Text of the Poem


          I. The Burial of the Dead

  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, 
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 he 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 grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
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,
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.

                    Frisch weht der Wind
                    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, 
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Oed’ und leer das Meer.

  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,
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.
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,
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.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
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.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: “Stetson!
“You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
“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?
“O keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
“Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!
“You! Hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!”

     II. A Game of Chess

The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Glowed on the marble, where the glass
Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines
From which a golden Cupidon peeped out 
(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 
In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,
Flung their smoke into the laquearia,
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 scene
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king
So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale
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.

  “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’ alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.

  “What is that noise?”
                                The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
                                Nothing again nothing.
You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember

     I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?”

O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—
It’s so elegant
So intelligent

“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 tomorrow?
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.

  When Lil’s husband got demobbed, I said—
I didn’t mince my words, I said to her myself,
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.
Then I’ll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.
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 if off, she said.
(She’s had five already, and nearly died of young George).
The chemist said it would be all right, 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?
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—
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.
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.
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;
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
Musing upon the king my brother’s wreck
And on the king my father’s death before him.
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 hear
The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring
Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring.
O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter
And on her daughter 
They wash their feet in soda water
Et O ces voix d’enfants, chantant dans la coupole!

Twit twit twit
Jug jug jug jug jug jug
So rudely forc’d. 

Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter noon
Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant
Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants 
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,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives 
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
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. 
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; 
His vanity requires no response,
And makes a welcome of indifference.
(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
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 one 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; 
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 and
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smooths her hair with automatic hand, 
And puts a record on the gramophone.

“This music crept by me upon the waters”
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.
O City city, I can sometimes hear
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street, 
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 hold
Inexplicable splendour of lonian white and gold. 

          The river sweats
          Oil and tar
          The barges drift
          With the turning tide
          Red sails 
          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 Leicester
          Beating oars 
          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 
                    Wallala leialala

“Trams and dusty trees.
Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew
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. 
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken fingernails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
                         la la

To Carthage then I came

Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest 


             IV. Death by Water

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea 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,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

             V. What the Thunder Said

  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 

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 only water amongst the rock 
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 
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
          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 trees
          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
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 air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth 
Ringed by the flat horizon only
What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Falling towers
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
Vienna London 

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 
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. 
Only a crock 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
Datta: what have we given?
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 spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
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, aethereal rumours 
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
Damyata: The boat responded
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
To controlling hands

                                                  I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
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 affina
Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins 
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
          Shantih           shantih           shantih


  1. This final line is the formal conclusion to an Upanishad, a Hindu sacred treatise. Roughly translated from Sanskrit, it is a prayer for inner peace. Ending “The Waste Land” with this ancient prayer from another culture other than Eliot’s own Western one suggests that this human desire is universal and enduring.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. The line is an allusion to a character in Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy. In the play, Hieronymo is driven mad by the murder of his son. “Ile fit you,” which in context means “I’ll oblige you,” appears in act 4, scene 2 as Hieronymo engages with the murderers in plotting to avenge his son’s death. How this allusion relates to the text of “The Waste Land” is a matter of conjecture among Eliot’s literary critics.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. From “El Desdichado [The Unhappy One],” a sonnet by Gérard de Nerval, the line translates as “The Prince of Aquitaine whose palace spire lies low in the dust.” Bringing the poem full circle, Eliot returns to the dust motif introduced in "The Burial of the Dead": “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” Through the quotation from “El Desdichado,” he seems to be issuing a final warning about succumbing to spiritual defeat.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. From “Pervigilium Veneris,” a poem generally attributed to Tiberianus, a Roman poet, the quotation translates as “When will I be as the swallow?” In the poem’s final allusion to the story of Philomela, whose suffering ends when she is turned into a bird, the question seems to be a plea for deliverance from the wasteland of modern life as Eliot has described it. The repetition of “O swallow swallow” suggests desperation in the plea.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. From Purgatorio, the second part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the line translates as “Then he hid himself in the refining fire.” Suggesting the need for cleansing of the spirit, the quotation supports major themes in “The Waste Land” concerning the degradation of the spirit in modern life. For someone to seek refuge in “the refining fire” perhaps suggests that spiritual rebirth is still possible in modern times.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. The passage alludes once again to the character of the Fisher King in legends of the Holy Grail. Like the wounded king, the speaker longs to see his own land flourish once again with life and growth. In the context of “The Waste Land,” life and growth would include a spiritual rebirth.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. The phrases “when invited” and the heart’s “beating obedient / To controlling hands” suggest that the gods see humankind as incapable of self-control and consequently believe humans must be controlled. The idea supports primary themes in “The Waste Land,” which is filled with examples of people drifting aimlessly through life, rudderless, and giving in to baser instincts in the pursuit of transitory pleasures.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. When the gods hear the thunder, they hear “Damyata,” meaning self-control. Their reaction to the concept appears in the lines that follow.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. The phrase is an allusion to the tragic hero of Shakespeare’s play Coriolanus. A once-respected Roman warrior who is exiled from Rome, Coriolanus returns to Rome with an army to destroy the city; betrayed by an ally, he is murdered.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. When demons hear the thunder, they hear “Dayadhyam” which means compassion, a quality in humankind that is not evident throughout “The Waste Land.”

