History of Literature


T.S. Eliot


"The Waste Land"


T. S. Eliot


T.S. Eliot

Anglo-American poet
in full Thomas Stearns Eliot

born September 26, 1888, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
died January 4, 1965, London, England

American-English poet, playwright, literary critic, and editor, a leader of the modernist movement in poetry in such works as The Waste Land (1922) and Four Quartets (1943). Eliot exercised a strong influence on Anglo-American culture from the 1920s until late in the century. His experiments in diction, style, and versification revitalized English poetry, and in a series of critical essays he shattered old orthodoxies and erected new ones. The publication of Four Quartets led to his recognition as the greatest living English poet and man of letters, and in 1948 he was awarded both the Order of Merit and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Early years
Eliot was descended from a distinguished New England family that had relocated to St. Louis, Missouri. His family allowed him the widest education available in his time, with no influence from his father to be “practical” and to go into business. From Smith Academy in St. Louis he went to Milton, in Massachusetts; from Milton he entered Harvard in 1906; he received a B.A. in 1909, after three instead of the usual four years. The men who influenced him at Harvard were George Santayana, the philosopher and poet, and the critic Irving Babbitt. From Babbitt he derived an anti-Romantic attitude that, amplified by his later reading of British philosophers F.H. Bradley and T.E. Hulme, lasted through his life. In the academic year 1909–10 he was an assistant in philosophy at Harvard.

He spent the year 1910–11 in France, attending Henri Bergson’s lectures in philosophy at the Sorbonne and reading poetry with Alain-Fournier. Eliot’s study of the poetry of Dante, of the English writers John Webster and John Donne, and of the French Symbolist Jules Laforgue helped him to find his own style. From 1911 to 1914 he was back at Harvard reading Indian philosophy and studying Sanskrit. In 1913 he read Bradley’s Appearance and Reality; by 1916 he had finished, in Europe, a dissertation entitled Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F.H. Bradley. But World War I had intervened, and he never returned to Harvard to take the final oral examination for the Ph.D. degree. In 1914 Eliot met and began a close association with the American poet Ezra Pound.

Early publications
Eliot was to pursue four careers: editor, dramatist, literary critic, and philosophical poet. He was probably the most erudite poet of his time in the English language. His undergraduate poems were “literary” and conventional. His first important publication, and the first masterpiece of “modernism” in English, was The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table. . . .

Although Pound had printed privately a small book, A lume spento, as early as 1908, Prufrock was the first poem by either of these literary revolutionists to go beyond experiment to achieve perfection. It represented a break with the immediate past as radical as that of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth in Lyrical Ballads (1798). From the appearance of Eliot’s first volume, Prufrock and Other Observations, in 1917, one may conveniently date the maturity of the 20th-century poetic revolution. The significance of the revolution is still disputed, but the striking similarity to the Romantic revolution of Coleridge and Wordsworth is obvious: Eliot and Pound, like their 18th-century counterparts, set about reforming poetic diction. Whereas Wordsworth thought he was going back to the “real language of men,” Eliot struggled to create new verse rhythms based on the rhythms of contemporary speech. He sought a poetic diction that might be spoken by an educated person, being “neither pedantic nor vulgar.”

For a year Eliot taught French and Latin at the Highgate School; in 1917 he began his brief career as a bank clerk in Lloyds Bank Ltd. Meanwhile he was also a prolific reviewer and essayist in both literary criticism and technical philosophy. In 1919 he published Poems, which contained the poem Gerontion, a meditative interior monologue in blank verse: nothing like this poem had appeared in English.

The Waste Land and criticism
With the publication in 1922 of his poem The Waste Land, Eliot won an international reputation. The Waste Land expresses with great power the disenchantment, disillusionment, and disgust of the period after World War I. In a series of vignettes, loosely linked by the legend of the search for the Grail, it portrays a sterile world of panicky fears and barren lusts, and of human beings waiting for some sign or promise of redemption. The poem’s style is highly complex, erudite, and allusive, and the poet provided notes and references to explain the work’s many quotations and allusions. This scholarly supplement distracted some readers and critics from perceiving the true originality of the poem, which lay rather in its rendering of the universal human predicament of man desiring salvation, and in its manipulation of language, than in its range of literary references. In his earlier poems Eliot had shown himself to be a master of the poetic phrase. The Waste Land showed him to be, in addition, a metrist of great virtuosity, capable of astonishing modulations ranging from the sublime to the conversational.

The Waste Land consists of five sections and proceeds on a principle of “rhetorical discontinuity” that reflects the fragmented experience of the 20th-century sensibility of the great modern cities of the West. Eliot expresses the hopelessness and confusion of purpose of life in the secularized city, the decay of urbs aeterna (the “eternal city”). This is the ultimate theme of The Waste Land, concretized by the poem’s constant rhetorical shifts and its juxtapositions of contrasting styles. But The Waste Land is not a simple contrast of the heroic past with the degraded present; it is rather a timeless, simultaneous awareness of moral grandeur and moral evil. The poem’s original manuscript of about 800 lines was cut down to 433 at the suggestion of Ezra Pound. The Waste Land is not Eliot’s greatest poem, though it is his most famous.

Eliot said that the poet-critic must write “programmatic criticism”—that is, criticism that expresses the poet’s own interests as a poet, quite different from historical scholarship, which stops at placing the poet in his background. Consciously intended or not, Eliot’s criticism created an atmosphere in which his own poetry could be better understood and appreciated than if it had to appear in a literary milieu dominated by the standards of the preceding age. In the essay Tradition and the Individual Talent, appearing in his first critical volume, The Sacred Wood (1920), Eliot asserts that tradition, as used by the poet, is not a mere repetition of the work of the immediate past (“novelty is better than repetition,” he said); rather, it comprises the whole of European literature from Homer to the present. The poet writing in English may therefore make his own tradition by using materials from any past period, in any language. This point of view is “programmatic” in the sense that it disposes the reader to accept the revolutionary novelty of Eliot’s polyglot quotations and serious parodies of other poets’ styles in The Waste Land.

Also in The Sacred Wood, Hamlet and His Problems sets forth Eliot’s theory of the objective correlative:

The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlative”; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula for that particular emotion; such that, when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.

Eliot used the phrase “objective correlative” in the context of his own impersonal theory of poetry; it thus had an immense influence toward correcting the vagueness of late Victorian rhetoric by insisting on a correspondence of word and object. Two other essays, first published the year after The Sacred Wood, almost complete the Eliot critical canon: The Metaphysical Poets and Andrew Marvell, published in Selected Essays, 1917–32 (1932). In these essays he effects a new historical perspective on the hierarchy of English poetry, putting at the top Donne and other Metaphysical poets of the 17th century and lowering poets of the 18th and 19th centuries. Eliot’s second famous phrase appears here—“dissociation of sensibility,” invented to explain the change that came over English poetry after Donne and Andrew Marvell. This change seems to him to consist in a loss of the union of thought and feeling. The phrase has been attacked, yet the historical fact that gave rise to it cannot be denied, and with the poetry of Eliot and Pound it had a strong influence in reviving interest in certain 17th-century poets.

The first, or programmatic, phase of Eliot’s criticism ended with The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933)—his Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard. Shortly before this his interests had broadened into theology and sociology; three short books, or long essays, were the result: Thoughts After Lambeth (1931), The Idea of a Christian Society (1939), and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948). These book-essays, along with his Dante (1929), an indubitable masterpiece, broadened the base of literature into theology and philosophy: whether a work is poetry must be decided by literary standards; whether it is great poetry must be decided by standards higher than the literary.

Eliot’s criticism and poetry are so interwoven that it is difficult to discuss them separately. The great essay on Dante appeared two years after Eliot was confirmed in the Church of England (1927); in that year he also became a British subject. The first long poem after his conversion was Ash Wednesday (1930), a religious meditation in a style entirely different from that of any of the earlier poems. Ash Wednesday expresses the pangs and the strain involved in the acceptance of religious belief and religious discipline. This and subsequent poems were written in a more relaxed, musical, and meditative style than his earlier works, in which the dramatic element had been stronger than the lyrical. Ash Wednesday was not well received in an era that held that poetry, though autonomous, is strictly secular in its outlook; it was misinterpreted by some critics as an expression of personal disillusion.

