The Waste Land

By T.S. Eliot

  As William Carlos Williams said, in The Waste Land Eliot "returned us to the classroom." This text of the poem gives you access to two and a half sets of notes for it. The endnotes that Eliot himself prepared can be seen whenever TSE appears at the end of a line.
  I've also identified a couple literary echoes Eliot does not index in his notes (where no American authors are mentioned). Clicking on
WW whenever it appears will allow you to compare a piece of Eliot's poem to a passage from Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself."
  Whenever a
* appears, clicking on it will bring up a scholarly annotation from another source.
  (
SOURCES: MACMILLAN — Anthology of American Literature, eds. McMichael et al, Fourth Ed., Vol. 2 [New York: Macmillan, 1985]; NORTON — Anthology of American Literature, eds. Baym et al., Fourth Ed., Vol. 2 [New York: W. W. Norton, 1994])


THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD
TSE     *
April is the cruellest month, breeding  
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing  
Memory and desire, stirring  
Dull roots with spring rain.  
Winter kept us warm, covering  
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding  
A little life with dried tubers.  
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee      *
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,  
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,                 10   
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.  
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.      *
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,   
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,  
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,  
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.  
In the mountains, there you feel free.  
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.  
  
  What are the roots that clutch, what branches growWW 
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,                         20TSE     *
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only  
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,  
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,TSE 
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only  
There is shadow under this red rock,      *
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),  
And I will show you something different from either   
Your shadow at morning striding behind you   
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;  
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.                       30   
                    Frisch weht der WindTSE 
                    Der Heimat zu.   
                    Mein Irisch Kind,  
                    Wo weilest du?      *
'You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;  
'They called me the hyacinth girl.'  
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,  
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not  
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither  
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,                           40  
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.  
Oed' und leer das Meer.TSE   *
  
  Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,  
Had a bad cold, nevertheless  
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,  
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,TSE 
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,  
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)    *
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,  
The lady of situations.                                                50   
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,   
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,  
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,  
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find  
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.  
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.  
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,  
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:  
One must be so careful these days.  
  
  Unreal City,                                                            60 TSE   *
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,   
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,  
I had not thought death had undone so many.TSE   *
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,TSE 
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.  
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,  
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours    *
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.TSE 
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying 'Stetson!  
'You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!             70     *
'That corpse you planted last year in your garden,  
'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?  
'Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?  
'Oh keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men, TSE   *
'Or with his nails he'll dig it up again!  
'You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!'TSE   *
  
  
II. A GAME OF CHESS
THE Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,TSE   *
Glowed on the marble, where the glass  
Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines  
From which a golden Cupidon peeped out                 80  
(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)  
Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra  
Reflecting light upon the table as  
The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,  
From satin cases poured in rich profusion;  
In vials of ivory and coloured glass  
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,  
Unguent, powdered, or liquid—troubled, confused  
And drowned the sense in odours; stirred by the air  
That freshened from the window, these ascended         90  
In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,  
Flung their smoke into the laquearia,TSE   *
Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.  
Huge sea-wood fed with copper  
Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone,  
In which sad light a carvèd dolphin swam.  
Above the antique mantel was displayed  
As though a window gave upon the sylvan sceneTSE   *
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous kingTSE   *
So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale                   100TSE 
Filled all the desert with inviolable voice  
And still she cried, and still the world pursues,  
'Jug Jug' to dirty ears.    *
And other withered stumps of time  
Were told upon the walls; staring forms  
Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed.  
Footsteps shuffled on the stair.  
Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair  
Spread out in fiery points  
Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.         110  
  
  'My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.  
'Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.  
  'What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?  
'I never know what you are thinking. Think.'  
  
  I think we are in rats' alleyTSE   *
Where the dead men lost their bones.  
  
  'What is that noise?'  
                    The wind under the door.TSE   *
'What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?'  
                    Nothing again nothing.                            120  
  
                                                            'Do  
'You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember  
'Nothing?'  
  
            I remember  
Those are pearls that were his eyes.  
'Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?'TSE 
  
                                                            But  
O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—    *
It's so elegant  
So intelligent                                                               130  
'What shall I do now? What shall I do?'  
'I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street  
'With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?  
'What shall we ever do?'  
  