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. Humans conclude that they have given up themselves in reckless ways. Numerous examples of this truth permeate the poem.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. When humans hear the Creator speaking through the thunder, they hear “Datta,” meaning “to give.” The remainder of the passage recounts what men have given up.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. This alludes to a story in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, an ancient text of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. When humans, demons, and gods ask the Creator how to live in ways that will bring internal peace, he answers “DA,” which is the sound of thunder.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  14. “Ganga” refers to the Ganges River in India; “Himavant” refers to the peak of the Himalayas, the highest mountain peak in the world. Himavant is also a personified god of the Himalayas, and his daughter Ganga the goddess of the river. Describing these sites in South Asia serves to introduce the allusion to Hindu and Buddhist philosophies that follows.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. The passage alludes to Chapel Perilous in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. Lancelot is tempted in the chapel but must remain pure in his quest for the Holy Grail. Through the allusion, Eliot returns to the Grail motif established earlier in the poem.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. The line is a biblical allusion to the Gospel of Luke 24:13–35 that recounts the story of two of Jesus Christ’s disciples traveling to Emmaus; they meet a stranger on the road, the resurrected Christ, but fail to recognize him. The allusion seems to underscore Eliot’s theme of disconnection from religious faith in the modern world.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. The hermit thrush, a small bird found deep in the woods, is noted for its song that sounds like dripping water. Eliot employs onomatopoeia to capture the bird’s peaceful sounds, further emphasizing the need for water and all it symbolizes in the poem.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  18. The mountain is personified as having a mouth and teeth and the ability to spit. The alliteration of “mountain” and “mouth” stresses the idea of water flowing from mountain springs. “Carious” in regard to teeth means decayed, underscoring the negative connotations of “dead.” Taken together, the poetic devices create the image of an arid landscape that develops the water versus rock motif.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  19. Water and rock are antithetical motifs in “The Waste Land.” Water is associated with life, growth, and rebirth, while rock summons opposite images suggestive of a barren, sterile wasteland. The contrast between water and rock permeates the poem and supports Eliot’s depictions of modern life as a spiritual wasteland.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  20. In the context of the previous lines, “He who was living is now dead” alludes to Jesus Christ before his resurrection after dying on the cross. The repetition in the two lines and their juxtaposition suggest a similarity between his physical death and the ongoing spiritual death in modern society brought about by the abandonment of religious faith and the corruption of traditional moral values.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  21. “Phlebas the Phoenician” is an allusion to the drowned Phoenician Sailor in Madame Sosostris’s pack of tarot cards described in “The Burial of the Dead,” the first section of “The Waste Land.” The allusion unites “Death by Water” and “The Burial of the Dead” in developing themes relating to death, decay, the transitory nature of life, and the superficial values embraced by the living.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  22. The passage brings section III full circle, back to the title, "The Fire Sermon." In the Buddha’s sermon, fire symbolizes the suffering and depravity that result from lust and the love of worldly pleasures; to end suffering and depravity, they must be forsaken. The message in the Buddha’s sermon is the major theme in this section of “The Waste Land.”

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  23. Carthage is an ancient city in North Africa. This line alludes to St. Augustine’s Confessions and his description of what he encountered in the city: “a cauldron of unholy loves sang all about mine ears.” The allusion, suggestive of passion and worldly desires, anticipates the conclusion of section III in the lines that follow.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  24. These lines allude to the Rhinemaidens’ song in Wagner’s opera Ring Cycle; they are repeated as a refrain following the next section of text and appear in a most abbreviated form near the end of section III. The allusion is ironic in the context of Eliot’s descriptions of the modern, so-called maidens in "The Fire Sermon."

