The Waste Land, Part 1

Some of us have been discussing this poem. I was thinking it would be a good idea to discuss it further here.

I will post one part at a time, and then we can discuss the whole poem at the end.


April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing  
Memory and desire, stirring  
Dull roots with spring rain.  
Winter kept us warm, covering          5
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding  
A little life with dried tubers.  
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee  
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,  
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,   10
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.  
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.  
And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,  
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,  
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,   15
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.  
In the mountains, there you feel free.  
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.  
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow  
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,   20
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,   25
(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.   30
                Frisch weht der Wind  
                Der Heimat zu.  
                Mein Irisch Kind,  
                Wo weilest du?  
‘You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;   35
‘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,   40
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.  
Od’ und leer das Meer.  
Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,  
Had a bad cold, nevertheless  
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,   45
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.   50
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,  
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,  
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,  
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find  
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.   55
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,   60
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.   65
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!   70
‘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!   75
‘You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!’


  1. Neoclassical said,

    July 18, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    Some observations:

    Clearly there’s something going on with water and dryness, and the water is not always seen as good.

    There are grotesque things under the earth or things that people want hidden.

    There’s much reminiscing.

    The whole poem is intricately connected to Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

    The Son of Man speech is connected to the prophet Ezekiel and the passage of the dry bones.


    What does the water represent (especially death by water)?
    What is being buried and why?
    What does I will show you fear in a handful of dust mean?
    Why does the author say unreal city?

  2. Neoclassical said,

    July 19, 2006 at 7:57 am

    Would be a good idea.

    Do you want to do it?

    I was thinking of at least finding Eliot’s notes and adding them, but I haven’t had a chance to do it.

  3. Joel said,

    July 19, 2006 at 8:24 am

    They’ve done it.

  4. Neoclassical said,

    July 19, 2006 at 8:28 am


    Then let’s just refer people there.

  5. lilrabbi said,

    July 23, 2006 at 9:41 pm


    I bought a little book by Harold Bloom this week, “How to read Poetry” (or something like that). I was expecting good explanations of poetry in general, but in the first two chapters he refers much to Barfield and Eliot. It was helpful. He used Eliot to make his point about ‘poetic memory’ (or whatever he called it, I can’t remember exactly!). I’ve read the wasteland. I won’t even pun that I felt like I was in a wasteland without food or drink and no companions and no directions. Anyway, thanks for the link to the hyperlinked text!

  6. Neoclassical said,

    July 24, 2006 at 8:02 am


    Now we will expect you to make excellent comments in response to the questions presented above.

  7. lilrabbi said,

    July 24, 2006 at 9:43 pm

    me and my big mouth!

  8. Neoclassical said,

    July 25, 2006 at 8:06 am

    Why are so hesitant to comment?

  9. Neoclassical said,

    July 26, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    Does anyone think that this comment might be accurate?

    The Starnbergersee, a lake near Munich, is mentioned on line 8. This line could possibly be an allusion to an event that occurred there 13 June, 1886. King Ludwig II of Bavaria, a homosexual, and a companion were drowned here under mysterious circumstances ( see line 55 ).

  10. lilrabbi said,

    July 27, 2006 at 7:40 pm

    It makes more sense than what I had come up with!

  11. lilrabbi said,

    July 27, 2006 at 7:45 pm

    My wife is helping me understand it. I may get into this thing yet!

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