The Waste Land

The Waste Land

Original Text
T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922). end E546 W378 1922b Fisher Rare Book Library. Gallup A6a (first edition). Cf. "The Waste Land," The Dial, 73: 5 (Nov. 1922). end E546 W378 1922a Fisher Rare Book Library.
"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)
2Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
3Memory and desire, stirring
4Dull roots with spring rain.
5Winter kept us warm, covering
7A little life with dried tubers.
9With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
11And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
13And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
14My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
15And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
16Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
17In the mountains, there you feel free.
18I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
21You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
22A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
24And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
26(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
27And I will show you something different from either
29Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
32Der Heimat zu
33Mein Irisch Kind,
34Wo weilest du?
36"They called me the hyacinth girl."
37-- Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
38Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
39Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
40Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
44Had a bad cold, nevertheless
45Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
47Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
50The lady of situations.
51Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
52And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
53Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
54Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
55The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
57Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
58Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
59One must be so careful these days.
61Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
62A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
65And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
67To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
71"That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
72"Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
73"Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
75"Or with his nails he'll dig it up again!
78Glowed on the marble, where the glass
79Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines
80From which a golden Cupidon peeped out
81(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)
82Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra
84The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,
85From satin cases poured in rich profusion;
86In vials of ivory and coloured glass
87Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,
88Unguent, powdered, or liquid -- troubled, confused
89And drowned the sense in odours; stirred by the air
90That freshened from the window, these ascended
91In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,
93Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.
94Huge sea-wood fed with copper
95Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone,
96In which sad light a carvèd dolphin swam.
97Above the antique mantel was displayed
101Filled all the desert with inviolable voice
102And still she cried, and still the world pursues,
104And other withered stumps of time
105Were told upon the walls; staring forms
106Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed.
107Footsteps shuffled on the stair.
108Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair
109Spread out in fiery points
110Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.
112"Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.
113"What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
114"I never know what you are thinking. Think."
116Where the dead men lost their bones.
117"What is that noise?"
119"What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?"
120                  Nothing again nothing.
121                  "Do
122"You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
124I remember
125Those are pearls that were his eyes.
127                 But
129It's so elegant
130So intelligent
131"What shall I do now? What shall I do?"
132"I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
133"With my hair down, so. What shall we do tomorrow?
134"What shall we ever do?"
135    The hot water at ten.
136And if it rains, a closed car at four.
137And we shall play a game of chess,
140I didn't mince my words, I said to her myself,
142Now Albert's coming back, make yourself a bit smart.
143He'll want to know what you done with that money he gave you
144To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.
145You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,
146He said, I swear, I can't bear to look at you.
147And no more can't I, I said, and think of poor Albert,
148He's been in the army four years, he wants a good time,
149And if you dont give it him, there's others will, I said.
150Oh is there, she said. Something o' that, I said.
151Then I'll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.
153If you dont like it you can get on with it, I said,
154Others can pick and choose if you can't.
155But if Albert makes off, it wont be for lack of telling.
156You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
157(And her only thirty-one.)
158I can't help it, she said, pulling a long face,
159It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
160(She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.)
162You are a proper fool, I said.
163Well, if Albert wont leave you alone, there it is, I said,
164What you get married for if you dont want children?
167And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot --
171Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
172Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.
174Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
175Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.
177The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
178Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
179Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.
180And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors;
181Departed, have left no addresses.
183Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
184Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
186The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.
187A rat crept softly through the vegetation
188Dragging its slimy belly on the bank
189While I was fishing in the dull canal
190On a winter evening round behind the gashouse
191Musing upon the king my brother's wreck
193White bodies naked on the low damp ground
194And bones cast in a little low dry garret,
195Rattled by the rat's foot only, year to year.
200And on her daughter
201They wash their feet in soda water
203Twit twit twit
204Jug jug jug jug jug jug
205So rudely forc'd.
207Unreal City
208Under the brown fog of a winter noon
211C.i.f. London: documents at sight,
215At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
216Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
217Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
219Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
220At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
222The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
223Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
224Out of the window perilously spread
225Her drying combinations touched by the sun's last rays,
226On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
227Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
228I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
229Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest--
230I too awaited the expected guest.
231He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
232A small house agent's clerk, with one bold stare,
233One of the low on whom assurance sits
235The time is now propitious, as he guesses,
236The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,
237Endeavours to engage her in caresses
238Which still are unreproved, if undesired.
239Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;
240Exploring hands encounter no defence;
241His vanity requires no response,
242And makes a welcome of indifference.
243(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
244Enacted on this same divan or bed;
245I who have sat by Thebes below the wall
246And walked among the lowest of the dead.)
247Bestows one final patronising kiss,
248And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit ...
249She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
250Hardly aware of her departed lover;
251Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:
252"Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over."
254Paces about her room again, alone,
255She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
256And puts a record on the gramophone.
259O City city, I can sometimes hear
261The pleasant whining of a mandoline
262And a clatter and a chatter from within
263Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
265Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.
267Oil and tar
268The barges drift
269With the turning tide
270Red sails
272To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.
273The barges wash
274Drifting logs
276Past the Isle of Dogs.
277    Weialala leia
278    Wallala leialala
280Beating oars
281The stern was formed
282A gilded shell
283Red and gold
284The brisk swell
285Rippled both shores
286Southwest wind
287Carried down stream
288The peal of bells
290    Weialala leia
291    Wallala leialala
292"Trams and dusty trees.
294Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees
295Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe."
297Under my feet. After the event
298He wept. He promised `a new start.'
299I made no comment. What should I resent?"
301I can connect
302Nothing with nothing.
303The broken fingernails of dirty hands.
304My people humble people who expect
306la la
310O Lord Thou pluckest
313Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
315    A current under sea
316Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
321Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
325The shouting and the crying
327Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
328He who was living is now dead
329We who were living are now dying
330With a little patience
331Here is no water but only rock
332Rock and no water and the sandy road
333The road winding above among the mountains
334Which are mountains of rock without water
335If there were water we should stop and drink
336Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
337Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
339Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
340Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
341There is not even silence in the mountains
342But dry sterile thunder without rain
343There is not even solitude in the mountains
344But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
345From doors of mudcracked houses
346If there were water
347And no rock
348If there were rock
349And also water
350And water
351A spring
352A pool among the rock
353If there were the sound of water only
354Not the cicada
355And dry grass singing
356But sound of water over a rock
358Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
359But there is no water
360Who is the third who walks always beside you?
362But when I look ahead up the white road
363There is always another one walking beside you
364Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
366-- But who is that on the other side of you?
368Murmur of maternal lamentation
369Who are those hooded hordes swarming
370Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
371Ringed by the flat horizon only
372What is the city over the mountains
373Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
375Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
376Vienna London
378A woman drew her long black hair out tight
379And fiddled whisper music on those strings
381Whistled, and beat their wings
382And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
383And upside down in air were towers
384Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
386In this decayed hole among the mountains
387In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
389There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
390It has no windows, and the door swings,
391Dry bones can harm no one.
392Only a cock stood on the rooftree
395Bringing rain
397Waited for rain, while the black clouds
399The jungle crouched, humped in silence.
403My friend, blood shaking my heart
404The awful daring of a moment's surrender
405Which an age of prudence can never retract
406By this, and this only, we have existed
407Which is not to be found in our obituaries
409Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
410In our empty rooms
413Turn in the door once and turn once only
414We think of the key, each in his prison
415Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
416Only at nightfall, aethereal rumours
419Damyata: The boat responded
420Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
421The sea was calm, your heart would have responded
422Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
423To controlling hands
425Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
431These fragments I have shored against my ruins
433Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.