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  25. “Magnus Martyr” is an allusion to the St. Magnus the Martyr church, located in Lower Thames Street near the original site of London Bridge. “Splendor” means a magnificent, glorious appearance, and “Ionian” refers to columns designed in the style of classical Greek architecture. Rebuilt following the Great Fire of London in 1666, the church is considered architect Sir Christopher Wren’s most beautiful work. The imagery of the church, its beauty held within its walls, suggests a solemn silence, in contrast to the mandolin music and the “clatter” and “chatter” within the bar nearby. Through the allusion, Eliot again negatively contrasts the values of modern life with those of times long gone.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  26. This line alludes to a song, a “melancholy air,” sung by Olivia Primrose in Oliver Goldsmith’s novel, The Vicar of Wakefield. Seduced and then betrayed, Olivia sings that to conceal “her guilt” and “hide her shame,” a woman’s only recourse in these circumstances “is to die.” In context, the allusion ironically underscores Eliot’s themes in this section regarding sex in the modern world: that it has become casual and meaningless. The allusion also underscores the idea that modern society has become unmoored from a sense of moral decency.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  27. “Carbuncular” is used as an adjective to indicate that the man visiting the typist, a young woman who works in an office, has a carbuncle, which is a collection of pus-filled boils under the skin. His being so physically unappealing suggests that his sexual encounter with the typist, which is about to be described, will be sordid.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  28. In Greek mythology, Tiresias is a prophet of the god Apollo; despite his blindness, Tiresias can see the future. In one of the Greek myths, Tiresias offends Hera, the wife of Zeus; she turns him into a woman who serves as her priestess for seven years before being turned back into a man. In his capacity as a seer, Tiresias narrates the remainder of section III.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  29. “The violet hour” is a metaphor for day’s end; it evokes the image of a purple sky created by the setting sun. The metaphor is soon repeated in a following passage, underscoring the difference between conventional human behavior during a work day and what it becomes after dark. The “human engine” is described with a simile as being “like a taxi throbbing waiting.” The simile suggests human passions waiting to be released.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  30. Cannon Street, which runs approximately parallel with the Thames, is the historic center of London and the city’s financial district. Numerous hotels are located on Cannon Street. The Metropole is a London hotel noted for its many amenities. The invitation suggests that Mr. Eugenides seeks a casual sexual encounter with the speaker, supporting the theme of licentious behavior developed in this section.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  31. In context, “demotic” means common, colloquial, or slangy. The merchant’s speaking in “demotic French” implies that he is not educated or refined, as does his being “unshaven.”