Later poetry and plays
Eliot’s masterpiece is Four Quartets, which was issued as a book in 1943, though each “quartet” is a complete poem. The first of the quartets, Burnt Norton, had appeared in the Collected Poems of 1936. It is a subtle meditation on the nature of time and its relation to eternity. On the model of this Eliot wrote three more poems, East Coker (1940), The Dry Salvages (1941), and Little Gidding (1942), in which he explored through images of great beauty and haunting power his own past, the past of the human race, and the meaning of human history. Each of the poems was self-subsistent; but when published together they were seen to make up a single work, in which themes and images recurred and were developed in a musical manner and brought to a final resolution. This work made a deep impression on the reading public, and even those who were unable to accept the poems’ Christian beliefs recognized the intellectual integrity with which Eliot pursued his high theme, the originality of the form he had devised, and the technical mastery of his verse. This work led to the award to Eliot, in 1948, of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

An outstanding example of Eliot’s verse in Four Quartets is the passage in Little Gidding in which the poet meets a “compound ghost,” a figure composite of two of his masters: William Butler Yeats and Stéphane Mallarmé. The scene takes place at dawn in London after a night on duty at an air-raid post during an air-attack; the master speaks in conclusion:

From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.
The day was breaking. In the disfigured street
He left me, with a kind of valediction,
And faded on the blowing of the horn.

The passage is 72 lines, in modified terza rima; the diction is as near to that of Dante as is possible in English; and it is a fine example of Eliot’s belief that a poet can be entirely original when he is closest to his models.

Eliot’s plays, which begin with Sweeney Agonistes (published 1926; first performed in 1934) and end with The Elder Statesman (first performed 1958; published 1959), are, with the exception of Murder in the Cathedral (published and performed 1935), inferior to the lyric and meditative poetry. Eliot’s belief that even secular drama attracts people who unconsciously seek a religion led him to put drama above all other forms of poetry. All his plays are in a blank verse of his own invention, in which the metrical effect is not apprehended apart from the sense; thus he brought “poetic drama” back to the popular stage. The Family Reunion (1939) and Murder in the Cathedral are Christian tragedies, the former a tragedy of revenge, the latter of the sin of pride. Murder in the Cathedral is a modern miracle play on the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. The most striking feature of this, his most successful play, was the use of a chorus in the traditional Greek manner to make apprehensible to common humanity the meaning of the heroic action. The Family Reunion (1939) was less popular. It contained scenes of great poignancy and some of the finest dramatic verse since the Elizabethans; but the public found this translation of the story of Orestes into a modern domestic drama baffling and was uneasy at the mixture of psychological realism, mythical apparitions at a drawing-room window, and a comic chorus of uncles and aunts.

After World War II, Eliot returned to writing plays with The Cocktail Party in 1949, The Confidential Clerk in 1953, and The Elder Statesman in 1958. These plays are comedies in which the plots are derived from Greek drama. In them Eliot accepted current theatrical conventions at their most conventional, subduing his style to a conversational level and eschewing the lyrical passages that gave beauty to his earlier plays. Only The Cocktail Party, which is based upon the Alcestis of Euripides, achieved a popular success. In spite of their obvious theatrical defects and a failure to engage the sympathies of the audience for the characters, these plays succeed in handling moral and religious issues of some complexity while entertaining the audience with farcical plots and some shrewd social satire.

Eliot’s career as editor was ancillary to his main interests, but his quarterly review, The Criterion (1922–39), was the most distinguished international critical journal of the period. He was a “director,” or working editor, of the publishing firm of Faber & Faber Ltd. from the early 1920s until his death, and as such was a generous and discriminating patron of young poets. Eliot rigorously kept his private life in the background. In 1915 he married Vivien Haigh-Wood. After 1933 she was mentally ill, and they lived apart; she died in 1947. In January 1957 he married Valerie Fletcher, with whom he lived happily until his death.

Allen Tate
Dame Helen Gardner

T. S. Eliot (1938)
by Wyndham Lewis

T. S. Eliot

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thomas Stearns Eliot, OM (26 September 1888–4 January 1965), was a poet, dramatist, and literary critic. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. 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 in the United States, moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 (at age 25), and became a British subject in 1927 at the age of 39. Of his nationality and its role in his work, T.S. Eliot said: "[My poetry] wouldn’t be what it is if I’d been born in England, and it wouldn’t be what it is if I’d stayed in America. It’s a combination of things. But in its sources, in its emotional springs, it comes from America."
treasurer of the Hydraulic-Press Brick Company in St. Louis; his mother, born Charlotte Champe Stearns (1843–1929), wrote poems and was also a social worker. Eliot was the last of six surviving children; his parents were both 44 years old when he was born. His four sisters were between eleven and nineteen years older than he; his brother was eight years older. Known to family and friends as Tom, he was the namesake of his maternal grandfather, Thomas Stearns. From 1898 to 1905, Eliot was a day student at Smith Academy, a preparatory school for Washington University. At the academy, Eliot studied Latin, Greek, French, and German. Upon graduation, he could have gone to Harvard University, but his parents sent him to Milton Academy (in Milton, Massachusetts, near Boston) for a preparatory year. There he met Scofield Thayer, who would later publish The Waste Land. He studied at Harvard, where he earned a B.A., from 1906 to 1909. During this time, he read Arthur Symons's The Symbolist Movement in Literature, where, by his own admission, he first came across Laforgue, Rimbaud, and Verlaine. The Harvard Advocate published some of his poems, and he became lifelong friends with Conrad Aiken. The next year, he earned a master's degree at Harvard. In the 1910–1911 school year, Eliot lived in Paris, studying at the Sorbonne and touring the continent. Returning to Harvard in 1911 as a doctoral student in philosophy, Eliot studied the writings of F. H. Bradley, Buddhism and Indic philology (learning Sanskrit and Pāli to read some of the religious texts). He was awarded a scholarship to attend Merton College, Oxford, in 1914, and, before settling there, he visited Marburg, Germany, where he planned to take a summer program in philosophy. When the First World War broke out, however, he went to London and then to Oxford. In a letter to Aiken late in December 1914, Eliot, aged 26, wrote "I am very dependent upon women (I mean female society)" and then added a complaint that he was still a virgin. Less than four months later, he was introduced by Thayer, then also at Oxford, to Cambridge governess Vivienne Haigh-Wood. Eliot was not happy at Merton and declined a second year there. Instead, on 26 June 1915, he married Vivienne in a register office. After a short visit, alone, to the U. S. to see his family, he returned to London and took a few teaching jobs such as lecturing at Birkbeck College, University of London. He continued to work on his dissertation and, in the spring of 1916, sent it to Harvard, which accepted it. Because he did not appear in person to defend his dissertation, however, he was not awarded his PhD. (In 1964, the dissertation
was published as Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley.) During Eliot's university career, he studied with George Santayana, Irving Babbitt, Henri Bergson, C. R. Lanman, Josiah Royce, Bertrand Russell, and Harold Joachim. Bertrand Russell took an interest in Vivien (the spelling she preferred) while the newlyweds stayed in his flat. Some scholars have suggested that Vivien and Russell had an affair , but these allegations have never been confirmed. Eliot, in a private paper, written in his sixties, confessed: "I came to persuade myself that I was in love with Vivienne simply because I wanted to burn my boats and commit myself to staying in England. And she persuaded herself (also under the influence of Pound) that she would save the poet by keeping him in England. To her, the marriage brought no happiness. To me, it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land."After leaving Merton, Eliot worked as a schoolteacher, most notably at Highgate School where he taught the young John Betjeman, and later at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe. To earn extra money, he wrote book reviews and lectured at evening extension courses. In 1917, he took a position at Lloyds Bank in London, where he worked on foreign accounts. In August 1920, Eliot met James Joyce on a trip to Paris, accompanied by Wyndham Lewis. After the meeting, Eliot said he found Joyce arrogant (Joyce doubted Eliot's ability as a poet at the time), but the two soon became friends with Eliot visiting Joyce whenever he was in Paris. In 1925, Eliot left Lloyds to join the publishing firm Faber and Gwyer (later Faber and Faber), where he remained for the rest of his career, becoming a director of the firm. In 1927, Eliot took two important steps in his self-definition. On June 29 he converted to Anglicanism and in November he dropped his American citizenship and became a British subject. In 1928, Eliot summarised his beliefs when he wrote in the preface to his book, For Lancelot Andrewes that "the general point of view [of the book's essays] may be described as classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and anglo-catholic in religion." By 1932, Eliot had been contemplating a separation from his wife for some time. When Harvard University offered him the Charles Eliot Norton professorship for the 1932-1933 academic year, he accepted, leaving Vivien in England. Upon his return in 1933, Eliot officially separated from Vivien. He avoided all but one meeting with his wife between his leaving for America in 1932 and her death in 1947. (Vivien died at Northumberland House, a mental hospital north of London, where she was committed in 1938, without ever having been visited by Eliot, who was still her husband.) From 1946 to 1957, Eliot shared a flat with his friend, John Davy Hayward, who gathered and archived Eliot's papers and styled himself Keeper of the Eliot Archive. He also collected Eliot's pre-"Prufrock" verse, commercially published after Eliot's death as Poems Written in Early Youth. When Eliot and Hayward separated their household in 1957, Hayward retained his collection of Eliot's papers, which he bequeathed to King's College, Cambridge in 1965. Eliot's second marriage was happy but short. On January 10, 1957, he married Esmé Valerie Fletcher, to whom he was introduced by Collin Brooks. In sharp contrast to his first marriage, Eliot knew Miss Fletcher well, as she had been his secretary at Faber and Faber since August 1949. Like his marriage to Vivien, the wedding was kept a secret to preserve his privacy. The ceremony was held in a church at 6.15 a.m. with virtually no one other than his wife's parents in attendance. Valerie was 37 years younger than her husband. Since Eliot's death she has dedicated her time to preserving his legacy; she has edited and annotated The Letters of T. S. Eliot and a facsimile of the draft of The Waste Land.
Eliot died of emphysema in London on January 4, 1965. For many years, he had health problems owing to his heavy smoking, often being laid low with bronchitis or tachycardia. His body was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium and, according to Eliot's wishes, the ashes taken to St Michael's Church in East Coker, the village from which Eliot's ancestors emigrated to America. There, a simple wall plaque commemorates him with a quote from his poem, "East Coker": "In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning." On the second anniversary of his death, a large stone placed on the floor of Poets' Corner in London's Westminster Abbey was dedicated to Eliot. This commemoration contains his name, an indication that he had received the Order of Merit, dates, and a quotation from his poem, "Little Gidding": "the communication / Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond / the language of the living."


