The Waste Land

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'Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in 
ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: ;
respondebat illa:
Translation from Petronius' Satiricon

For Ezra Pound 
il miglior fabbro.

Eliot reading The Waste Land - (c) HarperCollins Audio - RealAdio format 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 Marie Larisch
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. click here for translation
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. Marie Larisch
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

  What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow 
Out if 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, Cf. Ecclesiastes XII, v. [Eliot's note]
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only 
There is shadow under this red rock, Bible imagery
(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. 

Frish weht der Wind 
Der Heimat zu 
Mein Irisch Kind, 
Wo weilest du? click here for translation V. Tristan und Isolde, I, verses 5-8. [Eliot's note]

"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. 
Oed' und leer das Meer. click here for translation Cf. Tristan und Isolde, III, verse 24 [Eliot's note]

  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!) Cf. The Tempest, 2.1.398
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, Cf. Baudelaire: 'Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves, Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant' [Eliot's Note'
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn, 
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, Cf. Inferno III, 55-57 [Eliot's Note]
I had not thought death had undone so many. Cf. Inferno IV, 25-27 [Eliot's Note]
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? 
O keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men, Cf. the Dirge in Webster's White Devil. [Eliot's note]
'Or with his nails he'll dig it up again! 
'You! Hypocrite lecteur!---mon semblable,--mon frere!' click here for translation V. Baudelaire, Preface to Fleurs du Mal. [Eliot's note]









Eliot reading The Waste Land - (c) HarperCollins Audio - RealAdio format II. A Game of Chess 

The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,   77. Cf. Antony and Cleopatra, II, ii, l. 190 [Eliot's Note]
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 colored glass 
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes, 
Unguent, powdered, or liquid--troubled, confused 
And drowned the sense in odors; stirred by the air 
That freshened from the window, these ascended 
In flattening the prolonged candle flames, 
Flung their smoke into the laquearia, Laquearia. V. Aeneid, I, 726: dependent lychni laqueribus auries incensi, et noctem flammis funalia vincunt [Eliot's note]
Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling. 
Huge sea-wood fed with copper 
Burned green and orange, framed by the colored stone, 
In which sad light a carved dolphin swam. 
Above the antique mantel was displayed 
As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene Sylvan scene. V. Milton, Paradise Lost, IV, 140. [Eliot's note]
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king V. Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI, Philomela. [Eliot's note]
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.

  "My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad. Stay with me. 
  Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak. 
    What are you thinking of? What thinking? What? 
  I never know what you are thinking. Think."

  I think we are in rats' alley Cf. Part III, l. 204 [Eliot's note]
Where the dead men lost their bones.

"What is that noise?" 
                         The wind under the door. Cf. Webster: 'Is the wind in that door still?' [Eliot's note]
"What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?" 
                         Nothing again nothing. 

You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember 

       I remember 
Those are pearls that were his eyes. Cf. Part I, l. 37,48. [Eliot's note]
"Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?" 
O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag---  Cf. Part I, l. 37,48. [Eliot's note]
It's so elegant 
So intelligent 
"What shall I do now? What shall I do?
I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street 
With my hair down, so. What shall we do tomorrow? 
What shall we ever do?" 
                                            The hot water at ten. 
And if it rains, a closed car at four. 
And we shall play a game of chess, Cf. the game of chess in Middleton's Women beware Women. [Eliot's note]
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

  When Lil's husband got demobbed, I said-- 
I didn't mince my words, I said to her myself, 
Hurry up please it's time Traditional closing call of British bartender at closing time
Now Albert's coming back, make yourself a bit smart. 
He'll want to know what you done with that money he gave you 
To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there. 
You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set, 
He said, I swear, I can't bear to look at you. 
And no more can't I, I said, and think of poor Albert, 
He's been in the army four years, he wants a good time, 
And if you don't give it him, there's others will, I said. 
Oh is there, she said. Something o' that, I said. 
Then I'll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look. 
Hurry up please it's time
If you don't like it you can get on with it, I said. 
Others can pick and choose if you can't. 
But if Albert makes off, it won't be for lack of telling. 
You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique. 
(And her only thirty-one.) 
I can't help it, she said, pulling a long face, 
It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said. 
(She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.) 
The chemist said it would be all right, but I've never been the same. 
You are a proper fool, I said. 
Well, if Albert won't leave you alone, there it is, I said, 
What you get married for if you don't want children? 
Hurry up please, it's time 
Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot-- 
Hurry up please it's time 
Hurry up please it's time 
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight. 
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight. 
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night. Cf the mad Ophelia's departing words from Hamlet, 4.5.72. Ophelia too met death by water...











