it was even high school, I was told by teachers just how good this poem was. I don't remember any of them explaining why. We never read it in class, although it is fairly short. I don't even recall being assigned the poem to read on my own. So I didn't.

However, not having read something that "everyone else" has read really bothers me. The title floats about in my subconscious mind, occasionally whispering to me, "What, War and Peace? That book you haven't read yet, but everyone else has? Yes, that's still sitting unread on the shelf in the other room...just a few feet away. I hear it's good! But it's more of a book for real readers..." My brain is a dick. But it does get me off my ass, and so I finally recently read The Waste Land and Other Poems, not to mention War and Peace.

Once upon a time schools taught children...I was going to go on, but no, that sums it up. Once upon a time schools taught children. They were made to learn Greek and Latin. They knew the classics. And some of them later became writers themselves and they wrote poems like those found in this book, filled with references lost on ill-educated clods like myself. One day when I grow up I'm going to learn how to understand "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "Sweeney Among the Nightingales". But this is not that day!

No, these days I must be satisfied with remaining mired in my miserable ignorance, pleased to comprehend a mere portion of these poems. I am at least thankful to have grasped, and even enjoyed, parts of "The Waste Land" and others. To be honest, I wished I hadn't understood some of these, because they were stomach-churning. Sing-songy purple poetry (Is that a phrase? It is now!), whose titles I'll refrain from mentioning so as not to sour anyone's favorites, made me gag, cringe and convulse. Yes, it's better than anything I've ever written, but that doesn't improve it any in my mind.

This is not for me. That rating includes three very subjective stars. It's merely my opinion, part of which takes into account my enjoyment level while reading. That pool was barely half-full.
Profile Image for Matt.
640 reviews
December 31, 2016
The first three published poetic volumes of T.S. Eliot career were a sudden surprise upon the literary community, but it was the third that became a centerpiece of modernist poetry. Published within a 5 year period during which not only Eliot’s style was refined but also influenced by his personal life and health. Throughout the rest of his career, Eliot would build upon and around these works that would eventually lead to the Noble Prize in Literature and a prominent place in today’s literature classes.

While I am right now in no way ready to critique Eliot’s work, I will do so in the volume it was presented in. While the publishers and editors wanted to present Eliot’s work with his personal Notes or footnotes in the back of the book to preserve the author’s intention of presentation, over the course of reading the exercise of going from the front of the book to the back to understand the footnotes became tiresome. And while reading “The Waste Land” I had three places marked in my book so as to read the poem and then look at Eliot’s own Notes and the publisher’s footnotes, which quickly became a trial.

This is a book I’m going to have to re-read over and over again for years to come to truly appreciate Eliot’s work. If you’re a better rounded literary individual than I am then this volume will probably be for you as it presents Eliot’s work in the forefront with no intruding footnotes at the bottom of the page; however if you are a reader like myself who wants to enjoy Eliot but needs the help of footnotes I suggest getting another volume in which footnotes are closer to the text they amply.
Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 3 books3,371 followers
May 28, 2014
This is one of my favorite books of all time and to prove it, I named my dog Prufrock.

I wanted to put a picture of him here for you SO BAD that after stoically refusing for a million years, I finally opened a Flickr account so I upload my pix on GR.

So here is a shot of the time the cutest dog ever did the cutest thing ever and I actually died.

Profile Image for Alice-Elizabeth (Prolific Reader Alice).
1,157 reviews162 followers
January 3, 2020
I picked up this collection after reading and loving the cat poetry written by Eliot. I'm feeling a little bummed however as The Waste Land on its own didn't gel as well with me, it did with my Mum when she studied this for her English Lit A-Level!! That being said, I loved reading The Journey of the Magi, very strong imagery across the stanzas. Overall: some of this was good reading, not all of it!
Profile Image for Nidhi P.
41 reviews131 followers
January 20, 2021
The Waste Land was and is a landmark in British poetry... The world can seldom get over it soon! T. S. Eliot will be remembered as the poet who could have the audacity to disrupt the usual poetic practices and come up with something entirely new and unique and fragmented...
Profile Image for David.
163 reviews529 followers
September 23, 2014
I think "The Waste Land" and the other poems in this collection ("Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," and "Gerontion," "Portrait of a Lady" and "Four Quartets") are brilliant. That said, I have to sort of hold T.S. Eliot responsible for everything I hate about modern poetry. Obviously T. Stearns isn't wholly to blame, and I think he has a genius of his own, but I think that his influence on many of his poetic successors has mostly led to a disgusting pretension in poetry, which superficially veils emotions, quotes Latin, and ranks obscurity and abstruseness above art. Yea, I'm staking the claim: T.S. Eliot is the father of the hipster movement I mean, what could be more hipster than saying that Coriolanus is the greater tragedy to Hamlet? ...Right. "Oh yes, of course Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" was great and all, but have you heard their earlier demos, with Stevie singing in iambs, accompanying herself on the tambourine, and Lidnsay Buckingham on the zithern? Oh you haven't? It's sublime"