1] [Title.] T. S. Eliot's notes to The Waste Land are bold-faced and retain their original lineation. The indispensable work on the poem's composition is T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts Including the Annotations of Ezra Pound, ed. Valerie Eliot (London: Faber and Faber, 1971; PR 6009 .L5W3 1971 Trinity College Library).
Not only the title, but the plan and a
good deal of the incidental symbolism
of the poem were suggested by Miss Jesse L.
Weston's book on the Grail legend: From
Ritual to Romance
(Macmillan). Indeed, so
deeply am I indebted, Miss Weston's book will
elucidate the difficulties of the poem much
better than my notes can do; and I recom-
mend it (apart from the great interest of the
book itself) to any who think such elucidation of the
poem worth the trouble. To another
work of anthropology I am indebted in general,
one which has influenced our generation pro-
foundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have
used especially the two volumes Atthis Adonis
Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these
works will immediately recognise in the poem
certain references to vegetation ceremonies.
[Eliot's note]
Eliot's title refers to the ancient legend of the Fisher King, the ruler of the Waste Land, so-called in the Perceval versions of the Grail legend because it was doomed to barrenness until the King, who was wounded in the sexual organs, was healed by a knight of great purity. The legend exists in many versions, pagan and Christian, and originated in pagan fertility rites celebrating the movement of Nature from barren winter to fertile lifeful spring and often involving human sacrifice to bring about this natural rebirth. Usually the King was killed, his flowing blood being taken as the power that rejuvenates the land. In the Fisher King legend, however, there is no human sacrifice: the King stands for the land, in his barrenness, and his healing accordingly comes to symbolize the land's healing.
See Jessie Laidlay Weston, From Ritual to Romance (1920: Cambridge: University Press, 1957; PN 686 G7 W45 Robarts Library):
The distinctive feature of the Perceval version is the insistence upon the sickness, and disability of the ruler of the land, the Fisher King. Regarded first as the direct cause of the wasting of the land, it gradually assumes overwhelming importance, the task of the Quester becomes that of healing the King ... (13-14)
(a) There is a general consensus of evidence to the effect that the main object of the Quest is the restoration to health and vigour of a King suffering from infirmity caused by wounds, sickness, or old age;
(b) and whose infirmity, for some mysterious and unexplained reason, reacts disastrously upon his kingdom, either depriving it of vegetation, or exposing it to the ravages of war.
(c) In two cases it is definitely stated that the King will be restored to youthful vigour and beauty.
(d) In both cases where we find Gawain as the hero of the story, and in one connected with Perceval, the misfortune which has fallen upon the country is that of a prolonged drought, which has destroyed vegetation, and left the land Waste; the effect of the hero's question is to restore the waters to their channel, and render the land once more fertile.
(e) In three cases the misfortunes and wasting of the land are the result of war, and directly caused by the hero's failure to ask the question ... (20-21)
In the English Middle Ages the Fisher King legend became associated with the Arthurian legends, especially that of the quest for the Holy Grail (the vessel supposed to have been used by Jesus at the Last Supper). One of Arthur's knights, on a quest, endures temptations and agonies in the Waste Land, all of which culminate in the ordeal of the Chapel Perilous; then, through the Grail, he becomes able to heal the Fisher King, and the land regains its fertility. In some versions, the knight's final test is his arrival at a castle where a beautiful young girl brings him the Grail (or other symbols), and where he must ask certain right questions; failure to do so sometimes causes the previously fertile land to become waste; Grail Castle must be reached by crossing a water-filled moat; the questor must be motivated by a desire to save the land, not to attain some personal end. The Grail is symbolically associated with the lance, the female and male symbols.
[Epigraph.] Sybil's response, which Eliot places in Greek letters, is here transliterated and italicized. "And as for the Sibyl, I saw her with my own eyes at Cumae, suspended in a bottle, and when boys asked her, `Sibyl, what is your wish?', she would reply, `I want to die.'" (Petronius, Satyricon, trans. P.-G. Walsh [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996]: chapter 48, p. 39; PA 6558 E5W3 Robarts Library). The Sybil of Cumae, a gatekeeper of the underworld, asked the gods for as many years of life as grains of sand in her hand, but forgot to ask for physical youth along with them. She was an oracle who divulged her knowledge by flinging from her cave handfuls of leaves, which the seeker of knowledge had to catch and try to put in order.
[Dedication.] For Ezra Pound, "the better craftsman" (Italian). Eliot alludes to Pound's title for a chapter on Arnaut Daniel in The Spirit of Romance (London: J. M. Dent, 1910).
Lines 1-4 echo Geoffrey Chaucer's "General Prologue" of The Canterbury Tales, lines 1-18 (from the Hengwrt manuscript):
Whan that Aueryll with his Shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed euery veyne in swich lycour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in euery holt and heeth
The tendre croppes and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne
And smale foweles maken melodye
That slepen al the nyght with open Iye
So priketh hem nature in hir corages
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrymages
And Palmeres for to seeken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes kouthe in sondry londes
And specially from euery shyres ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende
The holy blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen whan that they weere seeke