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  32. Eliot’s notes indicate that “C.i.f. London” refers to the price of currants (dried fruit) being quoted as “carriage and insurance free to London”; “documents” refers to bills of lading presented to buyers upon receipt of goods. The passage indicates that Mr. Eugenides perhaps has money to spend.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  33. Another unidentified narrator describes an encounter with a foreign merchant trading in fruit in London.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  34. This passage is a repetition of the allusion to the story of Philomela that appears in section II "A Game of Chess." It supports the major theme in this section, the spiritual debasement in modern life, driven by lust and selfish desires.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  35. This line is taken from the end of Paul Verlaine’s poem “Parsifal” and translates as “And O those children’s voices, singing in the cupola!” The allusion once more references the legend of the Fisher King; in Verlaine’s poem, Percival, a knight who has remained physically and spiritually pure in order to drink from the Holy Grail, heals the wounded Fisher King. The allusion’s ironic juxtaposition with the preceding lines emphasizes the loss of innocence and nobility of character in modern times. Also, Percival’s turning away from lust and physical passions is consistent with the message of Buddha’s Fire Sermon, referenced in the title of this section.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  36. The speaker’s reverie is interrupted by the sounds of traffic along the Thames. This interruption brings the text back to the subject of prostitution through the reference of Sweeney’s returning to Mrs. Porter and her daughter in the spring. The last three lines in the passage originated in an old Australian drinking song.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  37. The passage alludes to Ferdinand’s speech prior to Ariel’s song in act 1, scene 2 in The Tempest and to the Fisher King. In legends of the Holy Grail, the Fisher King is the last in a long line of characters charged with keeping and protecting the Holy Grail; he is always depicted as being wounded. Characters in “The Waste Land” often merge one into another, as with Ferdinand and the Fisher King merging in this passage.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  38. “Leman” is the French name for Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Eliot wrote much of “The Waste Land” while convalescing in Lausanne by the lake. The line is also an allusion to Psalm 137, which describes the Israelites being exiled to Babylon: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” The allusion support the poem’s themes of loss and despair following World War I.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  39. In classical mythology, nymphs are minor spirits represented as beautiful maidens who live in nature. “The nymphs are departed,” a repetition of line 3 above, is another allusion to “Prothalamion.” In Spenser’s poem, nymphs gather flowers to adorn the brides-to-be. In the context of this passage, “nymphs” likely refers to prostitutes who had sexual encounters during the summer with the idle sons of prominent men in London. The allusion reflects the condemnation of lust suggested by the title of section III. It also contrasts the beauty of the Thames as described in Spenser’s poem (1592) with the ugliness and degradation of the river’s present condition. The contrast supports Eliot’s theme of spiritual emptiness in modern society.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  40. The river mentioned previously is now identified as the Thames, which runs through London and southern England. The line is a refrain in Edmund Spenser’s poem “Prothalamion”; Spenser’s subject is a lovely double wedding on a summer day by the Thames, and the poem is filled with images of happiness and natural beauty. The allusion is ironic, considering Eliot’s previous description of the Thames and the silent “brown land” nearby, and it anticipates other ironic contrasts that are developed throughout section III.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  41. “The river’s tent” is an implied metaphor that describes the leafy branches of trees along the riverbank. The image suggests that they extend over the water. The tent is “broken” because the leaves, which are personified as having “fingers” that “clutch” the branches, have fallen. The imagery establishes the setting—a place beside a river during late autumn, and a bleak—depressing atmosphere.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  42. The title of section III alludes to a sermon by the Buddha in which he urges his listeners to turn away from physical passion (lust) and the love of worldly pleasures. Through the allusion, Eliot indicates the content of this section of the poem.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  43. The closing line is a repetition of Ophelia’s words in act 4, scene 5 of Hamlet as she leaves Gertrude and Claudius; in a disturbed mental state, Ophelia drowns shortly thereafter. The allusion underscores the “death by water” motif in “The Waste Land.” It also exemplifies Eliot’s inclusion of allusions to and excerpts from classical works of literature, placing “The Waste Land,” a modernist poem, in the wider context of Western literature.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  44. Gammon is ham that has been cured or smoked like bacon. The passage, which ends the speaker’s discussion of Lil, suggests that with Albert’s return, Lil’s life proceeded, her misery unabated, as she resumed her duties as his wife. Like the woman in the first half of this section of the poem, sexuality for Lil is not a means of expressing love, and despite the great disparity between their social classes and lifestyles, both are trapped and isolated in lives with little meaning.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  45. This line refers to Lil’s having taken pills to induce an abortion. The reasons for having taken them and the subsequent consequences are made clear in the following two lines.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  46. In context, “smart” means attractive and stylish. The speaker’s admonition implies that Lil is neither, again differentiating her from the woman in the first half of this section.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  47. The line, which is repeated throughout this portion of the text, refers to the last call at closing time in a bar, the setting for the conversation that occurred between the speaker and Lil. The setting contrasts with the opulence of the woman’s bedroom in the previous scene and suggests a marked difference in social class between her and Lil that becomes evident in the lines that follow.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  48. “Demobbed” means discharged from military service. This line introduces the second half of section II in which an unidentified speaker relates a conversation with a woman named Lil, whose husband is coming home from the war.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  49. Eliot employs repetition in the passage, repeating two allusions that appear in the first section of the poem, “The Burial of the Dead,” lines 37–41 and lines 46–48. Repeating the allusions during the conversation between the woman and her lover emphasizes the implied meanings of the allusions and suggests that they relate to society at large.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  50. The lines possibly allude to trench warfare during World War I. Long, deep trenches were dug by both the Allied forces and the Germans to provide shelter as combat raged on the Western Front. The allusion suggests that the woman’s lover is a soldier returned from the war and anticipates the introduction of Lil and her husband, Albert, in the second half of section II.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  51. The description of the setting ends with this line, marking a turning point in the text. The auditory imagery indicates that someone is coming to her room; the following lines imply that the visitor is her lover. The connotations of “shuffled” in regard to the sound of his footsteps suggest a lack of joy or enthusiasm; even sexual relationships, it seems, are devoid of emotional fulfillment or satisfaction. The idea supports a major theme in “The Waste Land”: that modern life has deadened the spirit and robbed life of meaning.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  52. Placing “Jug Jug” in quotation marks suggests that it represents the sound of Philomela’s voice as the nightingale, making it an example of onomatopoeia. Birds and their songs appear in various places in the text, contrasting the natural world of the past with the mechanized industrial society of the modern world, a new age void of morality and compassion.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  53. The passage alludes to the story of Philomela in book 6 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Kidnapped and raped by her sister’s husband, King Tereus, Philomela is imprisoned and her tongue is cut out to prevent her from telling anyone what the king has done. The gods take pity on Philomela and make her a nightingale, the “change of Philomel” referenced in the passage. Besides contributing to the darkening mood and atmosphere in this section of the text, the allusion underscores the notion of sexual violence, which is introduced through implication in the title of the section, “A Game of Chess.”