Eliot reading The Waste Land - (c) HarperCollins Audio - RealAdio format III. The Fire Sermon Cf Buddha's Kassapa and Matthew's sermon on the mount from the Bible

The river's tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf 
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind 
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed. 
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song. Cf Spenser's Prothalamion [Eliot's Note]
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers, 
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends 
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed. 
And their friends, the loitering heirs of City directors;
Departed, have left no addresses. 
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept... Cf. Psalms 137.1
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song, 
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long. 
But at my back in a cold blast I hear Cf. Andrew Marvell's "To My Coy Mistress"
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.

A rat crept softly through the vegetation 
Dragging its slimy belly on the bank 
While I was fishing in the dull canal 
On a winter evening round behind the gashouse 
Musing upon the king my brother's wreck 
And on the king my father's death before him. Cf. The Tempest, I, ii. [Eliot's note]
White bodies naked on the low damp ground 
And bones cast in a little low dry garret, 
Rattled by the rat's foot only, year to year. 
But at my back from time to time I hear Cf. Andrew Marvell's "To My Coy Mistress"
The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring 
Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring. 197. Cf. Day, Parliament of Bees: ... [Eliot's Note]
O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter 
And on her daughter 
They wash their feet in soda water I do not know the origin of the ballad from which these lines are taken: it was reported to me from Sydney, Australia. [Eliot's note]
Et O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole! click here for translation V. Verlaine, Parsifal. [Eliot's note]

Twit twit twit 
Jug jug jug jug jug jug 
So rudely forc'd.

  Unreal City 
Under the brown fog of a winter noon 
Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant 
Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants 
C.i.f. London: documents at sight, The currants were quoted at a price 'cost insurance and freight to London'; and the Bill of Lading, etc., were to be handed to the buyer upon payment of the sight draft. [Eliot's note]
Asked me in demotic French 
To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel 
Followed by a weekend at the Metropole.

  At the violet hour, when the eyes and back 
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits 
Like a taxi throbbing waiting, 
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives, Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a 'character', is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly indistinct from Ferdinand Prince of Napels, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem. The whole passage from Ovid is of great anthropological interest: ... [Eliot's Note]
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see 
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives 
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea, This may not appear as exact as Sappho's lines, but I had in mind the 'longshore' or 'dory' fisherman, who returns at nightfall. [Eliot's note]
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights 
Her stove, and lays out food in tins. 
Out of the window perilously spread 
Her drying combinations touched by the sun's last rays, 
On the divan are piled (at night by her bed) 
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays. 
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs 
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest-- 
I too awaited the expected guest. 
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives, 
A small house agent's clerk, with one bold stare, 
One of the low on whom assurance sits 
As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire. 
The time is now propitious, as he guesses, 
The meal is ended, she is bored and tired, 
Endeavors to engage her in caresses 
Which still are unreproved, if undesired. 
Flushed and decided, he assaults at once; 
Exploring hands encounter no defense; 
His vanity requires no response, 
And makes a welcome of indifference. 
(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all 
Enacted on this same divan or bed; 
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall Tiresias lived in Thebes for many generations, where he witnessed the tragic fates of Oedipus and Creon; he prophesied in the market place by the wall of Thebes (NA). In Ovid's Metamorphoses he figures a few times as a prophet, establishing himself in the story of Narcissus and Echo.
And walked among the lowest of the dead.) 
Bestows one final patronizing kiss, 
And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit... 

  She turns and looks a moment in the glass, 
Hardly aware of her departed lover; 
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass: 
"Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over." 
When lovely woman stoops to folly and V. Goldsmith, the song in The Vicar of Wakefield. [Eliot's note]
Paces about her room again, alone, 
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand, 
And puts a record on the gramophone.

