The Waste Land

"The Waste Land," by T. S. Eliot

For Modern March I promised myself that I would read T. S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land."  I actually read it way back at the beginning of the month, but like a good classical student I read it 3 times, which took a while. I used this annotated copy, which was very helpful.  First I read it straight through without much preparation, then I read it with all the notes, and then I read it through again, keeping the notes in mind.  It was hard work!  I'm not really a poetry person, and I'm especially not a modernist poetry person.

The poem is thickly allusive, so that every line refers to something else.  Lots of mythology, literature, songs, all sorts of things.  There is a lot about birds, and water.

Many different voices say things, and they mostly seem to be women.  Women keep showing up in similar circumstances; they are tired and used by men who have no interest in their welfare.  (Even Eliot's wife makes a small appearance, but I don't know that I should try to link those two elements.)

There are references to people walking through London, and I found out that you can actually map out a bit of a route, across London Bridge and around several streets.  London and the Thames are a major part of the poem.  Since it's also supposed to be about the Fisher King, a wounded king whose land was wasted until he was healed (and who was assimilated into the Arthurian legends), I would think that those elements go together a bit--London/Thames/Logres and so on.

I cannot pretend to have even begun to understand "The Waste Land," but it was good for me to work on it.  I do want to read "The Hollow Men" this month too, and eventually "The Four Quartets," but that last one is something of a future ambition.


  1. I read The Waste Land years ago, as part of one of my ambitious reading pushes. Like you, I'm not much of a poetry reader. I find though, that once I start, I end up enjoying it more than I expected. Maybe I'll reread The Wasteland for April - it is poetry month after all :-)


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