For a American expat working as a bank clerk in London, Eliot was perhaps the first visionary of the caffeinated Brooklyn counterculture-turned-mainstream-turned-counter-counter-culture-ad-infinitum:
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Yea, T. Stearns, let's traipse around Bensonhurst late at night when all the bars stop selling PBRs and take the dusty mixed-nut bowls off the counter, let's wipe the dust off of our hemp-sewn socks, and knock the much off our patent leather high-top shoes, and walk alone and look at the citylights and meditate on what it all means to be alive, and why rents are so high, and what is a good synonym for boredom (boredom - snoredom - apathy - lassitude - yawn - pococurantism (oooh that's a good one) - disinterest - l'ennui (ooh, nice use of freshman year French, man, high-five)), and why the sea is boiling hot and weather pigs have wings, etc. etc.

One thing Eliot does master is capturing a rhythm without necessarily having a strict structure.
Unlike many of
his successors, Eliot's po-
-etry has a meter and rhythm of its
maybe inconsistent, but lyriccal in its own
not just sentences with
strange line
Je ne peux pas mentir. Placet rithimorum.
He is also a master of allusion, which spans all of time, and does not belong to a signular era. He borrows from Shakespeare, from Homer, Henry James, all sorts of authors and thinkers and tinkerers, and blends them with the lowbrow culture which was pervasive in his day, and has a bold rhythm which is counter to its highbrow literary past. However, despite the highbrow-lowbrow contrast, the varied allusions form a beautiful fugue of meaning, which says something about society as a whole in a realistic way. Dovetailing off of Eliot's convergence of the high and low brow cultures in poetry, there is a kind of split between the ultra-obscurism of Wallace Stevens (whom I adore) and Hart Crane, and the self-indulgent colloquiality of Auden, Berryman, etc. While I think these are talented poets, I think they fall short of the kind of musicality of Eliot's poetry. However, I think poetry these days (which isn't to say all of it, or necessarily much of it, but rather the sort of stock-persona of poetry) is highly self-indulgent and pretentious.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
In Williamsburg the hipsters come and go
Talking of Michel Foucault.
Profile Image for David.
391 reviews25 followers
March 7, 2016
This is probably one of the more difficult reviews for me. On one hand there is no doubt that Eliot is an absolute master, but on the other I found his poetry frustratingly inaccessible and not enjoyable to read. His immense influence on modernism is clearly evident, but his use of mythology and literary references made reading his poems feel at times as if each line was disconnected from the rest. I consider myself fairly well read in classical literature, mythology etc. but I felt as if I needed an interpreter through much of the material. Not to interpret the overall meaning of the poem, but to understand some of the individual ideas/works that were referenced. Eliot's poems would be a blast to read and study as a literature student, but for pure enjoyment they definitely miss the mark for me.
Profile Image for Valerie.
2,022 reviews165 followers
December 21, 2008
I once won 50$ for reciting The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is a coffee shop. Making this the only one of my books to pay for itself in a material way.
Profile Image for Agir(آگِر).
437 reviews525 followers
March 1, 2017
اگر به خاطر نقطه ساکن نبود رقصی وجود نداشت

Profile Image for Come Musica.
1,610 reviews414 followers
June 17, 2021
La terra devastata è il titolo della nuova traduzione di The waste land, ad opera di Carmen Gallo.
Credo che questa sia per me la quarta rilettura: ero una studentessa dell'ultimo anno del liceo quando ho letto per la prima volta il poema in inglese, con la relativa traduzione a fronte. Visto che siamo in tema di Esami di Stato, all'epoca si chiamavano ancora Esami di Maturità, ricordo che era uno dei poemi studiati al quinto anno. La prima volta che l'ho letto sono rimasta folgorata e questo stato d'animo mi ha accompagnata ad ogni rilettura.
Non voglio fare una comparazione delle traduzioni, perché non credo che abbia senso (io ho letto la prima volta il poema, in originale con il testo a fronte, nella traduzione di Mario Praz, Einaudi Editore).