Type of work: Poetry
Author: T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)
First published: Four Quartets, 1943

At age sixty and already an elder statesman of letters, T. S. Eliot was awarded the British Order of Merit and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948, five years after publishing what would be his last masterpiece, Four Quartets. Musing on the Nobel committee's choice, he surmised that they made their selection having considered "the entire corpus" of his work. Although he would go on to write three more plays, several volumes of essays, and some more poetry, Four Quartets was to remain the capstone of his career as a poet, the masterpiece of his maturity, very different in style from the masterpiece of his poetic apprenticeship, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1917) and from his renowned and no longer disputed chef d'oeuvre, The Waste Land (1922). Quite simply, some of his poetic concerns had changed, as had his mode of expression.
More seemingly direct and more apparently accessible than Eliot's early work, Four Quartets exhibits a certain simplicity of statement that leads into the depth of his thought. The sequence, like some of his earlier poetry, grew incrementally over an eight-year period. "Burnt Norton" (1935), the first of the quartets, was formed from lines originally intended for the verse drama Murder in the Cathedral (1935) and contains themes common to the play. Its title refers to a specific country house with a rose garden in the Cotswolds. "East Coker" (1940) invokes the place from which Eliot's forebears emigrated in the seventeenth century; Eliot would be buried in East Coker, Somerset, in 1965. "The Dry Salvages" is also linked to Eliot's own geography: In his youth his family spent summers in New England, principally in Rockport and Gloucester, Massachusetts, on Cape Ann, near the rocks known as the Dry Salvages (a corruption, Eliot speculates, of les trois sauvages). Finally, "Little Gid-ding* (1942), which some have called Eliot's Paradise, recalls the seventeenth century High Church religious community founded near Huntingdon by Nicholas Fer-rar. Each of the poems is a meditation about place or inspired by place; together they form a devotional sequence linked by considerations of time, place, memory, consciousness of the self and of others, transcendence, and the act of writing.
Eliot has endowed the poems, each a quartet, with musical qualities and repetitive motifs. All of Eliot's poetry should be read aloud, and Four Quartets in particular should be heard. Walter Pater, to whom Eliot owed many debts he was eager to conceal, once wrote that "all art continually aspires to the condition of music." In these poems, Eliot's verbal art seems to aspire to that condition, so that in every phrase and sentence that is right, one finds "the complete consort dancing together."
Structurally, the poems follow the five-part plan Eliot had used in a more startling way in The Waste Land. These five movements, patterned on the form of a musical quartet or sonata, concern the varied relationships between time and eternity, the meaning of history, and the experience of Joycean epiphanies. С. К. Stead has provided lengthy and useful analyses of each of the poems by probing each according to a naming of the parts. The first part of each poem is concerned with the movement of time in which fleeting moments of eternity are caught. The second part examines worldly experience, which leads to an inevitable dissatisfaction. In the third part, the speaker seeks purgation in the world and seeks to divest the soul of love for created things. Part 4, the briefest, is a lyric prayer for or affirmation of the need for spiritual intercession. The final part deals with the problems of attaining artistic wholeness, which become analogs for, and blend into, the problems of achieving spiritual health.
"Burnt Norton" begins with two epigraphs from the fragments of the great philosopher of flux, Heraclitus. These are central to the concerns of Eliot as a modern-day poet-philosopher of the Word. Heraclitus' fragments mark him as a profound thinker who assigned the divine attribute of eternity to the universal Logos (word). This Logos Eliot would also find resonating in the later Logos of St. John's Gospel. Heraclitus did not believe that the universe began in time but that there exists a perpetual stream of creation in which "all things are an exchange for fire and fire for all things" in a world order that "was, is, and will be everliving fire being kindled in measures and quenched in measures." That for which Heraclitus is generally renowned becomes the more important for Eliot as he reflects, desiderative and expectant, upon his own craft in these poems: Heraclitus was the first Greek writer to explore the nature of discourse and to find an intelligible principle of the universe not only in the Logos but also in the depths of the philosophic soul, depths which deepen even as the soul attempts to fathom them. In particular, Eliot cites two sentences from H. Diels's Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, likely from the fifth edition of 1934. The first may be loosely translated, "While the Law of Reason (Logos) is common, the majority of people live as though they had an understanding (wisdom) of their own." The second is a paradox fundamental to Eliot's poem: "The way upward and downward are one and the same."
The poem opens with a reflection on the nature of time and leads to the proposition "If all time is eternally present/ All time is unredeemable," a notion that puts in question the need for a redemption and possibly the lack of such a need in a cosmos ruled by the redemptive Logos. The mix of memory and desire leads to the rose garden: Directed by the bird "into our first world," one finds that "the leaves are full of children,/ Hidden excitedly, containing laughter." This, possibly one of those brief encounters with eternity, is ended by the bird: "Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind/ Cannot bear very much reality."
Part 2 focuses upon individual humanity and the tension between an ascending spirit and a descending body. Eliot continues to pit Heraclitean opposites against each other "at the still point of the turning world. . . . Where past and future are gathered." Here is "inner freedom from the practical desire," "release from action and suffering, release from the inner/ And the outer compulsion." The human condition of incompleteness and temporality is an unsatisfactory one. What redeems the time and releases one from it is consciousness, but only in time can memory function. Paradoxically, he concludes, "Only through time time is conquered." Here, as in Her-aclitus, the philosophic soul adds to its depths as it seeks to plumb them.
The poem's third part reveals "a place of disaffection," a twilight that has neither the light that turns shadow into transient beauty nor the darkness that purifies the soul. Indeed, spiritual purification is the speaker's goal with his command to "descend lower . . ./ Into the world of perpetual solitude" and his enumeration of necessary negations in abstention to achieve a present "while the world moves/ In appetency, on its metalled ways/ Of time past and time future." The search for purgation reiterates the Heraclitean virtue of desiccation, the "dry soul" approaching the condition of fire.
The short lyric that is part 4 celebrates the darkness in which the soul may be purified and places the speaker in the lower depths, below the sunflower's tendrils and the yew's fingers. Here, in the darkness "the light is still/ At the still point of the turning world." The questions in this section of the poem may hint at the need for intercession, but the mention of the "kingfisher's wing" is a more obvious allusion to the celebrated image Gerard Manley Hopkins had used for Christ.
In part 5 the speaker muses that "words move, music moves/ Only in time" and continues to meditate on the temporal nature of music, words, silence, ends and beginnings. Here Eliot examines the adequacy and inadequacy of words and moves to consider the Johanine Logos as he reflects that "the word in the desert/ Is most attacked by voices of temptation." In a further contrast between desire (movement) and love (a stillness that impels motion), he finds the latter timeless except for the temporality that is necessary to the difference between un-being and being. Finally, to draw the sequence full circle to part 1, there is the "hidden laughter/ Of children in the foliage" and a repetition, without attribution, of the bird's directives, and the closing statement "Ridiculous the waste sad time/ Stretching before and after." The questions of artistic wholeness and spiritual health involve a consideration of words as part of the Word and of love as a timeless present. By association, love participates in Logos; also by association, the laughter of children in the past in the rose garden becomes present and eternal in the remembered words "Quicknow, here, now, always—' and has a connection, however tenuous, with love and Logos.
This type of analysis is only one among many possible approaches to the poem in itself and as part of a sequence. Some have read "Burnt Norton" as the first of a series which features God the Father and concerns the element of air, with "East Coker" focusing on God the Son (earth), "The Dry Salvages" dealing with Mary the Mother of God (water), and "Little Gidding" devoted to God the Spirit (fire). While this scheme offers suggestive possibilities, it presents a somewhat limited view of the poem and the sequence as a whole. What it does suggest is a range of possible interpretations suggested by the text.
To use Stead's fivefold analyses as applied to "Burnt Norton" in considering its three companion pieces is to develop a deep and rich appreciation of the poet at work in exploring his own consciousness. "East Coker" pursues the poet's beginning in his end (part 1), especially in light of family history, and is a much more explicit meditation on the role of the poet as craftsman of words (part 5). Like the speaker of Dante's The Divine Comedy, he is in the middle way; in his case he has spent twenty years—"years largely wasted, the years of Ventre deux guerres"—trying to learn to use words. "The Dry Salvages" recalls Eliot's youthful life in America not only in Massachusetts but also in St. Louis, Missouri, alongside the "strong brown god," the river. This poem, more than the first two, is explicitly concerned with religious thought, with direct references to God and the Annunciation (part 2), Krishna (part 3), and a prayer to the Queen of Heaven, "Figlia del tuo figho" (daughter of your son). Again, the work of the poet in search of artistic wholeness and spiritual health becomes the clear focus of part 5, as the speaker considers varied attempts to communicate, spiritually and at times fantastically. He does offer a clue to his sense of his own purpose in probing language and time and eternity: "The point of intersection of the timeless/ With time, is an occupation for the saint." It is also an occupation for the poet and for his readers.
The most anthologized poem of the Four Quartets, "Little Gidding," contains Eliot's most mature and virtually final poetic statement. Musing on the place Little Gidding and its significance—historically, as a seat of spiritual life in the seventeenth century, and currently, as a source of spiritual strength—he finds "the intersection of the timeless moment/ Is England and nowhere. Never and always." Part 2 describes another sort of spiritual encounter reminiscent of Eliot's earlier dramatic poetry, Here, in Dantean fashion, he encounters the shade "of some dead master" whose burden is a total disillusion expressed in a disclosure of "the gifts reserved for age." He offers these observations as one poet to another, "since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us/ To purify the dialect of the tribe."
Part 3 contains echoes of Dame Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth century mystic, as the speaker reflects upon the inevitability of sin and the mystic knowledge of forgiveness based upon beseeching. The lyrical part 4 combines the "dove" of part 2, which had been a bomber, with the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost and the Heraclitean fire foreshadowed in the epigraph to "Burnt Norton," as the speaker reflects upon love and fire. Finally, in some of his most memorable lines, a paean on poetic practice as a unifying, health-giving activity, Eliot achieves a synthetic vision, summarizes the varied strands of the poem, and ends at an unqualified affirmation. He unifies the sequence in the poem's closing lines by echoing the moments of insight he had revealed in the earlier poems and earlier in this one.
Eliot once wrote that his favorite author, Dante, is "a poet to whom one grows up over a lifetime." Eliot himself has achieved something of that stature: He is a poet to whom one returns without exhausting meaning or the possibility of meaning, especially when one reads his later poetry in light of the earlier work. In particular, Four Quartets is a sequence to which a reader may return after few or many years, exploring it anew and coming away with fresh insight.

