H O M E

The Waste Land
by T.S. Eliot

(1922)


  1. I. The Burial of the Dead
  2. II. A Game of Chess
  3. III. The Fire Sermon
  4. IV. Death by Water
  5. V. What the Thunder Said

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T.S. Eliot
The Waste Land




by T.S. Eliot

(1922)

. The Waste Land

    [Eliot's poem is prefaced by a quote from the 1st century A.D. Satyricon of Petronius] in Greek and Latin. It translates roughly as "I saw with my own eyes the Sibyl at Cumae hanging in a cage, and when the boys said to her 'Sibyl, what do you want?' that one replied 'I want to die'. --Steve]

    For Ezra Pound,
    il miglior fabbro.          [the better craftsman]

    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, I am
    And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke's,        a German from Lithuania']
    My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
    And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
    Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
    In the mountains, there you feel free.
    I read, much of the night, and go south in 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 wind to the homeland']
    Der heimat zu
    Mein Irisch kind,*                        ['my Irish child, where do you linger?']
    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 frère!"


    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.
                                            "Do
    "You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
    "Nothing?"

       I remember
    Those are pearls that were his eyes.

    "Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?"
                                    But
    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.
    HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME
    If you don't like it you can get on with it, I said.
    Others can pick and choose if you can't.
    But if Albert makes off, it won't be for lack of telling.
    You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
    (And her only thirty-one.)
    I can't help it, she said, pulling a long face,
    It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
    (She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.)
    The chemist said it would be all right, but I've never been the same.
    You are a proper fool, I said.
    Well, if Albert won't leave you alone, there it is, I said.
    What you get married for if you don't want children?
    HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME
    Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,
    And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot--
    HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME
    HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME
    Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.
    Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
    Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.


    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
    Tereu

    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, common]
    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
              Wide
              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
              Nothing."
                            la la

              To Carthage then I came

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

              burning


    IV. A 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
    Unreal

    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
    DA
    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
    DA
    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
    DA
    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.          [from a Hindu fable: 'Give, have compassion, have self control']
                             Shantih    shantih    shantih          [from a Hindu mantra: 'Peace...peace...peace']

    T. S. Eliot



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Poets' Corner Scripting © 1999,2009 S.L. Spanoudis and theotherpages.org.
All rights reserved worldwide.