[Modern English translation]
When April with his sweet showers
has pierced the drought of March to the root
and bathed every vein with such a fluid
of whose power is engendered the flower,
when also the West Wind with his sweet breath
has quickened in every wood and plain
the tender shoots, and the young sun
has run in the Ram his halfway course,
and small birds make music
who sleep all night with an open eye --
so nature spurs the life-force in them --
then people yearn to go on pilgrimages,
and palmers to seek out foreign ways
to far-off shrines known in various lands,
and especially from every shire's end
of England they travel to Canterbury
to seek out the holy, blessed martyr
who has helped them when they were sick.
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6] feeding / A little life: Eliot alludes to James Thomson's poem, "To Our Ladies of Death," The City of Dreadful Night and Other Poems (London: Reeves and Turner, 1880; B-12 6999 Fisher Rare Book Library):
Our Mother feedeth thus our little life,
That we may in turn feed her with our death
Back to Line
8] Starnbergersee: a lake south of Munich. Back to Line
10] Hofgarten: "the manor- or house-garden," a public park in Munich. Back to Line
12] "I am no Russian, I come from Lithuania, true German." Back to Line
19] Compare Luke 8:1-15, Jesus's parable of the sower, who sowed seed variously at the road-side, on a rock, among thorns, and on good ground. "And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture" (8:6). "They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (8:13). Back to Line
20] Cf. Ezekiel II, i. [Eliot's note] The Son of man is mortal man, addressed by God in a vision in Ezekiel: "Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me ..." (2:3). Ezekiel's mission is to prophesy the destruction of Jerusalem (that is, the city of man) and the enslavement of its people in Babylonian captivity; and God warns, "In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished" (6:6); and "the cities that are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate; and ye shall know that I am the Lord" (12:20). God also foretells to Ezekiel the eventual restoration of Israel after its exile in the desert:
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.
Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. (37:1-5)
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23] Cf. Ecclesiastes XII, v. [Eliot's note]
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them .... In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened .... Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets ..... Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
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25] "this red rock" has several interpretations. (1) Compare Isaiah 32:1-3, the prophecy concerning Christ's coming: "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." (2) In one version of the Grail legend (Parzifal), the Grail is said to be a stone, and those called to its quest are like children growing up under its shadow. (3) St. Peter (whose name means "stone"), the first Pope, is the rock on which Christ foretold he would build his church.
Eliot's early poem, "The Death of S. Narcissus," supplied lines 25-30. For the text, see Poems Written in early Youth, ed. John Hayward (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1967). Back to Line
28] Compare Philaster's words on the need to preach "How all the good you have is but a shadow, / I' th' morning with you, and at night behind you", in Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher's Philaster, III.ii. Back to Line
30] For "a handful of dust," see the Anglican rite for "The Burial of the Dead":
Then, while the earth shall be cast upon the body by some standing by, the Priest shall say, `Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed: we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our incorruptible body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.
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31] V. Tristan und Isolde, I, verses 5-8. [Eliot's note] These verses are sung by a sailor on the ship bringing Isolde to Cornwall to marry King Mark, uncle to Tristan: "The wind blow fresh / toward land of home: / My Irish child, / where do you roam?" (Richard Wagner, Tristam and Isolde, trans. Stewart Robb [New York: Dutton, 1965]: 2-3). The sailor's naive and happy love for his "Irish child" contrasts with the tragically ending courtly (that is, secret) love of Tristan and Isolde. Back to Line
35] The hyacinth is a flower supposed to have sprung from the blood of Hyacinthus, a son of a king of Sparta loved by both Apollo and Zephyrus, and slain by the latter when the boy only returned the love of Apollo. As the god was playing quoits with Hyacinthus, the god of the wind blew a quoit thrown by Apollo so that it struck the boy and killed him. Back to Line
41] Compare Dante's Paradiso, XII, 28, for another "heart of light." Dante, with Beatrice, his guide, reaches the second level of heaven, which is another circle of lights that sing, dance and speak, and there "from out of the heart of one of the new lights there moved a voice ..." (that of St. Bonaventura, leader of the Franciscans). Back to Line
42] Id. III, verse 24. [Eliot's note] That is, in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, the words of the shepherd telling Tristam there is no sign of Isolde coming to heal his mortal wound: "Bleak and bare the sea" (Wagner, trans. Robb, pp. 108-09). Back to Line
43] Sosostris is the name of an Egyptian king. Eliot may have been influenced by Aldous Huxley's novel Crome Yellow (London: Chatto and Windus, 1921), in which a Mr Scogan disguises himself as "Sesostris, the Sorceress of Ecbatana" and pretends to be a clairvoyant. Back to Line
46] I am not familiar with the exact consti-
tution of the Tarot pack of cards, from which
I have obviously departed to suit my own
convenience. The Hanged Man, a member of
the traditional pack, fits my purpose in two
ways: because he is associated in my mind
with the Hanged God of Frazer, and because
I associate him with the hooded figure in the
passage of the disciples to Emmaus in Part V.
The Phoenician Sailor and the Merchant
appear later; also the "crowds of people,"
and Death by Water is executed in Part IV.
The Man with Three Staves (an authentic
member of the Tarot pack) I associate, quite
arbitrarily, with the Fisher King himself.
[Eliot's note]
The Tarot cards were used originally as a part of fertility rites to "predict the rise and fall of the waters which brought fertility to the land" (Weston, From Ritual to Romance [1920: 1957]: 80). The cards have four suits: cup (hearts), lance (diamonds), sword (spades), and dish (clubs; Weston, 77). Among the cards are the Fool, the High Priestess, the Wheel of Fortune, the Hanged Man, and Death, but evidently no blank card, no drowned sailor. Certain other figures Eliot mentions here cannot be identified in the pack. The man with three staves may be the Pope, who carries a triple cross (which has two cross-bars). The one-eyed merchant and his pack are likely the Fool, who on the Tarot card carries, on a wand over his back, a wallet or pack, the lock of which is in the form of a single eye. The Tarot symbolism suggests that the wallet contains the sum of past human experience, and that the eye which is the key to it is the all-seeing eye (compare the eye of Horus in Egyptian myth), the visionary power, by which man can gain access to a universal memory. Back to Line
48] This quotation is from Ariel's song to Prince Ferdinand in Shakespeare's The Tempest (I.2.398), where the air-spirit refers to Ferdinand's father, King Alonzo, whom he thinks has just drowned in an illusory storm at sea that was of Ariel's doing:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly sing his knell.
Back to Line
49] Leonardo da Vinci painted the "Madonna of the Rocks" (the Virgin Mary). "Belladonna" means "fair lady" and is the name of a poisonous plant called deadly nightshade. Back to Line
56] Perhaps a reference to the damned in Dante's Inferno, who are imprisoned in various circles descending to the lowest, in which Satan is fixed. Back to Line
60] Cf. Baudelaire:
"Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rûves,
"Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant!"
[Eliot's note]

Baudelaire's "Les Sept Viellards," that is, "The Seven Old Men," which begins:
Swarming city, city full of dreams,
Where the spectre in broad daylight buttonholes the passer-by.