MIDDLEMARCH: A Study of Provincial Life

Type of Work:
Author: George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880)
Type of plot: Psychological realism
Time of plot: Nineteenth century
Locale: England
First published: 1871-1872

Middlemarch is the most comprehensive and sweeping of George Eliot's novels and is usually considered her masterpiece. Structuring the book around four major plotlines—the story of Dorothea Brooke, the story of Lydgate's marriage, the history of Mary Garth, and the fall of banker Bulstrode—the author creates a dynamic pattern that encompasses an entire spectrum of life, attitudes, and events in early nineteenth century England.

Principal Characters

Dorothea Brooke (Dodo), the sensitive and well-bred heroine who, in her desire to devote herself to something meaningful, marries an arid clerical scholar, Edward Casaubon. After Casaubon's death Dorothea, against the advice of friends and family, marries Will Ladislaw, an impulsive artist and political thinker. Dorothea also befriends the progressive young doctor of Middlemarch, Tertius Lydgate.
The Rev. Edward Casaubon, the clergyman at Lo-wick, near Middlemarch. Casaubon is a gloomy, severe, unimaginative, and unsuccessful scholar who soon destroys Dorothea's enthusiasm. He is so jealous of Dorothea's friendship with his cousin, Will Ladislaw, that he adds a codicil to his will depriving Dorothea of his property should she marry his younger relative.
Will Ladislaw, Casaubon's young cousin, whose English heritage is mixed with alien Polish blood. Ladislaw is forceful, imaginative, energetic, and unconventional. An artist and a liberal, he represents an appropriate object of devotion for Dorothea, although many in Middle-march are shocked by his views. After marrying Dorothea, he becomes a member of Parliament.
Celia Brooke, called Kitty, Dorothea's younger sister, a calm and placid young lady. She has none of Dorothea's aspirations, but a great deal of affection. She marries Sir James Chettam, a staid landowner.
Sir James Chettam, the owner of Freshitt Hall. A conservative gentleman, Sir James loves, first, Dorothea, then Celia, whom he happily weds.
Dr. Tertius Lydgate, a young doctor who comes to Middlemarch to establish a new hospital along progressive lines and to pursue scientific research. His noble career is destroyed by his improvident marriage and consequent debts.
Rosamond Vincy Lydgate, the beautiful, spoiled, and selfish daughter of the mayor of Middlemarch. Once married, she insists on living in a style that her husband, Dr. Lydgate, cannot afford.
Mr. Arthur Brooke, of Tipton Grange, the genial, rambling, and ineffectual uncle of Dorothea and Celia. His vague benevolence leads him to run for Parliament and he is soundly beaten.
Fred Vincy, Rosamond's brother, equally spoiled but less selfish. Although Fred gets into debt as a student and rebels against his family's plans to establish him as a respectable vicar, he later reforms, becomes an industrious farmer, and marries Mary Garth.
Mary Garth, the level-headed, competent daughter of a large, old-fashioned family securely tied to the land. She takes care of her aged, ailing relative, Peter Feath-erstone, before she marries Fred Vincy, her childhood sweetheart.
Mr. Walter Vincy, the mayor of Middlemarch and a prosperous manufacturer. Mr. Vincy, who loves comfort and genial company, is neither wise nor sympathetic in dealing with the problems his children face.
Mrs. Lucy Vincy, his wife, a warm, sentimental woman who spoils her children and has vast pretentions to social gentility. She objects to Fred's relationship with the simple, commonplace Garths.
Mr. Nicholas Bulstrode, the enormously pious, evangelical, wealthy banker of Middlemarch. Bulstrode uses his public morality and his money to control events in Middlemarch; however, the questionable connections and the shady early marriage that built up his fortune are eventually revealed.
Mrs. Harriet Vincy Bulstrode, his wife and the sister of Mayor Vincy. Although she seems to care only for social prestige, she loyally supports her husband after his disgrace.
Peter Featherstone, the wealthy aged owner of Stone Court. He tries to give his fortune to Mary Garth while she is nursing him during his final illness, but she refuses. His capricious will, cutting off all his grasping relatives, brings to Middlemarch strangers who precipitate Bulstrode 's disgrace.
The Rev. Camden Farebrother, the vicar of St. Botolph's, a genial and casual clergyman. An expert whist-player and a friend of Lydgate, he is also, unsuccessfully, in love with Mary Garth.
The Rev. Humphrey Cadwallader, of Freshitt and Tipton, another genial clergyman who is particularly fond of fishing.
Mrs. Elinor Cadwallader, his wife, a talkative woman always acquainted with the latest scandal.
Caleb Garth, Mary's father, a stalwart and honest surveyor, land agent, and unsuccessful builder. He pays Fred Vincy's debts.
Susan Garth, his loyal, devoted wife, who educates her children with scholarly care and insight.
Mrs. Selina Plymdale, a Middlemarch gossip, friendly with the Vincys and the Bulstrodes.
Ned Plymdale, her son, a disappointed suitor of Rosamond Vincy.
Borthrop Trumbull, a florid auctioneer and cousin to old Featherstone.
John Raffles, an old reprobate and blackmailer who enters Middlemarch because he has married the mother of Featherstone's unexpected heir and periodically appears to get money. Just before he dies he reveals Bulstrode's sordid past.
Joshua Rigg, an enigmatic man who inherits Featherstone's house and money. He must adopt Featherstone's name as well.
Mr. Tyke, an evangelical clergyman, supported by Bulstrode and Lydgate for the post of chaplain at the new hospital.
Naumann, a German artist and a friend of Will Ladislaw.
Mrs. Jane Waule, the widowed, avaricious sister of Peter Featherstone.
Solomon Featherstone, her wealthy and equally avaricious brother.
Jonah Featherstone, another of Peter's disappointed brothers.
Mrs. Martha Cranch, a poor sister of Peter Featherstone, also neglected in his will.
Tom Cranch, her unintelligent and unenterprising son.
Ben Garth, the active, athletic son of the Garths.
Letty Garth, the Garths' very bright younger daughter.
Alfred Garth, the son for whose engineering career the Garths are saving the money they use to pay Fred Vincy's debts.
Christy Garth, the Garths' oldest son, who becomes a scholar and tutor.
Mrs. Farebrother, the mother of the Reverend Mr. Camden.
Miss Henrietta Noble, her pious, understanding sister.
Miss Winifred Farebrother, Camden's sister, who idolizes him.
The Dowager Lady Chettam, Sir James's stiff and formal mother.
Arthur Chettam, the child of Sir James and Celia.
Sir Godwin Lydgate, of Quallingham in the north of England, Lydgate's distant and distinguished cousin. Rosamond appeals to him for money, but is denied.
Tantripp, Dorothea's faithful and understanding maid.
Mme. Laure, a French actress whom Lydgate once loved.
Dr. Sprague and Dr. Minchin, conservative Middle-march physicians.
Mr. Wrench, at first physician to the Vincys, replaced by the more competent and progressive Lydgate.
Mr. Standish, the local lawyer who represents Peter Featherstone.
Mr. Mawmsey, a Middlemarch grocer.
Mrs. Mawmsey, his wife, a Middlemarch gossip.
Harry Toller, a local brewer.
Miss Sophy Toller, his daughter, who finally marries Ned Plymdale.
Edwin Larcher, a local businessman.
Mrs. Larcher, his wife, a local gossip.
Mr. Bambridge, a horse dealer who swindles Fred Vincy.
Mr. Horrock, his friend.
Mr. Hawley, a local citizen who frequently comments on people and events.
Mr. Chichely, another local citizen.
Dagley, an insolent farmer on Arthur Brooke's land.
Pinkerton, Mr. Brooke's political opponent in the election for Parliament.

The Story

Dorothea Brooke and her younger sister, Celia, were young women of good birth, who lived with their bachelor uncle at Tipton Grange near the town of Middle-march. So serious was Dorothea's cast of mind that she was reluctant to keep jewelry she had inherited from her dead mother, and she gave all of it to her sister. Upon reconsideration, however, she did keep a ring and bracelet.
At a dinner party where Edward Casaubon, a middle-aged scholar, and Sir James Chettam both vied for her attention, she was much more attracted to the seriousminded Casaubon. Casaubon must have had an inkling that his chances with Dorothea were good; for the next morning, he sought her out. Celia, who did not like his complexion or his moles, escaped to other interests.