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  54. A "laquearia" is an elaborate ceiling made of recessed panels that often depict a scene of some sort. The ceiling in the room is ornate, like the rest of the woman’s bedroom. However, the light that illuminates the figure of a dolphin carved into one of the panels is “sad,” not glowing or glittering, which underscores the negative change in mood and atmosphere in Eliot’s description of the environment in which the woman lives.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  55. The mood and atmosphere change suddenly with the description of the woman’s “strange synthetic perfumes.” Being synthetic, they are artificial, implying that they are not authentic or naturally pleasing to the senses. Her perfumes are personified; they “lurked” and are “troubled” and “confused” as they overwhelm the sense of smell in “odours,” a word like the others with unpleasant connotations. The disturbing change in mood and atmosphere suggest that all is not as it appears to be in the woman’s life.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  56. The visual imagery of light in the first two lines is further developed in this passage: the mirror of the dressing table reflects and thus doubles the flames of candles lighting the room and reflects the “glitter” of jewels on the marble table top. The alliteration in “poured in rich profusion” draws attention to the phrase and creates a dynamic image of many jewels cascading from the satin cases that hold them. The imagery contributes to the atmosphere of wealth, beauty, and privilege in which the woman lives.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  57. Translated from French, “Cupidon” means Cupid, the god of desire and erotic love in classical mythology. The description of the woman’s ornate dressing table, adorned with golden figures of Cupid suggests wealth, beauty, and sensuality.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  58. The section begins with an allusion to a passage in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. In act 2, scene 2, Enobarbus, Antony’s loyal supporter, describes Cleopatra’s barge as it bears her toward meeting Antony. The passage is rich in imagery that emphasizes the wealth, beauty, and sensuality of the Egyptian queen. Through the allusion, the woman about to be described is associated with these qualities.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  59. According to Eliot’s notes, the title of the poem’s second section alludes to the game of chess played in act 2, scene 2 of Women Beware Women, a play by Thomas Middleton (circa 1621). Middleton employs the game of chess device again in A Game at Chess (1624). In both works, playing chess is associated with the deception, betrayal, rape, and sexual seduction of women. The allusion indicates that this section of the poem will address these themes in some way.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  60. The final line in “The Burial of the Dead” alludes to the final line in Charles Baudelaire's poem, "To the Reader." Translated from the French, it means “Hypocrite reader,—my fellow,—my brother!” Baudelaire’s poem develops themes that relate to those in “The Waste Land,” primarily the idea that withdrawing from life through inaction, boredom, fear, pessimism, or acceptance of defeat is worse than death itself.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  61. The passage is an allusion to John Webster's poem "Funeral Dirge for Marcello," from his play The White Devil (1612), which describes the “friendless bodies of unburied men” being interred in “shady groves” as they are “covered with leaves and flowers.” In Webster’s poem, a wolf “that’s foe to men” must be kept away from the graves. In Eliot’s amended version, a dog “that’s friend to men” is equally destructive, perhaps implying that neither friends nor foes respect the dead, a claim illustrated by humankind’s history of relentless warfare.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  62. Mylae, an ancient Mediterranean port in northeast Sicily, was the site of a fierce naval battle in 260 BCE between Carthage, a city state, and the Roman Republic; the Roman forces won, conquering Carthage. Since the speaker and Stetson, his unidentified acquaintance, obviously didn’t fight in the ancient battle, the statement serves no literal purpose; instead, it perhaps suggests the idea that wars are as old as humankind and are a repeating cycle throughout history. In that regard, World War I—“the war to end all wars”—will have accomplished nothing except to precede the wars to come.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  63. The auditory imagery in these lines comes directly from Eliot’s experience; in his notes, he observes that that the sound is “a phenomenon which I have often noticed.” The church bell’s “final stroke of nine” can also be interpreted as a biblical allusion to the time of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, recounted in the Gospel of Mark 15:33. The allusion and the connotations of “dead” in describing the sound of the bell contribute to the sense of hopelessness and resignation in this section of the poem, as foreshadowed by its title.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  64. Beginning with Marie’s memories of Munich before World War I, the poem’s setting shifts to London after the war, evidenced by the following allusions to London Bridge, King William Street, and Saint Mary Woolnoth, a centuries-old Anglican church located on the corner of Lombard Street and King William Street in the City of London. The change in setting emphasizes that the disastrous effects of the war are not confined to the European continent.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  65. A horoscope predicts someone’s future based on astrology, the study of the positions of celestial bodies and their influence on human affairs. Astrology and other pseudo-sciences, like numerology and palm reading, became increasingly popular in the 1920s, reflecting the diminishing influence of traditional religion, a continuing theme in the poem.