                                    The hot water at ten.  
And if it rains, a closed car at four.  
And we shall play a game of chess,  
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.TSE 
  
  When Lil's husband got demobbed, I said—    *
I didn't mince my words, I said to her myself,              140  
HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME    *
Now Albert's coming back, make yourself a bit smart.  
He'll want to know what you done with that money he gave you  
To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.  
You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,  
He said, I swear, I can't bear to look at you.  
And no more can't I, I said, and think of poor Albert,  
He's been in the army four years, he wants a good time,  
And if you don't give it him, there's others will, I said.  
Oh is there, she said. Something o' that, I said.             150  
Then I'll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.  
HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME  
If you don't like it you can get on with it, I said.  
Others can pick and choose if you can't.  
But if Albert makes off, it won't be for lack of telling.  
You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.  
(And her only thirty-one.)  
I can't help it, she said, pulling a long face,  
It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.  
(She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.)   160  
The chemist said it would be alright, but I've never been the same.    *
You are a proper fool, I said.  
Well, if Albert won't leave you alone, there it is, I said,  
What you get married for if you don't want children?  
HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME  
Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,    *
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot—  
HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME  
HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME  
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.        170  
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.  
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.    *
  
  
III. THE FIRE SERMON
The river's tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf  
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind  
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.  
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.TSE 
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,  
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends  
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.  
And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors;             180  
Departed, have left no addresses.  
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept...    *
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,  
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.  
But at my back in a cold blast I hear    *
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.  
  
A rat crept softly through the vegetation  
Dragging its slimy belly on the bank  
While I was fishing in the dull canal  
On a winter evening round behind the gashouse                   190  
Musing upon the king my brother's wreck  
And on the king my father's death before him.TSE 
White bodies naked on the low damp ground  
And bones cast in a little low dry garret,  
Rattled by the rat's foot only, year to year.  
But at my back from time to time I hearTSE 
The sound of horns and motors, which shall bringTSE 
Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring.    *
O the moon shone bright on Mrs. PorterTSE 
And on her daughter                                                           200  
They wash their feet in soda water  
Et, O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole!TSE   *
  
  Twit twit twit  
Jug jug jug jug jug jug  
So rudely forc'd.  
Tereu    *
  
  Unreal City  
Under the brown fog of a winter noon  
Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant  
Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants                             210TSE 
C.i.f. London: documents at sight,  
Asked me in demotic French    *
To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel  
Followed by a weekend at the Metropole.  
  
  At the violet hour, when the eyes and back  
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits  
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,  
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,TSE   *
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see  
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives                 220  
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,TSE 
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights  
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.  
Out of the window perilously spread  
Her drying combinations touched by the sun's last rays,  
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)  
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.  
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs    *
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest—  
I too awaited the expected guest.                                   230  
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,  
A small house agent's clerk, with one bold stare,  
One of the low on whom assurance sits  
As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.    *
The time is now propitious, as he guesses,  
The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,  
Endeavours to engage her in caresses  
Which still are unreproved, if undesired.  
Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;  
Exploring hands encounter no defence;                           240  
His vanity requires no response,  
And makes a welcome of indifference.  
(And I Tiresias have foresuffered allWW 
Enacted on this same divan or bed;  
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall    *
And walked among the lowest of the dead.)  
Bestows on final patronising kiss,  
And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit . . .  
  
She turns and looks a moment in the glass,  
Hardly aware of her departed lover;                             250  
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:  
'Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over.'  
When lovely woman stoops to folly andTSE 
Paces about her room again, alone,  
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,  
And puts a record on the gramophone.    *
  
'This music crept by me upon the waters'TSE 
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.    *
O City city, I can sometimes hear  
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,               260  
The pleasant whining of a mandoline  
And a clatter and a chatter from within  
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls  
Of Magnus Martyr holdTSE 
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.  
  
The river sweats
TSE 
Oil and tar  
The barges drift  
With the turning tide  
Red sails                                                         270  
Wide  
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.  
The barges wash  
Drifting logs  
Down Greenwich reach    *
Past the Isle of Dogs.    *
                Weialala leia  
                Wallala leialala    *
  
Elizabeth and LeicesterTSE   *
Beating oars                                                 280  
The stern was formed  
A gilded shell  
Red and gold  
The brisk swell  
Rippled both shores  
Southwest wind  
Carried down stream  
The peal of bells  
White towers  
  
                Weialala leia                                 290  
                Wallala leialala  
  
  'Trams and dusty trees.  
Highbury bore me. Richmond and KewTSE   *
Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees  
Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe.'  
  