(Les Fleurs du Mal [Paris: Alphonse Lemerre, 1917]: 159). Back to Line
63] Cf. Inferno III, 55-57:
"si lunga tratta
di gente, ch'io non avrei mai creduto
che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta."
[Eliot's note]

Virgil leads Dante into the underworld, a dark plain just before they reach the great river over which Charon ferries the damned. There Dante sees a vast number, uttering cries in great pain: these are souls never sufficiently alive to be good or evil, but who cared only meanly for themselves: "And I looked and saw a flag that, whirling about, ran so quickly that it seemed to scorn to pause; and behind it came so long a line of people that I should never have believed death had undone so many." Back to Line
64] Cf. Inferno IV, 25-27:
"Quivi, secondo che per ascoltare,
"non avea pianto, ma' che di sospiri,
"che l'aura eterna facevan tremare."
[Eliot's note]

Dante crosses the river and enters Hell's first circle, which holds those who (though they did not sin greatly) were no Christians and so were never baptized. "Here there was no lamentation that could be heard except sighs, which made the eternal air tremble; and this arose from the sadness, without agony, of the many, great crowds both of children and of men and women." Back to Line
66] King William Street, in London, throngs with office workers at the morning rush hour. Saint Mary Woolnoth is a church at the corner of King William and Lombard streets and was across the street from Eliot's work-place, Lloyd's Bank. Back to Line
68] A phenomenon which I have often
[Eliot's note] Back to Line
69] Stetson: Eliot certainly knew Ezra Pound, who, an expatriot American, sometimes sported a stetson hat. Back to Line
70] In the Gulf of Milazzo, on the northern coast of Sicily, Rome won its first victory at sea over the Carthaginians in the first Punic war, which was launched over the profits of trade. Back to Line
74] The Dog could refer to (1) the Dog star, Sirius, who heralded the rising of the Nile waters; (2) the word "God," reversed; (3) Psalms 22:20, "Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog"; or (4) as Eliot later says in his poem "Marina," "Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning / Death."
Cf. the Dirge in Webster's White Devil. [Eliot's note]
This is sung by a madwoman to her son over the corpse of his brother (whom he has killed):
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.
Back to Line
76] V. Baudelaire, Preface to Fleurs du Mal. [Eliot's note]
C'est l'Ennui! ....
Tu le connais, lecteur, ce monstre délicat,
Hypocrite lecteur! mon semblable, mon frère! (p. 9)

[It's boredom! ....
You know him, reader, this dainty monster,
Hypocritical reader! my double, my brother!
Back to Line
77] The title has many associations. (1) It recollects the chess game in Thomas Middleton's Women Beware Women, in which a widow is distracted by the playing of a game of chess from the duke's seduction of her daughter-in-law Bianca in the next room (almost described as a rape, and in double entendre imaged as a chess game). (2) The chess game often represents man's mortality -- for example, Igmar Bergman's film, The Seventh Seal, shows life as a chess game with Death. (3) In the Grail legend, the knight sometimes visits a chessboard castle, where he meets a water-maiden. (4) At the end of Shakespeare's The Tempest the two ancient rival kingdoms of Milan and Naples are united in the promised marriage of Prince Ferdinand and Prospero's daughter, Miranda, who are discovered together playing a game of chess -- signifying the rational basis of their love, their pre-marital chastity, and their marriage as the reduction of a real war to a mere game between lovers. (5) In chess, two kings strive for supremacy by manipulating and sacrificing their Queens, Knights, Bishops, Castles, and Pawns (soldiers), although in fact the two Kings are the weakest pieces on the board.
Cf. Antony and Cleopatra, II, ii, 190. [Eliot's note]
This is Enobarbus' description of Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen, as she floats on her ship down the Cydnus River to meet Antony (II.2.192-206):
The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumèd that
The winds were lovesick 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. For her own person,
It beggared all description: she did lie
In her pavilion, cloth-of-gold of tissue,
O'erpicturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature. On each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colored fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.

There are also reminiscences here of the descriptions of Imogen's room in Shakespeare's Cymbeline. In order to convince Posthumous that he has seduced his wife Imogen, the cunning Iachimo visits her room while she is asleep and writes down the details of the bedroom's decoration, and certain distinguishing marks on Imogen's body. The room is hung with tapestries of the meeting of Antony and Cleopatra, and of chaste Diana bathing, and
The roof o' th' chamber
With golden cherubins is fretted. Her andirons --
I had forgot them -- were two winking Cupids
Of silver, each on one foot standing, nicely
Depending on their brands. (II.4.87-91)

Note also that Imogen has just put down a book of the rape of Philomela and had marked her place "Where Philomel gave up" (II.2.44-46). Back to Line
83] Eliot's description of the make-up table resembles Belinda's where she sits primping on the day of her "rape" in Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock (an 18th-century mock-heroic poem about the social furor caused when a nobleman snips off two prized locks of hair from a coquette's hair).
And now, unveiled the toilet stands displayed,
Each silver vase in mystic order laid ....
Unnumbered treasures ope at once, and here
The various treasures of the world appear;
From each she nicely culls with curious toil,
And decks the Goddess with the glittering spoil.
This casket India's glowing gems unlocks,
And all Arabia breathes from yonder box.
(I.121.2, 129-34)
Back to Line
92] Laquearia. V. Aeneid, I, 726:
dependent lychni laquearibus aureis
incensi, et noctem flammis funalia vincunt.
[Eliot's note]

Aeneus, the last son of Trojan Priam, and the founder-to-be of Rome, escapes from burning Troy, and after many misadventures reaches Carthage (on the Mediterranean shore of present-day Tunesia, in northern Africa), the Punic capital of Queen Dido. Aeneus's mother, Venus, took him under her protection against Juno, Queen of Heaven, who supports the Greeks and has a temple in Carthage. So as to secure Aeneus from Juno's evil influence there, Venus puts Aeneus to sleep on the night in which he is supposed to attend a feast given by Dido and doubles for him her other son, Cupid, whom she tells to arouse Dido's desire for Aeneus' image. Dido receives the false Aeneus on her golden couch beneath rich tapestries and falls in love quickly. Just before Dido proposes a toast and asks the false Aeneus to tell his adventures, Virgil describes the sensuously rich hall in lines that Eliot here adapts: "lighted lamps hang down from the fretted roof of gold, [i.e., laquearia] and flaming torches drive out the night" (Virgil, 2 vols., rev. edn., ed. and trans. H. Rushton Fairclough [London: Heinemann, 1935]: I, 342-43; PR 6801 A2 Robarts Library). Aeneus and Dido become lovers, and when he leaves Carthage to fulfil his destiny she commits suicide. Their unmarried love -- Dido was widowed when her brother killed her husband -- proved disastrous for her country, which Rome went on to defeat and destroy. Carthage, the city of Juno, goddess of marriage, was doomed once Venus intervened. Back to Line
98] Sylvan scene. V. Milton, Paradise Lost, IV, 140. [Eliot's note]
The woodland view describes a hill with "hairy sides" in Eden on the very top of which rests Paradise, the garden in which Adam and Eve lived innocent. Satan sees this "sylvan scene" as, having escaped Hell and passed through Chaos, he approaches Paradise to seduce man to disobedience from God's commands. Satan succeeds in seducing Eve and through her Adam, and the first couple then are exiled from the garden to live in a harsher world, one that exacts pain in work and in the labour of childbirth and that ends inevitably in death. Back to Line
99] V. Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI, Philomela. [Eliot's note]
Philomela (daughter of Pandion, king of Athens) went by sea to visit her sister Procne, who had married Tereus, king of Trace. Tereus accompanied Philomela from Athens, and when they disembarked he took her to a hut in a dark wood and violently raped the virgin. When she threatened to accuse him, Tereus cut out her tongue with his sword and raped her again in her blood. Shut up afterwards for a year in that hut, Philomela cleverly wove into a tapestry the story of her sufferings and had it conveyed to her sister, who then found her prison and secretly brought her back to Tereus' palace, where they plotted revenge. Procne seized her own son (by Tereus), Itys, who looked like his father, and stabbed him in the chest and cut his throat. The two sisters then butchered the boy's body, cooked it by boiling in kettles and by roasting on skewers over a fire, and served the meat to Tereus, who made it a feast. Philomela then appeared before Tereus and flung the boy's bloody head at him. Before Tereus could murder the sisters, they all changed into birds: Tereus into a hoopoe bird, Procne into a swallow, and Philomela into a nightingale, who sings according to legend with her breast pressed against a thorn -- assuredly a sexual image -- a plaintive song of great beauty on love's mixed joy and sorrow. See Ovid, Metamorphoses, ed. and trans. Frank Justus Miller, 2nd edn. (London: Heinemann, 1921): 424-674; I, pp. 316-35; PA 6519 M2 1921 Robarts Library. Back to Line
100] Cf. Part III l. 204. [Eliot's note] Back to Line
103] "Jug jug" are words often used in Elizabethan poetry for the nightingale's song, and as slang for sexual intercourse. John Lyly's lyric from his play Alexander and Campaspe is an example:
What bird so sings, yet does so wail?
Oh, 'tis the ravished nightingale.
Jug, jug, jug, jug, tereu! she cries,
And still her woes at midnight rise.
Brave prick-song!