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  66. This line is taken from a song sung by Ariel, a spirit, in act 1, scene 2 of Shakespeare’s The Tempest; through the song, she lies to Ferdinand, telling him that his father died in the shipwreck that Ferdinand survived. The inclusion of the line with its subtle allusion to Ariel’s lie implies once again that Madame Sosostris is a deceitful fraud.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  67. Madame Sosostris’s being known as “the wisest woman in Europe” suggests a major theme in “The Waste Land”: the dissolution of traditional philosophies and the absence of shared religious beliefs in post-World War I Europe has created a rudderless society. Her tarot cards are “wicked” because they lead people away from the truth in their search for some security and meaning in their empty lives.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  68. The passage introduces the speaker in this section of the poem, Madame Sosostris, a clairvoyant(e) or psychic who supposedly can see the future. Madame Sosostris’s name is an allusion to a character in Aldous Huxley's novel Crome Yellow, in which a man disguises himself as an old woman and pretends to be a fortune teller. The fortunes he tells are dark and disturbing, and some of them are similar in theme to themes in “The Waste Land.” Associating Madame Sosostris with the charlatan in Huxley’s novel implies that she, too, is a fraud.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  69. Translated as “empty and desolate is the sea,” the passage is an allusion to the scene in Tristan und Isolde when a dying Tristan waits for Isolde to return to him. Pairing the classic love story of Tristan and Isolde with a modern story of the “hyacinth girl,” whose lover is now incapable of feeling anything at all, supports the poem’s theme of spiritual death—the idea that even love cannot survive in the emotional sterility of modern post-war society.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  70. These German lines may be translated as follows: “Fresh blows the Wind / towards home / My Irish Child / where are you now?” Eliot’s notes identify the passage as lines 5–8 of act 1 of Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde. Tristan and Isolde’s enduring love for each other contrasts with the end of the relationship between the “hyacinth girl” and her lover described in the following section of the poem.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  71. “Son of man” is a biblical allusion to Jesus Christ, who often referred to himself in the New Testament as the Son of Man, thus clarifying that he was human as well as divine. In context, “Son of man” can be interpreted as a new unidentified speaker’s alluding to human beings in general.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  72. The passage marks the conclusion of Marie’s two happy memories of life before the war and indicates her present emotional state. Reading “much of the night” suggests isolation and withdrawal from human relationships, and choosing to “go south in the winter,” instead of going to the mountains where “you feel free,” suggests no longer feeling or seeking to feel joy or fulfillment. Marie’s emotional state further develops the poem’s themes of disillusionment and the deadening of the human spirit in the post-war era.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  73. The allusion to the arch-duke likely refers to Austria’s Crown Prince Rudolph, who was also an archduke and a first cousin to Marie, Countess Larisch, who appears to be identified here as the speaker. Eliot met Countess Larisch in Munich either in the summer of 1911 or possibly in 1914 before World War I began. This passage, as well as others in the text, seem to reflect conversations Eliot had had with various people in his life.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  74. Translated from German, the sentence reads “I’m not Russian at all, I come from Lithuania, a true German.” It is unclear who is speaking at this point, because speakers change throughout the poem, often with no notice. The statement could be part of a conversation overheard in the Hofgarten. Eliot’s inclusion of foreign languages in the poem often serves to capture the atmosphere of a particular setting. In this case, it emphasizes the geographical and political elements present in Europe before World War I.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  75. The Hofgarten, German for “court garden,” is a popular and historic public garden located in Munich. It is noted for the colonnade in the garden. (A colonnade is a row of columns holding up a roof that are separated from each other by an equal distance.) Whiling away the time in conversation on a sunny summer day in Germany must be a painful memory for the speaker after the destruction of the war and perhaps explains her description of spring at the beginning of the poem.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  76. The Starnbergersee, or Lake Starnberg, is a large body of water south of Munich in Germany. The speaker now recalls life in Germany before the war and begins to describe a pleasant summer afternoon.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  77. The poem begins with an unidentified speaker contrasting spring and winter. The contrast is ironic—a paradox: the speaker describes April, the month associated with the return of spring, warmth, and the renewal of life, as causing the greatest pain, whereas winter snow’s covering the earth “kept us warm” is a phrase that suggests comfort and security. April is cruel, according to the speaker, because it evokes “memory and desire”; the “forgetful snow” of winter does not. The idea that remembering the past and feeling desire are now painful experiences to be avoided foreshadows a major theme in the poem: that World War I and the post-war era, the setting of the poem, resulted in a deadening of the human spirit. The theme is also suggested by the title of this section of the poem, “The Burial of the Dead.”

