T.S. Eliot – Notes on "The Waste Land"

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Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston's book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance (Macmillan). Indeed, so deeply am I indebted, Miss Weston's book will elucidate the difficulties of the poem much better than my notes can do; and I recommend it (apart from the great interest of the book itself) to any who think such elucidation of the poem worth the trouble. To another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognize in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies.

I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD
Line 20 Cf. Ezekiel 2:7
23. Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:5
31. V. Tristan und Isolde, i, verses 5–8
42. Id. iii, verse 24
46. I am not familiar with the exact constitution of the Tarot pack of cards, from which I have obviously departed to suit my own convenience. The Hanged Man, a member of the traditional pack, fits my purpose in two ways: because he is associated in my mind with the Hanged God of Frazer, and because I associate him with the hooded figure in the passage of the disciples to Emmaus in Part V. The Phoenician Sailor and the Merchant appear later; also the 'crowds of people', and Death by Water is executed in Part IV. The Man with Three Staves (an authentic member of the Tarot pack) I associate, quite arbitrarily, with the Fisher King himself.
60. Cf. Baudelaire:
'Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves
Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant.'

63. Cf. Inferno, iii. 55–7:
Si lunga tratta
Di gente, ch'io non avrei mai creduto
Che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta

64. Cf. Inferno, iv. 25–27:
Quivi, secondo che per ascoltare
Non avea pianto, ma' che di sospiri
Che l'aura eterna facevan tremare

68. A phenomenon which I have often noticed
74. Cf. the Dirge in Webster's White Devil
76. V. Baudelaire, Preface to Fleurs du Mal

II. A GAME OF CHESS
77. Cf. Antony and Cleopatra, II. ii. 190
92. Laquearia. V. Aeneid, I. 726:
Dependent lychni laquearibus aureis incensi, et noctem flammis funalia vincunt

98. Sylvan scene. V. Milton, Paradise Lost, iv. 140
99. V. Ovid, Metamorphoses, vi, Philomela
100. Cf. Part III, l. 204
115. Cf. Part III, l. 195
118. Cf. Webster: 'Is the wind in that door still?'
126. Cf. 176. V. Spenser, Prothalamion I, l. 37, 48
138. Cf. the game of chess in Middleton's Women beware Women

III. THE FIRE SERMON
176. V. Spenser, Prothalamion
192. Cf. The Tempest, I. ii
196. Cf. Marvell, To His Coy Mistress
197. Cf. Day, Parliament of Bees:
When of the sudden, listening, you shall hear
A noise of horns and hunting, which shall bring
Actaeon to Diana in the spring
Where all shall see her naked skin...

199. I do not know the origin of the ballad from which these lines are taken: it was reported to me from Sydney, Australia.
202. V. Verlaine, Parsifal
210. The currants were quoted at a price 'carriage and insurance free to London'; and the Bill of Lading, etc., were to be handed to the buyer upon payment of the sight draft
218. Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a 'character', is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem. The whole passage from Ovid is of great anthropological interest:
...Cum Iunone iocos et 'maior vestra profecto est
Quam, quae contingit maribus', dixisse, 'voluptas.'
Illa negat; placuit quae sit sententia docti
Quaerere Tiresiae: venus huic erat utraque nota
Nam duo magnorum viridi coeuntia silva
Corpora serpentum baculi violaverat ictu
Deque viro factus, mirabile, femina septem
Egerat autumnos; octavo rursus eosdem
Vidit et 'est vestrae si tanta potentia plagae'
Dixit 'ut auctoris sortem in contraria mutet
Nunc quoque vos feriam!' percussis anguibus isdem
Forma prior rediit genetivaque venit imago
Arbiter hic igitur sumptus de lite iocosa
Dicta Iovis firmat; gravius Saturnia iusto
Nec pro materia fertur doluisse suique
Iudicis aeterna damnavit lumina nocte
At pater omnipotens (neque enim licet inrita cuiquam
Facta dei fecisse deo) pro lumine adempto
Scire futura dedit poenamque levavit honore