The second cry, "tereu!", of course recalls the name of the rapist king in the story of Philomela. Back to Line
111] The next 25 lines echo the closet scene in Shakespeare's Hamlet where the young prince confronts his mother Gertrude with the ugly lechery and incest of her marriage with Claudius, the brother of her first husband (Hamlet's father), and also his murder. Frightened when Hamlet kills Polonius in her bedchamber and then accuses her viciously of lechery, Queen Gertrude cries out, "O Hamlet, speak no more," and "O, speak to me no more" (III.4.89, 95), but Hamlet does not calm down until after the Ghost, his father King Hamlet, enters to remind him of his duty to carry out revenge against Claudius. He tells Hamlet to comfort his mother, "Speak to her, Hamlet" (116). Because Gertrude cannot see the Ghost, she is amazed:
Queen. To whom do you speak this?
Hamlet. Do you see nothing there?
Queen. Nothing at all; yet all that is I see.
Hamlet. Nor did you nothing hear?
Queen. No, nothing but ourselves.

Like Eliot's distracted lady, Gertrude says, "What shall I do?" when Hamlet tells her to repent. He gives her crazy-seeming advice to refrain from and to continue in lechery:
Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:
Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed,
Pinch wanton on your cheek, call you his mouse (182-84)

This game of king, queen, and knight is consistent with the chess match alluded to previously. Back to Line
115] Cf. Part III l. 195. [Eliot's note] Back to Line
118] Cf. Webster: "Is the wind in that door
[Eliot's note]
This is John Webster's play The Devil's Law Case, III.2.162. Back to Line
126] Cf. Part I l. 37, 48. [Eliot's note] Back to Line
128] Shakespeherian Rag: a popular hit song of 1912 in the United States. Back to Line
138] Cf. the game of chess in Middleton's Women beware Women. [Eliot's note] Back to Line
139] demobbed: demobilized, released from the army once a unit has been disbanded. Back to Line
141] Customary call in English public houses (pubs) at closing time, to warn the patrons to finish up their drinks and go out into the night. Back to Line
161] chemist: pharmicist. Back to Line
166] a hot gammon: smoked ham. The term "gamos" in Greek means `sexual intercourse.' Back to Line
170] During the closet scene Hamlet repeatedly says "Good night" to Gertrude (160, 171, 178) and closes with "Mother, good night" and "Good night, mother" (214, 218) to the woman he has before called "lady" and "good lady" (116, 181). The last line in Part II quotes from Ophelia's first mad scene, where she appears, distracted by the news of Hamlet's murder of her father, Polonius, and also apparently by the prince's decision to repudiate his previously expressed love for her. Just before this poignant farewell (IV.5.72-73), Ophelia sang a St. Valentine's day's poem about a young man who seduced a virgin (on a promise of marriage) and then refused to wed her because she yielded to him -- a song that may apply to Ophelia herself. Later she will be drowned, perhaps accidentally, as she wanders, distracted, seemingly insane. Back to Line
173] The title to this Part is the name of a sermon by the Buddha to a great congregation of priests who followed him from Uruvela in the direction of Gaya Head, where he gave the homily (Henry Clarke Warren, Buddhism in Translations [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1922]: 351-53).
All things, O priests, are on fire. And what, O priests, are all these things which are on fire?
The eye, O priests, is on fire; forms are on fire; eye-consciousness is on fire; impressions received by the eye are on fire; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the eye, that also is on fire.
And with what are these on fire?
With the fire of passion, say I, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of infatuation; with birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair are they on fire.
The ear is on fire; sounds are on fire; ... the nose is on fire; odors are on fire; ... the tongue is on fire; tastes are on fire; ... the body is on fire; things tangible are on fire; ... the mind is on fire; ideas are on fire; ... mind-consciousness is on fire; impressions received by the mind are on fire; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the mind, that also is on fire.
And with what are these on fire?
With the fire of passion, say I, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of infatuation; with birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair are they on fire.
Perceiving this, O priests, the learned and noble disciple conceives an aversion for the eye, conceives an aversion for forms, conceives an aversion for eye-consciousness, conceives an aversion for the impressions received by the eye; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the eye, for that also he conceives an aversion. Conceives an aversion for the ear, conceives an aversion for sounds, ... conceives an aversion for the nose, conceives an aversion for odors, ... conceives an aversion for the tongue, conceives an aversion for tastes, ... conceives an aversion for the body, conceives an aversion for things tangible, ... conceives an aversion for the mind, conceives an aversion for ideas, conceives an aversion for mind-consciousness, conceives an aversion for the impressions received by the mind; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the mind, for this also he conceives an aversion. And in conceiving this aversion, he becomes divested of passion, and by the absence of passion he becomes free, and when he is free he becomes aware that he is free; and he knows that rebirth is exhausted, that he has lived the holy life, that he has done what it behooved him to do, and that he is no more for this world.