That afternoon, Dorothea contemplated the wisdom of the scholar. As she was walking, she encountered Sir James by chance; he was in love with her and mistook her silence for agreement, supposing she might love him in return.
When Casaubon made his proposal of marriage by letter, Dorothea accepted him at once. Mr. Brooke, her uncle, thought Sir James a much better match; Dorothea's acceptance of Casaubon's proposal merely confirmed his bachelor views that women were difficult to understand. He decided not to interfere in her plans, but Celia felt that the event would be more like a funeral than a marriage and frankly said so.
Casaubon took Dorothea, Celia, and Mr. Brooke to see his home so that Dorothea might order any necessary changes. Dorothea intended to defer to Casaubon's tastes in all things and said she would make no changes in the house. During the visit, Dorothea met Will Ladislaw, Casaubon's second cousin, who did not seem in sympathy with his elderly cousin's marriage plans.
While Dorothea and her new husband were traveling in Italy, Tertius Lydgate, an ambitious yet poor young doctor, was meeting pretty Rosamond Vincy, to whom he was much attracted. Fred Vincy, Rosamond's brother, had indicated that he expected to receive a fine inheritance when his uncle, Mr. Featherstone, died. Vincy, meanwhile, was pressed by a debt he was unable to pay.
Lydgate became involved in petty local politics. When the time came to choose a chaplain for the new hospital of which Lydgate was the head, the young doctor realized that it was to his best interest to vote in accordance with the wishes of Nicholas Bulstrode, an influential banker and founder of the hospital. A clergyman named Tyke received the office.
In Rome, Ladislaw encountered Dorothea and her middle-aged husband. Dorothea had begun to realize too late how pompous and incompatible she found Casaubon. Seeing her unhappiness, Ladislaw first pitied and then fell in love with his cousin's wife. Unwilling to live any longer on Casaubon's charity, Ladislaw announced his intention of returning to England and finding some kind of gainful occupation.
When Fred Vincy's note came due, he tried to sell a horse at a profit, but the animal turned out to be vicious. Caleb Garth, who had signed his note, now stood to lose a hundred and ten pounds because of Fred's inability to raise the money. Fred fell ill, and Lydgate was summoned to attend him. Lydgate used his professional calls to further his suit with Rosamond.
Dorothea and her husband returned from Rome in time to hear of Celia's engagement to Sir James Chettam. Will Ladislaw included a note to Dorothea in a letter he wrote to Casaubon. This attention precipitated a quarrel that was followed by Casaubon's serious illness. Lydgate, who attended him, urged him to give up his studies for the present time. Lydgate confided to Dorothea that Casaubon had a weak heart and must be guarded from all excitement.
Meanwhile, all the relatives of old Mr. Featherstone were waiting impatiently for his death, but he hoped to circumvent their desires by giving his fortune to Mary Garth, daughter of the man who had signed Fred Vincy's note. When she refused it, he fell into a rage and died soon afterward. When his will was read, it was learned he had left nothing to his relatives; most of his money was to go to Joshua Riggs, who was to take the name of Featherstone, and a part of his fortune was to endow the Featherstone Almshouses for old men.
Plans were made for Rosamond's marriage with Lydgate. Fred Vincy was ordered to prepare himself finally for the ministry, since he was to have no inheritance from his uncle. Mr. Brooke had gone into politics; he now enlisted the help of Ladislaw in publishing a liberal paper. Mr. Casaubon had come to dislike Ladislaw intensely after his cousin had rejected further financial assistance, and he had forbidden Ladislaw to enter his house.
Casaubon died suddenly. A codicil to his will gave Dorothea all of his property as long as she did not marry Ladislaw. This strange provision caused Dorothea's friends and relatives some concern because, if publicly revealed, it would appear that Dorothea and Ladislaw had been indiscreet.
Upon the advice of his Tory friends, Mr. Brooke gave up his liberal newspaper and thus cut off his connection with Ladislaw. Ladislaw realized that Dorothea's family was in some way trying to separate him from Dorothea, but he refused to be disconcerted about the matter. He resolved to stay on in Middlemarch until he was ready to leave. When he heard of the codicil to Casaubon's will, he was more than ever determined to remain so that he could eventually disprove the suspicions of the village concerning him and Dorothea.
Meanwhile, Lydgate and Rosamond had married, and the doctor had gone deeply in debt to furnish his house. When he found that his income did not meet his wife's spendthrift habits, he asked her to help him economize. He and his wife began to quarrel. His practice and popularity decreased.
A disreputable man named Raffles appeared in Middlemarch. Raffles knew that Ladislaw's grandfather had amassed a fortune as a receiver of stolen goods and that Nicholas Bulstrode, the highly respected banker, had once been the confidential clerk of Ladislaw's ancestor. More than that, Bulstrode's first wife had been his employer's widow. Upon money inherited from her, money that should have gone to Ladislaw's mother, Bulstrode had built his own fortune.
Bulstrode already had been blackmailed by Raffles, and he reasoned that the scoundrel would tell Ladislaw the whole story. To forestall trouble, he sent for Ladislaw and offered him an annuity of five hundred pounds and liberal provision in his will. Ladislaw, feeling that his relatives had already tainted his honor, refused; he was unwilling to be associated in any way with the unsavory business. Ladislaw decided to leave Middlemarch and went to London without the assurance that Dorothea loved him.
Lydgate drifted deeper into debt. When he wished to sell what he could and take cheaper lodgings, Rosamond managed to make him hold on, to keep up the pretense of prosperity a little longer. At the same time, Bulstrode gave up his interest in the new hospital and withdrew his financial support.
Faced at last with the seizure of his goods, Lydgate went to Bulstrode and asked for a loan. The banker advised him to seek aid from Dorothea and abruptly ended the conversation; but when Raffles, in the last stages of alcoholism, returned to Middlemarch and Lydgate was called in to attend him, Bulstrode, afraid the doctor would learn the banker's secret from Raffles' drunken ravings, changed his mind and gave Lydgate a check for a thousand pounds. The loan came in time to save Lydgate's goods and reputation. When Raffles died, Bulstrode felt at peace at last. Nevertheless, it soon became common gossip that Bulstrode had given money to Lydgate and that Lydgate had attended Raffles in his final illness. Bulstrode and Lydgate were publicly accused of malpractice in Raffles' death. Only Dorothea took up Lydgate's defense. The rest of the town was busy with gossip over the affair. Rosamond was anxious to leave Middlemarch to avoid public disgrace. Bulstrode also was anxious to leave town after his secret, which Raffles had told while drunk in a neighboring village, became known; but he became ill, and his doctors would not permit him to leave his bed.
Sympathetic with Lydgate, Dorothea was determined to give her support to the hospital and to try to convince Rosamond that the only way Lydgate could recover his honor was by remaining in Middlemarch. Unfortunately, she came upon Will Ladislaw, to whom poor Rosamond was pouring out her grief. Dorothea was afraid that Rosamond was involved with Ladislaw, and she left abruptly. Angered at the false position Rosamond had put him in, Ladislaw explained that he had always loved Dorothea, but from a distance. When Dorothea forced herself to return to Lydgate's house on the following morning, Rosamond told her of Ladislaw's declaration. Dorothea realized she was willing to give up Casaubon's fortune for Ladislaw's affection.
Despite the protests of her family and friends, they were married several weeks later and went to London to live. Lydgate and Rosamond lived together with better understanding and prospects of a happier future. Fred Vincy became engaged to Mary Garth, with whom he had long been in love. For a time, Dorothea's family disregarded her. but they were finally reconciled after Dorothea's son was born and Ladislaw was elected to Parliament.

