Lilacs out of the dead land,
The lilac appears in many spring poems, perhaps most famously in “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d,” which Walt Whitman wrote as a eulogy to president Lincoln (murdered in April 1865). “The dead land” refers to the barren winter, but also to the cultural wasteland that Eliot will go on to evoke.
Bob Dylan seems to endorse the lilacs-Whitman connection in a riff on the opening of The Waste Land from his “Theme Time Radio Hour”:
The former WWI battlefields of France had a gorgeous bloom in 1919-20 and farms had very prosperous harvests. The land had been “fertilized” with the men who died there during the war. Hence, lilacs out of the dead land.
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