The sermon ends, "Now while this exposition was being delivered, the minds of the thousand priests became free from attachment and delivered from the depravities." Back to Line
176] V. Spenser, Prothalamion. [Eliot's note]
Edmund Spenser's hymn, of which Eliot quotes the refrain, celebrates two court weddings, the progress to which took the form of a stately barge trip up the Thames from the royal court at Greenwich to London. On the way, the barge is greeted by a "flock of nymphs" on the shores, "All lovely daughters of the flood thereby, / With goodly greenish locks all loose untied, / As each had been a bride" (21-23). To ensure the marriages' fertility and happiness, these nymphs strewed flowers over the waters and several sang a bridal hymn to the lovers. Back to Line
182] A paraphrase of the start of Psalm 137, which laments the fall and exile of the Hebrews to Babylon (cf. Ezekiel's prophecy alluded to in Part I), as well as their captivity by the heathens, who mockingly order them to sing:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion [Jerusalem],
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

Leman: (1) Lake Geneva, on Lausanne, one of the places Eliot visited in 1921 for a rest cure, and a place where he partly wrote this poem; and (2) the Middle English term for "sexual partner." Back to Line
185] Adapted from Andrew Marvell's seduction love-poem, "To His Coy Mistress," where he points out to his beloved how quickly and finally life passes away and how one must seize the enjoyment of love while it can be tasted. Marvell expresses himself willing to spend thousands of years preparing for their love's consummation by worshipping each of her beauties,
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged Chariot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Back to Line
192] Cf. The Tempest, I, ii. [Eliot's note]
Just before Ariel sings to Prince Ferdinand a song telling of his father's supposed death, Ferdinand hears another song by the air-spirit and asks:
Where should this music be? I' th' air or th' earth?
It sounds no more; and sure it waits upon
Some god o' th' island. Sitting on a bank,
Weeping again the king my father's wrack [shipwreck],
This music crept by me upon the waters,
Allaying both their fury and my passion
With its sweet air. (I.2.388-93)

Eliot's alteration of the original may result from the influence of the Percival stories. In Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (ed. André Lefevere [New York: Continuum, 1991]; PT 1682 P8L43 1991 Robarts Library), for instance, the Fisher King's brother, Trevrezent, laments his brother's decay and his father's death. Back to Line
196] Cf. Marvell, To His Coy Mistress. [Eliot's note]
Eliot assigns this note to line 197, and the next note to line 196. See note to line 192. Back to Line
197] Cf. Day, Parliament of Bees:
"When of the sudden, listening, you shall hear,
"A noise of horns and hunting, which shall bring
"Actaeon to Diana in the spring,
"Where all shall see her naked skin ..."
[Eliot's note]

Actaeon, having gazed on the goddess of chastity, Diana, as she bathes naked, is turned by her into a stag and then hunted down and killed by his own hounds. In Ovid's Metamorphoses, III, the story of Actaeon was often used to exemplify the bad effects of lust. Back to Line
198] Sweeney: Eliot's animal-man and lady-killer. Cf. "Sweeney Erect," "Sweeney Agonistes," and "Sweeney among the Nightingales."
Mrs. Porter: the surname suggests one who carries burdens or baggage, and in American parlance a porter attends on a parlor or sleeping car on a train. This brothel madam seems to be a bawd for her own daughter. Back to Line
199] I do not know the origin of the ballad
from which these lines are taken: it was re-
ported to me from Sydney, Australia.
[Eliot's note] Back to Line
202] V. Verlaine, Parsifal. [Eliot's note]
The last line of Paul-Marie Verlaine's sonnet about the Percival Grail legend, Parsifal:
Parsifal a vaincu les Filles, leur gentil
Babil et la luxure amusante -- et sa pente
Vers la Chair de garçon vierge que cela tente
D'aimer les seins légers et ce gentil babil;
Il a vaincu la Femme belle, au coeur subtil,
Étalant ses bras frais et sa gorge excitante;
Il a vaincu l'Enfer et rentre sous sa tente
Avec un lourd trophée à son bras puéril,
Avec la lance qui perça le Flanc suprême!
Il a guéri le roi, le voici roi lui-même,
Et prêtre du tres saint Tréntiel.
En robe d'or il adore, gloire et symbole,
Le vase pur où resplendit le Sang reel.
-- Et, ô ces voix d'enfants chantant dans la coupole!
Percival overcame the girls, their pretty
noise and the amusing lechery -- and his penchant
for the virgin boy's flesh that tempts him
to love the wanton breasts and their pretty noise;
he overcame the lovely woman with the subtle heart,
offering her fresh arms and her exciting throat;
he overcame Hell and returns under his tent
with a heavy trophy in his boyish arm,
with the lance that pierced the almighty Side!
He cured the king, the true king himself,
and the priest of the transcendent very holy Treasure.
In a golden robe he worships, glorious and symbolic,
the pure vessel where the royal blood blazes. --
And, O these children's voices singing beneath the cupola!"

(Verlaine, OEuvres poétiques (Paris: Garnier, 1969): 381. Back to Line
209] Eugenides: perhaps from the Greek eugenes (`well-born').
Smyrna: a seaport in Western Turkey on an arm of the Aegean sea, and now called Izmir. Site of one of the seven churches in Asia to which are addressed St. John's Revelations. Back to Line
210] The currants were quoted at a price
"carriage and insurance free to London";
and the Bill of Lading, etc., were to be handed
to the buyer upon payment of the sight draft.
[Eliot's note]
Currants are dried-up grapes, desiccated fruit of the Communion wine. Back to Line
212] demotic: slangy, common. Back to Line
213] Cannon Street Hotel: London hotel frequented in the 1920s by businessmen from the Continent. Back to Line
214] Metropole: large resort hotel in Brighton, a popular holiday town on the south coast of England -- from "metropolis," meaning in Greek `mother-city.' Back to Line
218] Tiresias, although a mere spectator
and not indeed a "character," is yet the most
important personage in the poem, uniting
all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant,
seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician
Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct
from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the
women are one woman, and the two sexes
meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact,
is the substance of the poem. The whole
passage from Ovid is of great anthropological
... Cum Iunone iocos et `maior vestra
profecto est Quam, quae contingit maribus', dixisse,
`voluptas.' Illa negat; placuit quae sit sententia docti
Quaerere Tiresiae: venus huic erat utraque
nota. Nam duo magnorum viridi coeuntia silva
Corpora serpentum baculi violaverat ictu
Deque viro factus, mirabile, femina septem
Egerat autumnos; octavo rursus eosdem
Vidit et `est vestrae si tanta potentia plagae,'
Dixit `ut auctoris sortem in contraria mutet,
Nunc quoque vos feriam!' percussis anguibus
isdem Forma prior rediit genetivaque venit imago.
Arbiter hic igitur sumptus de lite iocosa
Dicta Iovis firmat; gravius Saturnia iusto
Nec pro materia fertur doluisse suique
Iudicis aeterna damnavit lumina nocte,
At pater omnipotens (neque enim licet inrita cuiquam
Facta dei fecisse deo) pro lumine adempto
Scire futura dedit poenamque levavit honore.
[Eliot's note]

Ovid describes the changing of Tiresias, a Grecian prophet-wiseman, in Metamorphoses III.316-38 (I, 146-48):
... it chanced that Jove (as the story goes), while warmed with wine, put care aside and bandied good-humoured jests with Juno in an idle hour. `I maintain,' said he, `that your pleasure in love is greater than that which we enjoy.' She held the opposite view. And so they decided to ask the judgment of wise Tiresias. He knew both sides of love. For once, with a blow of his staff he had outraged two huge serpents mating in the green forest; and, wonderful to relate, from man he was changed into a woman, and in that form spent seven years. In the eighth year he saw the same serpents again and said: `Since in striking you there is such magic power as to change the nature of the giver of the blow, now will I strike you once again.' So saying, he struck the serpents and his former state was restored and he became as he had been born. He therefore, being asked to arbitrate the playful dispute of the gods, took sides with Jove. Saturnia [Juno], they say, grieved more deeply than she should and than the issue warranted, and condemned the arbitrator to perpetual blindness. But the Almighty Father (for no god may undo what another god has done) in return for the loss of sight gave Tiresias the power to know the future, lightening the penalty by the honour.