  "This music crept by me upon the waters"  V. The Tempest, as above. [Eliot's note]
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street. 
O City city, I can sometimes hear 
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street, 
The pleasant whining of a mandolin 
And a clatter and a chatter from within 
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls 
Of Magnus Martyr I hold The interior of St. Magnus Martyr is to my mind one of the finest among Wren's interiors. See The Proposed Demolition of Nineteen City Churches: (P.S. King & Son, Ltd.). [Eliot's note]
Inexplicable splendor of Ionian white and gold.

The river sweats The Song of the (three) Thames-daughters begins here. From line 292 to 306 inclusive they speak in turn. V. Götterdämmerung, III, i: the Rhine Daughters. [Eliot's note]
Oil and tar 
The barges drift 
With the turning tide 
Red sails 
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar. 
The barges wash 
Drifting logs 
Down Greenwich reach 
Past the Isle of Dogs. 
                      Weialala leia 
                      Wallala leialala
Elizabeth and Leicester V. Froude, Elizabeth, Vol. I, ch. iv, letter of De Quadra to Philip of Spain: ... [Eliot's note]
Beating oars 
The stern was formed 
A gilded shell 
Red and gold 
The brisk swell 
Rippled both shores 
Southwest wind 
Carried down stream 
The peal of bells 
White towers 
                     Weialala leia 
                     Wallala leialala

"Trams and dusty trees. 
Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew Cf. Purgatorio, V. 133: "Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia; / 'Siena mi fe', disfecemi Maremma." [Eliot's note]
Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees 
Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe."

"My feet are at Moorgate, and my heart 
Under my feet. After the event 
He wept. He promised a new start.' 
I made no comment. What should I resent?"

"On Margate Sands. 
I can connect 
Nothing with Nothing. 
The broken fingernails of dirty hands. 
My people humble people who expect 
              la la

To Carthage then I came St. Augustine's Confessions: 'to Carthage then I came, where a cauldron of unholy loves sang all about mine ears.' [Eliot's note]

Burning burning burning burning The complete text of the Buddha's Fire Sermon (which corresponds in importance to the Sermon on the Mount) from which these words are taken, will be found translated in the late Henry Clarke Warren's Buddhism in Translation (Harvard Oriental Series). Mr. Warren was one of the great pioneers of Buddhist studies in the Occident. [Eliot's note]
O Lord Thou pluckest me out From St. Augustine's Confessions again. The collocation of these two representatives of eastern and western asceticism, as the culmination of this part of the poem, is not an accident. [Eliot's note]
O Lord Thou pluckest
















IV. Death by Water This section has been interpreted in two ways: either it signifies death by water without resurrection (water misused) or it symbolises the sacrificial death that precedes rebirth. It is true that Phlebas is purged of his commercial interests and vanities when he suffers a sea change, and Weston tells of the annual casting into the sea at Alexandria of an effigy of the head of Adonis- to be taken out after seven days by jubilant celebrators of the cult. The majority of interpreters, however, see Phlebas' drowning as a death by water that brings no resurrection, although there is a strange sense of peace in the death. Cf. line 47. (NA)
Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead, 
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell 
And the profit and loss. 
                                            A current under sea 
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell 
He passed the stages of his age and youth 
Entering the whirlpool. 
                                            Gentle or Jew 
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, 
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.


Eliot reading The Waste Land - (c) HarperCollins Audio - RealAdio format V. What the Thunder Said In the first part of Part V three themes are employed: the journey to Emmaus, the approach to the Chapel Perilous (see Miss Weston's book) and the present decay of eastern Europe. [Eliot's note]

  After the torchlight red on sweaty faces 
After the frosty silence in the gardens 
After the agony in stony places 
The shouting and the crying 
Prison and palace and reverberation 
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains 
He who was living is now dead These lines, containing allusions to Christ's imprisonment and trial, and to Gethsemane and Golgotha, suggest the hopeless days between Good Friday and Easter, between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection - associated with the death of the Fisher King.
We who were living are now dying 
With a little patience

