The Wasteland

Thomas Stearns Eliot

"NAM Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse
     oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum
     illi pueri dicerunt:
     Sebulla pe theleis;
     respondebat illa:
     apothanein thelo."

(For Ezra Pound
il miglior fabbro) 


     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 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 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.
   Od' 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?
   "Oh 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!" 


   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 tonight. 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 dont 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 dont 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 wont 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.)
   The chemist said it would be alright, but I've never been the same.
   You are a proper fool, I said.
   Well, if Albert wont leave you alone, there it is, I said,
   What you get married for if you dont 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. 


   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 smoothes 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 Ionian 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 



   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. 


   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 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
   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 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
   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 uti 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 

Poetry Page