221. This may not appear as exact as Sappho's lines, but I had in mind the 'longshore' or 'dory' fisherman, who returns at nightfall.
253. V. Goldsmith, the song in The Vicar of Wakefield
257. V. The Tempest, as above
264. The interior of St. Magnus Martyr is to my mind one of the finest among Wren's interiors. See The Proposed Demolition of Nineteen City Churches (P. S. King & Son, Ltd.).
266. The Song of the (three) Thames-daughters begins here. From line 292 to 306 inclusive they speak in turn. V. Götterdammerung, III. i: The Rhine-daughters
279. V. Froude, Elizabeth, vol. I, ch. iv, letter of De Quadra to Philip of Spain: In the afternoon we were in a barge, watching the games on the river. (The queen) was alone with Lord Robert and myself on the poop, when they began to talk nonsense, and went so far that Lord Robert at last said, as I was on the spot there was no reason why they should not be married if the queen pleased.
293. Cf. Purgatorio, V. 133:
'Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia;
Siena mi fe', disfecemi Maremma.'

307. V. St. Augustine's Confessions: 'to Carthage then I came, where a cauldron of unholy loves sang all about mine ears.'
308. The complete text of the Buddha's Fire Sermon (which corresponds in importance to the Sermon on the Mount) from which these words are taken, will be found translated in the late Henry Clarke Warren's Buddhism in Translation (Harvard Oriental Series). Mr. Warren was one of the great pioneers of Buddhist studies in the Occident.
309. From St. Augustine's Confessions again. The collocation of these two representatives of eastern and western asceticism, as the culmination of this part of the poem, is not an accident.

V. WHAT THE THUNDER SAID
In the first part of Part V three themes are employed: the journey to Emmaus, the approach to the Chapel Perilous (see Miss Weston's book), and the present decay of eastern Europe.
357. This is Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii, the hermit-thrush which I have heard in Quebec County. Chapman says (Handbook of Birds in Eastern North America) 'it is most at home in secluded woodland and thickety retreats.... Its notes are not remarkable for variety or volume, but in purity and sweetness of tone and exquisite modulation they are unequalled.' Its 'water-dripping song' is justly celebrated.
360. The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton's): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted.
367-77. Cf. Hermann Hesse, Blick ins Chaos:
Schon ist halb Europa, schon ist zumindest der halbe Osten Europas auf dem Wege zum Chaos, fährt betrunken im heiligen Wahn am Abgrund entlang und singt dazu, singt Betrunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Karamasoff sang. Ueber diese Lieder lacht der Bürger Beleidigt, der Heilige und Seher hört sie mit Tränen.

401. 'Datta, dayadhvam, damyata' (Give, sympathize, control). The fable of the meaning of the Thunder is found in the Brihadaranyaka--Upanishad, 5, 1. A translation is found in Deussen's Sechzig Upanishads des Veda, p. 489
407. Cf. Webster, The White Devil, V, vi:
...they'll remarry
Ere the worm pierce your winding-sheet, ere the spider
Make a thin curtain for your epitaphs

411. Cf. Inferno, xxxiii. 46:
Ed io sentii chiavar l'uscio di sotto
All'orribile torre

Also F. H. Bradley,

Appearance and Reality, p. 346:
My external sensations are no less private to myself than are my thoughts or my feelings. In either case my experience falls within my own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and, with all its elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround it.... In brief, regarded as an existence which appears in a soul, the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul.

424. V. Weston, From Ritual to Romance; chapter on the Fisher King
427. V. Purgatorio, xxvi. 148
'Ara vos prec per aquella valor

'que vos guida al som de l'escalina
'sovegna vos a temps de ma dolor.'

Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina
428. V. Pervigilium Veneris. Cf. Philomela in Parts II and III
429. V. Gerard de Nerval, Sonnet El Desdichado
431. V. Kyd's Spanish Tragedy
433. Shantih. Repeated as here, a formal ending to an Upanishad. 'The Peace which passeth understanding' is a feeble translation of the conduct of this word.

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