  'My feet are at Moorgate, and my heart    *
Under my feet. After the event  
He wept. He promised "a new start".  
I made no comment. What should I resent?'  
  
  'On Margate Sands.                                 300    *
I can connect  
Nothing with nothing.  
The broken fingernails of dirty hands.  
My people humble people who expect  
Nothing.'  
            la la   To Carthage then I cameTSE 
  
  Burning burning burning burningTSE 
O Lord Thou pluckest me outTSE 
O Lord Thou pluckest                                           310  
  
burning  
  
  
IV. DEATH BY WATER
 
Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,  
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep seas swell  
And the profit and loss.  
                                       A current under sea  
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell  
He passed the stages of his age and youth  
Entering the whirlpool.  
                                       Gentile or Jew  
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,           320  
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.  
  
  
V. WHAT THE THUNDER SAID
TSE   *
After the torchlight red on sweaty faces  
After the frosty silence in the gardens  
After the agony in stony places  
The shouting and the crying  
Prison and palace and reverberation  
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains  
He who was living is now dead    *
We who were living are now dying  
With a little patience                                                      330  
Here is no water but only rock  
Rock and no water and the sandy road  
The road winding above among the mountains  
Which are mountains of rock without water  
If there were water we should stop and drink  
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think  
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand  
If there were only water amongst the rock  
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit  
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit                      340  
There is not even silence in the mountains  
But dry sterile thunder without rain  
There is not even solitude in the mountains  
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl  
From doors of mudcracked houses  
  
If there were water  
And no rock  
If there were rock  
And also water  
And water  
A spring                                                                     350  
A pool among the rock  
If there were the sound of water only  
Not the cicada  
And dry grass singing  
But sound of water over a rock  
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine treesTSE 
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop  
But there is no water  
  
Who is the third who walks always beside you?  
When I count, there are only you and I together           360TSE 
But when I look ahead up the white road  
There is always another one walking beside you  
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded  
I do not know whether a man or a woman  
—But who is that on the other side of you?  
  
What is that sound high in the airTSE   *
Murmur of maternal lamentation  
Who are those hooded hordes swarmingWW 
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth  
Ringed by the flat horizon only                                   370  
What is the city over the mountains  
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air  
Falling towers  
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria  
Vienna London  
Unreal  
  
A woman drew her long black hair out tight  
And fiddled whisper music on those strings  
And bats with baby faces in the violet light  
Whistled, and beat their wings                                   380  
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall  
And upside down in air were towers  
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours  
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.  
  
In this decayed hole among the mountains  
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing  
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel  
There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.    *
It has no windows, and the door swings,  
Dry bones can harm no one.                                   390  
Only a cock stood on the rooftree  
Co co rico co co rico  
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust  
Bringing rain  
  
Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves    *
Waited for rain, while the black clouds  
Gathered far distant, over Himavant.    *
The jungle crouched, humped in silence.  
Then spoke the thunder  
DA                                                                       400  
Datta: what have we given?TSE   *
My friend, blood shaking my heart  
The awful daring of a moment's surrender  
Which an age of prudence can never retract  
By this, and this only, we have existed  
Which is not to be found in our obituaries  
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spiderTSE 
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor  
In our empty rooms  
DA                                                                       410  
Dayadhvam: I have heard the keyTSE   *
Turn in the door once and turn once only  
We think of the key, each in his prison  
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison  
Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours  
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus    *
DA  
Damyata: The boat responded    *
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar  
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded         420  
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient  
To controlling hands  
  
                                  I sat upon the shore  
Fishing, with the arid plain behind meTSE   *
Shall I at least set my lands in order?    *
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down  
Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affinaTSE   *
Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallowTSE   *
Le Prince d'Aquitaine à la tour abolieTSE   *
These fragments I have shored against my ruins             430  
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.TSE   *
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.TSE 
                  Shantih   shantih   shanti


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