  Here is no water but only rock 
Rock and no water and the sandy road 
The road winding above among the mountains 
Which are mountains of rock without water 
If there were water we should stop and drink 
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think 
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand 
If there were only water amongst the rock 
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit 
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit 
There is not even silence in the mountains 
But dry sterile thunder without rain 
There is not even solitude in the mountains 
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl 
From doors of mudcracked houses 
                                                    If there were water 
  And no rock 
  If there were rock 
  And also water 
  And water 
  A spring 
  A pool among the rock 
  If there were the sound of water only 
  Not the cicada 
  And dry grass singing 
  But sound of water over a rock 
  Where the hermit thrush sings in the pine trees This is Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii, the hermit-thrush which I have heard in Quebec Province. Chapman says (Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America) 'it is most at home in secluded woodland and thickety retreats.... Its notes are not remarkable for variety or volume, but in purity and sweetness of tone and exquisite modulation they are unequalled.' Its 'water-dripping song' is justly celebrated. [Eliot's note]
  Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop 
  But there is no water

  Who is the third who walks always beside you? The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton's): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted. [Eliot's note]
When I count, there are only you and I together 
But when I look ahead up the white road 
There is always another one walking beside you 
Gliding wrapped in a brown mantle, hooded 
I do not know whether a man of a woman 
---But who is that on the other side of you?

  What is that sound high in the air Cf. Herman Hesse, Blick ins Chaos: 'Schon ist halb Europa, schon ist zumindest der halbe Osten Europas auf dem Wege zum Chaos, fährt betrunken im heiligen Wahn am Abgrund entlang und singt dazu, singt betrunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Karamasoff sang. Ueber diese Lieder lacht der Bürger beleidigt, der Heilige und Seher hört sie mit Tränen.' [Eliot's note]
Murmur of maternal lamentation 
Who are those hooded hordes swarming 
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth 
Ringed by the flat horizon only 
What is the city over the mountains 
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air 
Falling towers 
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria 
Vienna London 

  A woman drew her long black hair out tight 
And fiddled whisper music on those strings 
And bats with baby faces in the violet light 
Whistled, and beat their wings 
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall 
And upside down in air were towers 
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours 
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.

  In this decayed hole among the mountains 
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing 
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel 
There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home. Suggesting the moment of near despair before the Chapel Perilous, when the questing knight sees nothing there but decay. This illusion of nothingness is the knight's final test.
It has no windows, and the door swings, 
Dry bones can harm no one. 
Only a cock stood on the rooftree 
Co co rico co co rico The crowing of the cock signals the departure of ghosts and evil spirits. Cf. Hamlet 1.1.157ff.
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust 
Bringing rain

  Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves 
Waited for rain, while the black clouds 
Gathered far distant, over Himavant. 
The jungle crouched, humped in silence. 
Then spoke the thunder 
Da 'Datta, dayadhvam, damyata' (Give, sympathise, control). The fable of the meaning of the Thunder is found in the Brihadaranyaka - Upanishad, 5, I. A translation is found in Deussen's Sechzig Upanishads des Veda, p. 489 [Eliot's note].
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 407. Cf. Webster, The White Devil, V, vi: ... [Eliot's Note]
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor 
In our empty rooms 
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key Suggesting the moment of near despair before the Chapel Perilous, when the questing knight sees nothing there but decay. This illusion of nothingness is the knight's final test.
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 
Only at nightfall, ethereal rumors 
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus 
Damyata: The boat responded 
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar 
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded 
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient 
To controlling hands

                                                I sat upon the shore 
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me V. Weston: From Ritual to Romance; chapter on the Fisher King. [Eliot's note]
Shall I at least set my lands in order? Cf. Isaiah 38.1: "Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live." The inclusive "I," who sits in the symbolic act of fishing (seeking salvation, regeneration, eternity) with the Waste Land behind him, wonders how far he can order his affairs.
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down One of the later lines of this nursery rhyme is "Take the key and lock her up, my fair lady."
Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina click here for translation 427. V. Purgatorio, XXVI, 148.
Quando fiam uti chelidon click here for translation ---O swallow swallow V. Pervigilium Veneris. Cf. Philomela in Parts II and III. [Eliot's note]
Le Prince d'Aquitainte a la tour abolie click here for translation Gerard de Nerval, Sonnet El Desdichado. [Eliot's note]
These fragments I have shored against my ruins V. Pervigilium Veneris. Cf. Philomela in Parts II and III. [Eliot's note]
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe. V. Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. [Eliot's note]
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata. 
                     Shantih shantih shantih Shantih. Repeated as here, a formal ending to an Upanishad. 'The Peace which passeth understanding' is our equivalent to this word. [Eliot's note]