Critical Evaluation

Modestly subtitled "A Study of Provincial Life," George Eliot's Middlemarch has long been recognized as a work of great psychological and moral penetration. Indeed, the novel has been compared with Tolstoy's War and Peace and Thackeray's Vanity Fair for its nearly epic sweep and its perspective of early nineteenth century history. These comparisons, however, are partly faulty. Unlike War and Peace, Middlemarch lacks a philosophical bias, a grand Weltanschauung that oversees the destinies of nations and generations. Unlike Vanity Fair, Eliot's novel is not neatly moralistic. In fact, much of Middlemarch is morally ambiguous in the modern sense of the term. Eliot's concept of plot and character derives from psychological rather than philosophical or social necessity. This is another way of saying that Middlemarch despite its Victorian trappings of complicated plot and subplot, its slow development of character, its accumulated detail concerning time and place, its social density is—in many other respects—a "modern" novel that disturbs as well as comforts the reader.
At the height of her powers, Eliot published Middle-march in eight books, from December 1871 to December 1872, eight years before her death. She had already achieved a major reputation with Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Silas Marner (1861). Nevertheless, her most recent fiction, Felix Holt, Radical (1866) and The Spanish Gypsy (1868), both inferior to her best writing, had disappointed her public. Middle-march, however, was received with considerable excitement and critical acclaim. Eliot's publisher. Blackwood, was so caught up with the action as he received chapters of her novel by mail that he wrote back to her asking questions about the fates of the characters as though they were real people with real histories. Eliot, in fact, researched the material for her novel scrupulously. Her discussion of the social climate in rural England directly before the passage of the Reform Bill of 1832 is convincingly detailed; she accurately describes the state of medical knowledge during Lydgate's time; and she treats the dress, habits, and speech of Middlemarch impeccably, creating the metaphor of a complete world, a piece of provincial England that is a microcosm of the greater world beyond.
The theme of the novel itself, however, revolves around the slenderest of threads: the mating of "unimportant" people. This theme, which engages the talents of other great writers as well—such as Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, D. H. Lawrence—allows Eliot the scope to examine the whole range of human nature. She is concerned with the mating of lovers, because they are most vulnerable in love, most nearly the victims of their romantic illusions. Each of the three sets of lovers in Middlemarch—Dorothea Brooke/Edward Casaubon/Will Ladislaw; Rosamond Vincy/Tertius Lydgate; and Mary Garth/Fred Vincy—mistakes illusion for reality. Eventually, all come to understand themselves better, whether or not they are completely reconciled with their mates. Each undergoes a sentimental education, a discipline of the spirit that teaches the heart its limitations.
The greater capacity Eliot's characters have for romantic self-deception, the greater their suffering and subsequent tempering of spirit. Mary Garth—plain, witty, honest—is too sensible to arouse the reader's psychological curiosity to the same degree that one is interested in the proud Dorothea, rash Ladislaw, pathetic Casaubon, ambitious Lydgate, or pampered Rosamond. Mary loves simply, directly. Fred, her childhood sweetheart, is basically a good lad who must learn the lessons of thrift and perseverance from his own misfortunes. He "falls" in class, from the status of an idle landowner to that of a decent but socially inferior manager of property. In truth, what he seems to lose in social prominence he more than recovers in the development of his moral character. Moreover, he wins as a mate the industrious Mary, who will strengthen his resolve and make of him an admirable provider like her father Caleb.
Dorothea, on the other hand, more idealistic and noble-hearted than Mary, chooses the worst possible mate as her first husband. Edward Casaubon, thirty years her senior, is a dull pedant, cold, hopelessly ineffectual as a scholar, absurd as a lover. Despite his intellectual pretensions, he is too timid, fussy, and dispirited ever to complete his masterwork, "A Key to All Mythologies." Even the title of his project is an absurdity. He conceals as long as possible his "key" from Dorothea, fearing that she will expose him as a sham. Nevertheless, it is possible that she might have endured the disgrace of her misplaced affection were Casaubon only more tender, reciprocating her own tenderness and self-sacrifice; but Casaubon, despotic to the last, tries to blight her spirit when he is alive and, through his will, to restrict her freedom when he is dead.
Dorothea's second choice of a mate, Will Ladislaw, is very nearly the opposite of Casaubon. A rash, sometimes hypersensitive lover, he is capable of intense affection, above all of self-sacrifice. He is a worthy suitor for Dorothea, who finds greatness in his ardor if not his accomplishments; yet Will, allowing for his greater vitality, is after all a logical successor to Casaubon. Dorothea had favored the elderly scholar because he was unworldly, despised by the common herd. In her imagination, he seemed a saint of intellect. In time, she comes to favor Will because he is also despised by most of the petty-minded bigots of Middlemarch, because he has suffered from injustice, and because he seems to her a saint of integrity. A Victorian St. Theresa, Dorothea is passive, great in aspiration rather than deed. Psychologically, Dorothea requires a great object for her own self-sacrifice and therefore she chooses a destiny that will allow her the fullest measure of heroism.
Quite the opposite, Tertius Lydgate is a calculating, vigorous, and ambitious young physician who attempts to move others to his own iron will. His aggressive energy contrasts with Dorothea's passiveness. Like her, however, he is a victim of romantic illusion. He believes that he can master, through his intelligence and determination, those who possess power. Nevertheless, his choice of a mate, Rosamond Vincy, is a disastrous miscalculation. Rosamond's fragile beauty conceals a petulant, selfish will equal to his own. She dominates him through her own weakness rather than strength of character. Insensitive except to her own needs, she offers no scope for Lydgate's sensitive intelligence. In his frustration, he can only battle with himself. He comes to realize that he is defeated not only in his dreams of domestic happiness but also in his essential judgment of the uses of power.
For Eliot, moral choice does not exist in a vacuum; it requires an encounter with power. To even the least sophisticated dwellers in Middlemarch, power is represented by wealth and status. As the widow Mrs. Casaubon, Dorothea depends upon her personal and inherited fortune for social prestige. When she casts aside her estate under Casaubon's will to marry Ladislaw, she also loses a great measure of status. At the same time, she acquires moral integrity, a superior virtue for Eliot. Similarly, when Mary Garth rejects Mr. Featherstone's dying proposition to seize his wealth before his relatives make a shambles of his will, she chooses morally, justly, and comes to deserve the happiness that she eventually wins. Lydgate, whose moral choices are most nearly ambiguous, returns Bulstrode's bribe to save himself from a social embarrassment, but his guilt runs deeper than mere miscalculation. He has associated himself, first through his choice of Tyke instead of the worthier Farebrother as vicar, with Bulstrode's manipulation of power. Lydgate's moral defeat is partial, for at least he understands the extent of his compromise with integrity. Bulstrode's defeat is total, for he loses both wealth and social standing. As for Middlemarch, that community of souls is a small world, populated with people of good will and bad, mean spirits and fine, and is the collective agent of moral will. After all, it is the town that endures, the final arbiter of moral judgment in a less than perfect world.