Some years after the marriage of the King of Thebes, Oedipus, who was married to Jocasta, the wife of the former king, Laios, a terrible plague befell Thebes. Oedipus is told by the Delphic oracle that the wasted city is polluted by the presence of the former king's murderer in it. The blind prophet Tiresias tells Oedipus that he, in pronouncing a terrible curse on the slayer, lies under his own curse, that the murderer is a Theban, and that he is the brother of his own children. Witness to incest here, Tiresias later on, after Oedipus has been exposed, has blinded himself, and has left Thebes, is also witness to the further disasters that the family of Laios has brought upon itself. Oedipus's two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, agree to share the kingdom between them, and reign alternately year by year. Eteocles, who starts, refuses to surrender the throne after his allotted time, and Polynices gains the support of the King of Argos to war against his brother. Eteocles consults Tiresias about the ultimate issue, and the seer declares that victory will fall to Thebes if Menoeceus, the son of Creon (statesman-counsellor to Oedipus and the state), will sacrifice himself. The boy does so, but (though Thebes is victor) the two brothers kill one another, and Antigone (their sister) commits suicide in the end. Tiresias has watched both the murder and incest that made Thebes a plague-ridden waste land, and the self-slaughter and civil war that is a precondition of its purification.
Compare Swinburne's poem "Tiresias": "I, Tiresias the prophet, seeing in Thebes / Much evil." Back to Line
221] This may not appear as exact as
Sappho's lines, but I had in mind the "long-
shore" or "dory" fisherman, who returns at nightfall.
[Eliot's note]
Eliot refers to the lines on the evening star (Venus, goddess of love) by Sappho, a Greek poetess of 7th-century B.C., who wrote chiefly of love:
Hesperus, you bring home all the bright dawn disperses,
bring home the sheep,
bring home the goat, bring the child home to its mother.

Eliot may also have had in mind Robert Louis Stevenson's poem, "Requiem":
Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
See Sappho: Lyrics in the Original Greek with Translations by Willis Barnstone (New York University Press, 1965). PA 4408 A2 1965 Robarts Library. Back to Line
234] Bradford is a manufacturing city in Yorkshire with many nouveaux riches at this period. Back to Line
253] V. Goldsmith, the song in The Vicar of Wakefield. [Eliot's note]
When lovely woman stoops to folly,
And finds too late that men betray,
What charm can soothe her melancholy?
What art can wash her guilt away?
The only art her guilt to cover,
To hide her shame from every eye,
To give repentance to her lover,
And wring his bosom, is -- to die.
Back to Line
257] V. The Tempest, as above. [Eliot's note] Back to Line
258] The Strand runs parallel to the Thames from the old City of London to Westminster; and Queen Victoria Street, in the old City, runs parallel to the Thames and between it and St. Paul's Cathedral from Blackfriars Bridge to Cannon Street. The Strand area has many London theatres, pubs, and restaurants. Back to Line
260] Lower Thames Street is a Thames-side thoroughfare running from London Brisge to the Tower of London, and on it stands Billingsgate Market, the great London fish market. The smell of fish is thick and omnipresent. Back to Line
264] The interior of St. Magnus Martyr is
to my mind one of the finest among Wren's
interiors. See The Proposed Demolition of
Nineteen City Churches:
(P. S. King
& Son Ltd.).
[Eliot's note]
One of Sir Christopher Wren's 17th-century churches, St. Magnus Martyr is situated on Lower Thames Street under the approach to London Bridge, and now overshadowed by Adelaide House, a large business block built in 1924. Eliot refers to the church's slender Ionic columns. Back to Line
266] The Song of the (three) Thames-
daughters begins here. From line 292 to 306
inclusive they speak in turn.
V. Götterdäm-
, III, i: the Rhinedaughters.
[Eliot's note]
Influenced by the following passage from Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness (1902; my italics):
The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished spirit. A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.

In Wagner's opera Das Rheingold the three Rhine-daughters, nymphs entrusted to guard the gold in the river, sing happily and use the cry, "Weialala leia wallala leialala" to express their joy. The ugly gnome Alberich interrupts their play at the start of the opera and wants them to satisfy his lust. Chasing after them, he is made to flounder in the waters as they laugh at him and mock him with these cries. The nymphs jeeringly betray to Alberich that only he who overcomes the lusts of the flesh can hope to possess the Rhine-gold he sees at the river's bottom as he chases them. Alberich then tears the gold from the river so that the nymphs' laughter changes to mourning. In the last of Wagner's operas about the Ring of the Nibelung, Götterdæmmerung, the three Rhine-daughters re-appear to sing of the Rhine gold they have lost, but even here they are not lamenting, but instead happily singing a hymn of praise to the gold and looking forward to a hero who will restore it to them -- Siegfried, who enters with the ring. Their talk is banter, but when he refuses at last to return the gold they prophesy his death. In the end Siegfried is murdered and his beloved Brunnhilde mounts the funeral pile beside his body and they perish together in the flames. The Rhine then rises and its nymphs regain their ring from the ashes -- at which point the Dusk of the Gods (the opera's title) has come, and Valhalla is seen burning with all its heroes and gods. Back to Line
275] Down the Thames towards the sea from London Bridge is a great loop in the river that creates a peninsula known as the Isle of Dogs, which is turned into an island by the cuts of a series of docks across it. Hardwood especially is unloaded here. Just across the river stands what used to be the Royal Docks from the period of Henry VIII. Many ships used against the Spanish Armada were built there, and on the Golden Hind Queen Elizabeth knighted Sir Francis Drake. At the top of the bend, just before the river loops back, stands Greenwich Palace and the hill behind it. Many of these structures were designed by Sir Christopher Wren and contrast sharply with the dismal docks that surround them. On the other side of the peninsular Isle of Dogs, the Thames is called Greenwich Reach, the part of the river between the two seaward bends of the loop. Back to Line
279] V. Froude, Elizabeth, Vol. I, ch. iv, letter of De Quadra to Philip of Spain:
"In the afternoon we were in a barge, watch-
ing the games on the river. (The queen) was
alone with Lord Robert and myself on the
poop, when they began to talk nonsense, and
went so far that Lord Robert at last said, as
I was on the spot there was no reason why they
should not be married if the queen pleased."
[Eliot's note]

