Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Book Review: The Waste Land

lostgen-button-206x300The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot

Publisher: Shamrock Eden Publishing

Category: Poetry

Challenges: The Classic Circuit: The Lost Generation

My Thoughts: Quite honestly, I have no idea what was going on in this poem. I like poetry, and not just the rhyming kind.

I know from previous studies of the time period in which Elliot worked that many artists and writers were highly influenced by what they saw as a fracturing world, after all the contemporary poet Yeats coined the phrase “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”. This fractured feeling is my overwhelming feeling of this poem.

The narrative voice keeps changing as does the motives. This makes for a confusing picture of what is going on. In addition to this the poem draws metaphors and images from a wide variety of sources, both real and imaginary.

There are some often recurring images, for me the most memorable one is that of water in general and rivers in particular. Water is shown as both a life giving force but also a force that is intimately connected to the other big image, that of death.

The death motive is very understandable considering the devastation created by the First World War which had recently ended. But I think it goes a bit deeper than that. There is an image at the end of the first chapter

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.

For me this passage can be seen as talking about both literal and figurative death. The line “And each man fixed his eyes before his feet” makes me think of those who refuse to see what is in front of them. To see their fellow man. Couple that with the first line: “Under the brown fog of a winter dawn” you really get a feeling of things being totally obscured.

I would love to read this with someone and have the opportunity to discuss and dissect it further. I often find that I get a better and deeper understanding of poetry in the conversation with others.

I am glad that I have read it but would want to re read it many times.



Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


Falaise said...

I've had a similar feeling every time I've read any Eliot! Lovely post.

Unknown said...

I have not read Elliot, but I agree, something like the Waste Land is best read with someone who can help navigate all the subtleties of the writing.


Rebecca Reid said...

I think I've read portions of this poem but I don't remember "getting" anything. But I love that image you share: "each man fixed his eyes before his feet." so depressing, but also "selfish" as Hemingway described the lost generation in The Sun Also Rises....

Tiina said...

I love T.S. Eliot & The Waste Land especially! Your post put me in the mood for some rereading now. :) Have to think where I've put my copy of the book...