Type of work: Poem
Author: T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)
First published: 1922

By the time T. S. Eliot startled the literary world with the publication of The Waste Land in The Criterion and The Dial (1922), he had already achieved considerable recognition as an innovative and prolific essayist and reviewer and a highly original poet of considerable depth and complexity. His earlier poems, particularly "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1917), "Portrait of a Lady" (1917), and "Gerontion" (1920), contain arresting images, dramatic situations and monologues, highly allusive language, and linguistic virtuosity reminiscent of the work of John Donne and Robert Browning. They also serve as preludes to the most famous poem of the twentieth century, one which has engendered more commentaries, exegeses, and speculations than any other, The Waste Land. Indeed, Eliot considered "Gerontion" to be a prologue to the longer work. It is useful, then, for readers coming to Eliot's work for the first time to read The Waste Land in the context of his earlier poetry, since those poems contain the seeds of the later work and, in many respects, introduce it. Thematically, they anticipate The Waste Land's examination of aridity, the burden of history, the use of memory (personal history), a larger economy of spiritual dimensions, the problems raised by sexuality and love, and the quest to find meaning by ordering and reordering personal, historical, and mythic experience. Technically, they are of a piece with it in that they employ a stream of consciousness centered in various characters, an approach that owes much to Eliot's admiration for French Symbolist poetry, especially the poetry of Jules Laforgue and others he had found revealed to him in Arthur Symons' The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899).
The Waste Land is a series of five poems that together form one poem. Each is separable, but all are joined together by the vision of the blind Tiresias, into whom Gerontion (the little old man) has been transformed. When he published the poem in book form, also in 1922, Eliot added some fifty notes to it, only some of which are helpful to reading the poem as a poem rather than as a compendium of literary and cultural allusions. One note (to line 218) helps readers to focus on the unified nature of the work by claiming that "what Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem." Tiresias, he has noted, is the poem's "most important personage, uniting all the rest." The male characters, he suggests, melt into each other and are not wholly distinct from each other; likewise, " all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias," the androgynous seer. Following Eliot's clue, the reader may enter into the vision of the ancient Theban, his vision of the future which is the poet's present and, now, the reader's present and past. The vision is both temporal and timeless, linked to the post-World War I era of disillusion and transcending it in its universality and visionary quality.
This latter, dreamlike aspect is important to bear in mind when attempting to make sense of one's own experience of the poem. If one considers the work as a Symbolist poem, many of its historical and cultural elements diminish in importance. The archetypal elements of infertility, the barren land and the sterile sexuality, ritual death and rebirth are played out symbolically within the dreamscape in fragmented fashion. Indeed, a key to understanding the nature of the poem lies near its end (line 431): "These fragments I have shored against my ruins." The fragments of speech, action, thought, and emotion are the very words of the poem, shored up against the ruins of culture or of an individual sense of its dilapidation the reader is invited to share.
The poem's title, epigraph, and dedication merit attention. The Waste Land is a phrase common to the varied medieval tellings of the Grail Quest, a tale rooted in earlier myths of Indo-European culture. The land is a waste as a result of some grievous wrong that can be righted only by a naive and sometimes reluctant adventurer (reader), who must ask the right question of its wounded ruler, the Fisher King, to free the land from its curse. Eliot refers to Jessie L. Weston's From Ritual to Romance (1920) as a clue to understanding the poem's title and to Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough (1890-1915) for its detailed study of vegetation myths and rituals. The epigraph, in Latin and Greek, about the Cumean Sibyl, a seer who was granted immortality but not eternal youth, points to the necessity of inquiry (the boy asks what the Sibyl wants), the impossibility of her wish (to die), and the prophetic nature of the poem. The dedication, to Ezra Pound, "the better craftsman," directs the reader to Pound's poetry as a way of thanking the poet who "discovered" Eliot in 1914 and who had a principal hand in editing the poem. More important, the dedication points to Pound's innovative work as a context for reading and thinking about Eliot's poem. Thus, before reading the first line of the poem the reader is conditioned to think of ancient myths and modernist poetry.
Part 1, "The Burial of the Dead," presents the reader with a perplexing wealth of images, allusions in English, German, and French, the arcana of the Tarot, and varied voices mixing memory and desire in the paradoxical season of rebirth in which burial is remembered and reenacted. The speakers range from Marie to a biblical seer to Madame Sosostris, "famous clairvoyante," to Stetson and his acquaintance. The profusion of images, particularly those of water, vegetation, growth, aridity, decay, decomposition, and rebirth, imitates dream sequences and promotes a confusion of time and place, of incidents and meanings. Part 1 also foreshadows events of subsequent sections (such as the heap of broken images and death by water) and instills in the reader a disquietude. Familiar acts such as the rush-hour walk over London Bridge take on an aspect of Dantean menace, and the commonplace errand of delivering a horoscope becomes a dangerous business: "One must be so careful these days." Its concluding line, from Charles Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil, serves to startle the reader, now directly addressed as a reader who is both hypocrite and brother, into a sharp and eager observation and reflection on the lines preceding it. The keynotes of the section, as Bernard Bergonzi has observed, are movement in time across day, season, year, and centuries, and change from youth to age, from motion to stillness in death, and reluctant rebirth. These give the reader an emotional sense of the poem but not necessarily a rational sense of logical connections between the stanzas or verse paragraphs.
"A Game of Chess" (part 2) continues to meld the mythic with the banal, joining the story of Philomel and the tale of Lil, both of which involve unsatisfactory sexuality, while the entire sequence presents a disenchantment with worldly experience at both ends of the social spectrum. The sequence opens with evocations of royalty in the richly ornate, overwrought boudoir and proceeds to depict the emptiness of luxury and the means by which the speakers choose to while away their time. The scene shifts from mindless opulence to a gossipy late evening in a pub at closing time. Here one learns of Albert and Lil in a catty postwar monologue punctuated by the barman's call, which, for want of an apostrophe, becomes a plea for the advent of some long-awaited event: "HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME."
The title of the poem's third part, "The Fire Sermon," refers to a refining fire of purgation. This section introduces Tiresias as one among many voices, including those of the Fisher King, the three Thames-daughters, Saint Augustine, and the Buddha. The ordinary but sordid sexual encounters along the Thames, in a flat, in a canoe, in the heralded tryst of Sweeney and Mrs. Porter, and in Mr. Engenides' proposition conspire to equate sexuality with seaminess and to present it as a mindless and emotionless, automatic and animal impulse. Over against this view of the body is the exaltation of the soul, as Eastern and Western spirituality join at the end of the sequence in a burning away of the physical to free the spirit. As the omniscient narrator who foresees all, Tiresias subsumes the other voices; thus the unifying technique of the poem begins to work.
In the briefest, ten-line part of the poem, part 4, "Death by Water," the reader considers the drowned Phlebas the Phoenician and recalls the cards dealt by Madame Sosostris earlier with the warning to "fear death by water" (line 55). Phlebas serves as an appropriate memento mori and possibly as something of a model in the liberation of the soul: Two weeks dead, he "forgot" the usual concerns as he passed, in reverse, "the stages of his age and youth" and entered the whirlpool. In counterpoint to the burning of "The Fire Sermon," here "a current under sea/ Picked his bones in whispers" as water becomes a cleansing agent.
In part 5, "What the Thunder Said," the waste land, still parched, is haunted by a "dry sterile thunder without rain" until "a damp gust/ Bringing rain" arrives. The thunder speaks in the words of the Upanishads, "datta, dayadhvam, damyata" (give, sympathize, control). The thunder's words bring revitalizing rain and a wisdom that allows for the possibility of revivification. As Eliot had blended the journey of Jesus' disheartened disciples to Emmaus, the approach to the Chapel Perilous, and "the present decay of eastern Europe" in the beginning of this final part of the poem, so he introduces a more ancient spiritual element to begin to change the present state of spiritual decay and to retrieve the land from waste. How he does so is, characteristically, with words, words the thunder speaks, words presumably still reported by Tiresias, words the poet, after all, writes. The quest for spiritual health is, the poem suggests, achieved through the recovery of artistic wholeness.
Elsewhere, Eliot has written about seeing the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end. At the end of The Waste Land, one finds the possibility for beginning the poem anew, for reading it anew with the knowledge gleaned from Tiresias and with a sense of direction. In the last stanza, for example, the Fisher King, no longer fishing in the dull canal behind the gashouse as he did in part 3, has the arid plain behind him and is fishing on the shore. He poses himself a healing question that seems to precipitate a multivocal and multilingual chorus in the poem's concluding lines. If the Fisher King can contemplate "at least" setting his lands in order, this notion implies his ability to do so, and the words of the thunder seem to have had some effect. Immediately after the question is posed, as is so often the case in the Grail Quest narratives, the king and the land revive. The next line of the poem borrows from the children's nursery rhyme "London Bridge Is Falling Down" and heralds the destruction of the pathway to the burial of the dead (part 1). It is followed by a citation from Dante's Purgatory in which the lustful Arnaut Daniel leaps voluntarily into the refining fire (possibly glossing "The Fire Sermon"). Next, a phrase from the poem Pervigliam Veneris and the song of the nightingale (which in the Latin poem sadly silences the speaker) serve to recall Philomel (parts 1 and 2). An allusion to Gerard de Nerval's "El desdichado" suggests yet another approach to yet another tower, reinforcing the quest motif. The line that follows, as already noted, highlights the poet's act of shoring up verbal fragments against his ruins, just as the Fisher King shores up fragments to set his lands in order and Tiresias shores up fragmented visions into a continuous discourse. Eliot's citation from Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy may also be self-referential, since the mad Hieronymo proposes to "fit" together a play using poetic fragments in several languages. The penultimate line's repetition of what the thunder said reinforces the ostensibly salvific effect of these words, since the poem concludes with the repetition of "Shantih"—the formal ending, Eliot's note explains, to an Upanishad, equivalent to the phrase "the peace which passeth understanding." The journey from the crudest month to this peace, while foreseen by Tiresias, is one which the reader may wish to undertake again with Tiresias as guide.
Eliot's mastery of the Symbolist poem and his virtuosity in the use of language mark The Waste Land as a singular achievement in English poetry of the twentieth century. His multiple allusions, suggesting a place in world literature and cultural traditions for his work, serve to make it, indeed, part of those traditions while adding to them. As is the case with the best poetry, The Waste Land is a poem to which readers return, to contemplate and to find a newly familiar voice of considerable relevance to succeeding generations.





