"They called me the hyacinth girl."

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

Meaning

The hyacinth is associated with male homosexuality, which makes the combination of hyacinth and girl intriguing. In Greek mythology, Hyacinth was beautiful young boy and Apollo’s beloved. One day while they were playing discuss, Hyacinthus was accidentally struck by the disc (there are different accounts of why) and died. However, to keep his beloved from fully dying, Apollo turned him into the flowers that now bear his name. The flowers are also just associated with death and mourning.

In drafts of The Waste Land, the hyacinth garden is linked with the drowned Phoenician sailor (see section IV):

“Do you know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
Nothing?”

I remember
The hyacinth garden. Those are pearls that were his eyes, yes! [Boldfaced words omitted in final version]

The sailor, in turn, has been linked by some critics/biographers (first by John Peter in a controversial 1952 essay) with Eliot’s friend Jean Verdenal, who died in World War I. Eliot had dedicated his first volume of poetry, Prufrock and Other Observations, to Verdenal and added a Dante quotation beneath the dedication in the 1925 edition:

Now can you understand the quantity of love that warms me towards you, so that I forget our vanity, and treat the shadows like the solid thing.

In other words, there’s a line of criticism that views The Waste Land as in part an elegy for the poet’s dead male friend, and reads a homoerotic charge into the “hyacinth girl” passage.

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