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  78. Translated from vernacular Italian, the phrase Il miglior fabbro means “the greater craftsman” and expresses Eliot’s humility and recognition of Pound’s artistry as a poet.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  79. Ezra Pound was a leading figure in modernist poetry and Eliot’s good friend. He often helped Eliot in editing his poems, including “The Waste Land.”

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  80. This line is borrowed from Shakespeare's 1607 play Antony and Cleopatra. In act II, scene II, Enobarbus describes the arrival of Cleopatra to greet Mark Antony as follows:

    The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
    Burn'd on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
    Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
    The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
    Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
    The water which they beat to follow faster,
    As amorous of their strokes.

    — William Delaney
  81. This is a direct quotation from Canto III of The Inferno by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). In The Inferno, Dante remarks "I had not thought death had undone so many" after entering the gates of Dis, the subterranean city of the dead. Thus, Eliot's allusion equates London to hell and the throngs of Londoners to the countless dead. The comparison is metaphorical, for the Londoners are not literally dead, but perhaps spiritually so.

    — William Delaney
  82. T. S. Eliot's speaker seems to be illustrating the kinds of superstitions that would revive following the dissolution of traditional religion. In the absence of shared religious beliefs, mankind might revert to ancient beliefs in such things as fortune telling, astrology, numerology, palm reading, and spiritualism (communing with the dead). Madame Sosostris represents a figure who offers these rituals.

    — William Delaney
  83. This is an allusion to Charles Baudelaire's 1857 poem "Au Lecteur." Eliot repurposes Baudelaire's shocking address to his "Hypocrite reader." Baudelaire's poem ends with the following stanza:

    C'est l'Ennui! L'oeil chargé d'un pleur involontaire,
    II rêve d'échafauds en fumant son houka.
    Tu le connais, lecteur, ce monstre délicat,
    — Hypocrite lecteur, — mon semblable, — mon frère!

    One of many English translations of these lines is:

    He is Ennui! — His eye watery as though with tears, 
    He dreams of scaffolds as he smokes his hookah pipe.
    You know him reader, that refined monster,
    — Hypocritish reader, — my fellow, — my brother!

    Translation: William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954).

    — William Delaney
  84. This is an allusion to John Webster's poem "Funeral Dirge for Marcello." With its darkly comic meditation on death, Webster's poem matches the gloomy mood of Eliot's. The poem is as follows:

    Call for the robin-redbreast and the wren,
    Since o'er shady groves they hover,
    And with leaves and flowers do cover
    The friendless bodies of unburied men.
    Call unto his funeral dole
    The ant, the field-mouse, and the mole,
    To rear him hillocks that shall keep him warm,
    And (when gay tombs are robbed) sustain no harm;
    But keep the wolf far thence, that's foe to men,
    For with his nails he'll dig them up again.

    — William Delaney