A woman drew her long black hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings

from T.S. Eliot – The Waste Land on Rap Genius

Meaning

Combing your hair can produce some funky, whispery tones.

This woman recalls the siren Lorelei, who by combing her hair causes ships to crash, and perhaps also Belladonna from Part II.

Eliot seems to have been slightly fixated on women’s hair: it’s mentioned over and over in his poetry. (In John Milton’s, too, actually. Harold Bloom: “Even in old age, I continue a lifelong habit of quoting to myself those deliciously erotic lines in which Milton’s fascination with women’s hair is immortalized…”) As in Milton, the image always carries an erotic charge; but as with the figure of Lorelei, the eroticism is always ambiguous and unsettling. Compare “La Figlia Che Piange”:

Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair—
Clasp your flowers to you with a pained surprise—
Fling them to the ground and turn
With a fugitive resentment in your eyes:
But weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.

Or “Prufrock” (where actually the image is of body hair):

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare,
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?

Or two earlier moments in The Waste Land—the Hyacinth girl description and this passage:

Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair
Spread out in fiery points
Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.

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