The Waste Land




      I The Burial of the Dead


      April is the cruelest 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*          [A lake near Munich]
      With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade
      And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten*,                            [A park in Munich]
      And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
      Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.*      ['I am not Russian at all,
      And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke's,         [I am a German from
      My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,                                          [Lithuania']
      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 winter.


      What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
      Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
      You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
      A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
      And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
      And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
      There is shadow under this red rock
      (Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
      And I will show you something different from either
      Your shadow at morning striding behind you
      Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
      I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
      Frisch weht der Wind*                              ['fresh blows the breeze from the homeland']
      Der heimat zu
      Mein Irisch kind,*                                      ['my Irish child, why do you wait?']
      Wo weilest du?
      "You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;"
      "They called me the hyacinth girl."
      --Yet when we came back, late, from the hyacinth garden,
      Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
      Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
      Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
      Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
      Oed' und leer das Meer.                                       ['waste and empty is the sea']


      Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
      Has a bad cold, nevertheless
      Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
      With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
      Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor.
      (Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
      Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
      The lady of situations.
      Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
      And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
      Which is blank, is something that he carries on his back,
      Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
      The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
      I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
      Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
      Tell her I bring the horoscope myself;
      One must be so careful these days.


      Unreal City
      Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
      A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
      I had not thought death had undone so many.
      Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
      And each man fixed his eyes before his feet,
      Flowed up the hill and down King William Street
      To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
      With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
      There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying, "Stetson!
      You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
      That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
      Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
      Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
      Oh keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men,
      Or with his nails he'll dig it up again!
      You! hypocrite lecteur!--mon semblable!--mon frиre!"


      II. A Game of Chess


      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 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 fattening the prolonged candle-flames,
      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 carved dolphin swam.
      Above the antique mantle 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 world 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
      Where the dead men lost their bones.


      "What is that noise?"
                      The wind under the door.
      "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.


      "Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?"
      O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag--
      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,
      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*                                           [British call-out at pub 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.
      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?
      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--
      Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.
      Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
      Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.


      III. The Fire Sermon


      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.
      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 . . .
      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
      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 sat 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.
      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
      The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring
      Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring.
      O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter
      And on her daughter
      They wash their feet in soda water
      Et O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole!

          ['And oh, the voices of the children singing in the dome!']
      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
      C.i.f. London: documents at sight,
      Asked me in demotic* French                            [vulgar]
      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,
      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,
      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 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 a 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
      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
      Paces about her room again, alone,
      She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
      And puts a record on the gramophone.


      "The music crept by me upon the waters",
      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 mandoline
      And a clatter and a chatter from within
      Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
      Of Magnus Martyr hold
      Inexplicable splendor of Ionian white and gold.


                The river sweats
                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
                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
                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


                Burning burning burning burning
                O Lord thou pluckest me out
                O Lord thou pluckest





      IV. Death by Water


      Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
      Forgot the cry of gulls, 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.
                                              Gentile or Jew
      O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
      Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.


      V. What the Thunder Said


      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
      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
      Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
      But here there is no water


      Who is the third who walks always beside you?
      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 wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
      I do not know whether a man or a woman
      --But who is that on the other side of you?


      What is that sound high in the air
      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 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.
      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
      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
      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
      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 his prison
      Only at nightfall, aethereal 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
      Shall I at least set my lands in order?
      London bridge is falling down falling down falling down
      Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina
      Quando fiam uti chelidon--O swallow swallow
      Le prince d'Aquitaine a la tour abolie
      These fragments I have shored against my ruins
      Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.
      Da. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
                               Shantih    shantih    shantih





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