“Dopo la luce della torcia rossa su facce sudate
dopo il silenzio di gelo nei giardini
dopo l’agonia nei luoghi di pietra
le grida e i pianti
prigione e palazzo e riverberazione
di tuono di primavera sopra montagne distanti
colui che era vivo adesso è morto
noi che eravamo vivi adesso stiamo morendo
con un po’ di pazienza
Qui non c’è acqua ma solo roccia
roccia e non acqua e la strada di sabbia
la strada che si inerpica su tra le montagne
che sono montagne di roccia senza acqua
se ci fosse acqua potremmo fermarci e bere
tra le rocce non puoi fermarti o pensare
il sudore è secco e i piedi stanno nella sabbia
se ci fosse solo acqua tra le rocce
morta bocca di montagna con i denti cariati che non sa sputare
qui non si può stare in piedi né sdraiati né seduti
non c’è nemmeno silenzio tra le montagne
solo un tuono secco sterile senza pioggia
non c’è nemmeno solitudine tra le montagne
solo facce rosse scontrose che ghignano e ringhiano
da porte di case di fango crepato
se ci fosse acqua
e nessuna roccia
se ci fosse roccia
e anche acqua
e acqua
e una fonte
una pozza tra le rocce
se ci fosse il suono dell’acqua soltanto
non la cicala
e il canto dell’erba secca
ma suono d’acqua sopra una roccia
dove il tordo eremita canta tra i pini
clof clop clof clop clop clop clop
ma non c’è acqua”

Molto belle le note di Carmen Gallo a chiusura del libro, a commento dei 433 versi del poema: un'immersione guidata nelle profondità delle terre di Eliot, che abbraccia tutto il mondo letterario contemporaneo dell'autore.

"Damyata: La barca rispondeva
lieta, alla mano esperta con la vela e con il remo
il mare era calmo, il tuo cuore avrebbe risposto
lieto, al cenno d’invito, battendo obbediente
alle mani che avevano il controllo

Sedetti sulla riva
a pescare, con la pianura arida dietro di me
saprò almeno mettere ordine nelle mie terre?”

Non è questo forse l'interrogativo che guida ciascuno di noi?
Profile Image for Kevin.
522 reviews107 followers
April 1, 2020
The broad-backed hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud;
Although he seems so firm to us
He is merely flesh and blood.

Flesh and Blood is weak and frail,
Susceptible to nervous shock;
While the True Church can never fail
For it is based upon a rock.

The hippo's feeble steps may err
In compassing material ends,
While the True Church need never stir
To gather in its dividends.

The 'potamus can never reach
The mango on the mango-tree;
But fruits of pomegranate and peach
Refresh the Church from over sea.

At mating time the hippo's voice
Betrays inflexions hoarse and odd,
But every week we hear rejoice
The Church, at being one with God.

The hippopotamus's day
Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
God works in a mysterious way-
The Church can sleep and feed at once.

I saw the 'potamus take wing
Ascending from the damp savannas,
And quiring angels round him sing
The praise of God, in loud hosannas.

Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean
And him shall heavenly arms enfold,
Among the saints he shall be seen
Performing on a harp of gold.

He shall be washed as white as snow,
By all the martyr'd virgins kist,
While the True Church remains below
Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.

T.S. Eliot, The Hippopotamus

He's no Bob Dylan, but he's okay.
Profile Image for Edward.
377 reviews1,007 followers
May 25, 2023
The Waste Land is a mesmerisingly powerful poem, a stark and bleak window into the past, present and future. It feels apt to be reading it in the 21st century, but it would still be every bit as good even without the similarities to our own future.
Profile Image for Matthew Ted.
765 reviews656 followers
July 3, 2023
106th book of 2020.

Despite feeling a little 'book-hungover' from Swann's Way, I managed to savour the rest of Eliot's poems that are usually lumped in with 'The Waste Land', which I reviewed separately, because it is so long and intricate. My long and meandering review of that is here.

The cover of this collection is very interesting. It does beg us to consider Eliot's world, smokey, modernist, haunting, post-war, but also, littered with mundane things that we imagine Eliot himself did, reading books, the papers, drinking tea. A lot of travel happens in his poetry too, or the feeling of travel; that we are traversing this giant mental landscape (a term I more frequently use when describing Sebald's novels). In 'Journey of the Magi' - At the end we preferred to travel all night/sleeping in snatches.' The images are as haunting throughout as they are in 'The Waste Land'. We do not always understand where we are being taken by Eliot, or if we want to be taken, but all the same we are; we are drawn in by his language first, and by the time we leave, staggering, as if drunk, by the way the language has made us feel: disorientated, lost, scared. There were no more faces and the stair was dark,/Damp, jagged, like an old man's mouth drivelling,/beyond repair,/Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.'

