He took me out on a sled
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.

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

Meaning

The speaker here is female: one of many different “voices” that break into the text. The Waste Land does not have a single speaker, but is instead a collage of voices (Eliot’s original title for the poem was He Do the Police in Different Voices, an allusion to a character in Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend who acts out newspaper crime reports). It’s unclear how much of this first stanza, or first section, “Marie” speaks.

In these lines Eliot evokes the mixed feelings of a child who enjoys riding fast on a sled but is also frightened by the experience. Her cousin encourages her to overcome her fear. The “rush” of sledding downhill may have quasi-sexual overtones; compare the sledding scene in Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome (which definitely has sexual overtones).

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