So in these current times with little meaning but much feeling, Eliot does lead us through smokey streets with fetid images and confusing narratives, which somehow, become cathartic, too.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,487 reviews2,374 followers
December 19, 2020

The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Glowed on the marble, where the glass
Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines
From which a golden Cupidon peeped out
(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)
Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra
Reflecting light upon the table as
The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,
From satin cases poured in rich profusion;
In vials of ivory and coloured glass
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,
Unguent, powdered, or liquid—troubled, confused
And drowned the sense in odours; stirred by the air
That freshened from the window, these ascended
In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,
Flung their smoke into the laquearia,
Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.
Huge sea-wood fed with copper
Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone,
In which sad light a carvéd dolphin swam.
Above the antique mantel was displayed
As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king
So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale
Filled all the desert with inviolable voice
And still she cried, and still the world pursues,
“Jug Jug” to dirty ears.
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.
Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair
Spread out in fiery points
Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,275 followers
April 6, 2015
I’ll admit it. I don’t understand "The Waste Land". I read it a few times, I listened to it on audiobook, I even looked up analysis on the internet. All to no avail, I don’t get it. Now don’t get me wrong, I would love to say that I totally understand Eliot, that people just take the wrong approach, that most readers lack the wide reading necessary to catch his esoteric references. I would bring it up at parties, perhaps with a quote or two to demonstrate my deep learning and penetrating mind. I would glance down my nose with a bemused expression at those who showed bewilderment. Maybe even a few Facebook statuses, who knows?

But no, I don’t get it, and I am skeptical of anyone who says they do. They remind me of women who come and go, talking of Michelangelo. After all, I don’t care who you are (unless you are James Joyce), you’re not as well read as Eliot. Besides, from what I do understand, the poem doesn't form itself into a coherent picture or even a well-defined theme group. It is fragmentary all the way down; to its very core the poem resists analysis. For me, this is what is most intriguing, that I can excavate far below the surface of the poem’s meaning and get nowhere.

Intriguing as "The Waste Land" is, I’ve always much preferred "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". Of course, I don’t understand that poem either. But it does exactly what I expect a poem to do: manipulate language in beautiful ways. Just consider the beginning: “Let us go, you and I / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table”. Right there, comparing the evening sky to somebody who has been knocked out ready for an operation. That’s genius. Love Song has a beautiful sing-song tone, like a little girl singing a nursery rhythm about the end of the world. I always imagine it being whispered by a five-year old in a tattered, neon-green tutu, sitting amid the rubble that used to be her home.

But should I then presume? And how should I begin?
November 27, 2022
“Stand on the highest pavement of the stair—
Lean on a garden urn—
Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair—
Clasp your flowers to you with a pained surprise—
Fling them to the ground and turn
With a fugitive resentment in your eyes:
But weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.

So I would have had him leave,
So I would have had her stand and grieve,
So he would have left
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,
As the mind deserts the body it has used.
I should find
Some way incomparably light and deft,
Some way we both should understand,
Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand.

She turned away, but with the autumn weather
Compelled my imagination many days,
Many days and many hours:
Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers.
And I wonder how they should have been together!
I should have lost a gesture and a pose.
Sometimes these cogitations still amaze
The troubled midnight and the noon’s repose.”

(La figlia che piange)

T. S. Eliot has been my favourite poet for some years now. When I was younger, I was swept away by the more lyric poems of Byron, Shelley, Coleridge and other similar fellows; now that I (seemingly) reached the age of reason, the subtle irony and incredibly original and spot-on insight into the very soul of men which transpires from Eliot's poems moves me so much that I can barely read him without sobbing uncontrollably. The weird thing is, English is my second language so sometimes poetry can be challenging for me to fully understand; but even without fully grasping the meaning of some of his verses I seem to be unable to stop the tears. As such, it feels almost as if there's some kind of magic seeping through the poet's words, that stabs me right in the heart, without the useless filter of the mind. I wish I could explain better what these poems do to me, but then again, maybe the mystery is part of the beauty.
Profile Image for Janet.
Author 24 books87.8k followers
February 7, 2012
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land...
Retracing myself through the labyrinth of the Waste Land. Making an effort this time to read other sources, think about the project of making a mosaic out of a broken world.
Thank God for the Internet--really inspiring to read these dense works and then have access to such a myriad of supplemental sources. I've read this before and always got the gist and the music, but it's really spectacular to be able to get translations, references, allusions, even maps and photographs so easily. I"ve argued with my daughter about close readings of poetry--she thinks we read in a wee bit too much. And I agree, one should not lose the initial music and mystery to being too literal, and that it is a sign of our contemporary literalism that I'm tempted to google everything... and yet, I don't think it destroys the song and the mystery to actually know what that Italian or German or French poem or song was. It allows the rich, intricate poem or novel (Ulysses, say) to spread out into its variety of sources, unfolding into its matrix of Western Civilization, so that it's not only a text but an education.

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