See James Anthony Froude, The Reign of Elizabeth (London: J. M. Dent, n.d.): 244.
Queen Elizabeth, according to rumour, took Lord Robert Dudley (earl of Leicester) as her lover and wanted to marry him, but public scandal developed when Dudley's young wife was found at the bottom of a staircase with her neck broken, and when Dudley was suspected of having murdered her so that he could wed the Queen. The Spanish ambassador at this time (1561), the Roman Catholic bishop De Quadra, encouraged the Queen in her infatuation and promised her that Philip II, king of Spain, would support her sovereignty against all comers, English or foreign, if she married a Catholic. Eliot refers to a party given by Leicester on a barge in the Thames described by De Quadra in a letter to Philip on June 30. Elizabeth never married Dudley, or anyone else, and (unlike the Thames-daughters, who became victims of their lovers) chose power over desires of the flesh. She also died childless. Back to Line
289] The white towers are perhaps the donjon of the Tower of London (the original royal palace in London, and also a prison) and the great spire of St. Paul's Cathedral, which burned down June 4, 1561. Froude's account of Leicester and Elizabeth just follows the description of this fire. Back to Line
293] Cf. Purgatorio, V. 133:
"Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia;
"Siena mi fe', disfecemi Maremma."
[Eliot's note]

Among the souls of the violently slain who repented and made their peace with God at the last moment is La Pia, wife of Nello d'Inghiramo dei Pannocchieschi, who was put to death by her husband in 1295 at the Castello della Pietra in the Sienese Maremma: "Remember me, who am La Pia: Siena made me, Maremma unmade me; 'tis known to him who, first plighting troth, had wedded me with his gem." Cf. also the epitaph attributed to Virgil: "Mantua me genuit, Calabri rapuere, tenet Parthenope" (Mantua bore me, Calabria was the death of me, now Naples holds me.)
Highbury: a lower middle-class London suburb, "high-borough."
Richmond and Kew: a city on the Thames near London and the site of Kew Gardens, a very large garden estate in which one can lose the city completely; popular Thames-side excursion spots for city-dwellers. Back to Line
296] Moorgate: one of the old gates of London, and now the heart of the financial district, which includes the Royal Exchange, the central office of the Bank of England, and Lloyds Bank, for which Eliot worked for a time. Back to Line
300] Margate sands: a seaside resort in Kent, south of London. Back to Line
307] V. St. Augustine's Confessions:
"to Carthage then I came, where a cauldron of
unholy loves sang all about mine ears."
[Eliot's note]
St. Augustine, in his autobiography, writes of his falling-away as a student from God into "a land of want" (III.10), specifically in Carthage. The passage that Eliot quotes continues as follows: "I was not yet in love, but I was in love with love ... I defiled the very source of friendship by the filth of concupiscence, and its clear waters I befouled with the lust of hell .... But in my joy I was bound about with painful chains of iron, so that I might be scourged by nurning rods of jealousy, and suspicion, and fear, and anger, and quarreling." Later Augustine (X.34) writes about the temptation of the eyes, and, like the Buddha, wishes release from them for sight instead of the spiritual light of God: "I resist these seductions of the eyes, lest my feet, wherewith I walk upon your path, be ensnared, and I raise up my unseen eyes to you so that you may `pluck my feet out of the snare' [Psalms 25.15]. Again and again do you pluck them out, for they become ensnared. You never cease to pluck them out, for I often get caught in the snares scattered on every side ..." He ends this chapter: "yet I too entangle my steps in such outward beauties. But you pluck me out, Lord, you pluck me out .... For I am caught most wretchedly, and you mercifully pluck me out. Sometimes I feel nothing, because I had not fallen deep into those snares; sometimes it is with pain, because I was already caught firmly therein." Carthage, of course, is the doomed city of Dido. Even as Augustine died, it was overrun by barbarians. Back to Line
308] The complete text of the Buddha's
Fire Sermon (which corresponds in importance
to the Sermon on the Mount) from which
these words are taken, will be found translated
in the late Henry Clarke Warren's Buddhism
in Translation (Harvard Oriental Series). Mr.
Warren was one of the great pioneers of
Buddhist studies in the occident.
[Eliot's note] Back to Line
309] From St. Augustine's Confessions again.
The collocation of these two representatives
of eastern and western asceticism, as the cul-
mination of this part of the poem, is not an
[Eliot's note] Back to Line
312] Phlebas the Phoenician is likely the drowned Phoenician sailor of line 47. Phoenicia was a wealthy maritime empire on the east shores of the Mediterranean, including the coasts of present-day Syria, Lebanon and southern Turkey, and spread the worship of its God Adonis throughout the classical world as it expanded its commercial influence. In Alexandria, an Egyptian city on the Nile delta, according to Jessie Weston, this God's spring feast "began with the solemn and joyous celebration of the nuptials of Adonis and Aphrodite, at the conclusion of which a Head, of papyrus, representing the god, was, with every show of mourning, committed to the waves, and borne within seven days by a current (always to be counted upon at that season of the year) to Byblos [in Lebanon, the Phoenician sacred city from which the term `Bible' comes], where it was received and welcomed with popular rejoicing. The duration of the feast varied from two days, as at Alexandria, to seven or eight."
A fortnight is two weeks. Back to Line
314] the profit and loss: bookkeeping account showing gains and losses in commercial transactions. Back to Line
317] the stages of his age and youth: traditionally, from the classical period onward, man's life has been divided into three, seven, ten or more stages. Back to Line
318] the whirlpool: Scylla (`she who rends') and Charybdis (`the sucker-down') are names attached to rocks and currents on either side of the Straits of Messina (between Sicily and Italy). Charybdis is a mythical monster, daughter of Mother Earth and Poseidon (the sea-god), a voracious woman who had been hurled by Zeus's thunderbolt into the sea and thrice daily sucked in a huge volume of water and presently spewed it out again -- minus passing sailors that had been swallowed. Odysseus (Ulysses) escaped from Charybdis only to have six of his men seized by six-headed Scylla. Back to Line
319] Gentile or Jew: cf. Romans 3:9-12. "What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Back to Line
320] wheel: (1) the ship's steering wheel; (2) the Wheel of Fortune (a Tarot card); (3) an image for life itself. In one of the Upanishads (Hindu treatises concerning metaphysics), the Svetasvatara, the image is invoked to explain all that is: "In this vast brahma-wheel, which enlivens all things, in which all rest, the soul flutters about thinking that the self in him and the Mover (the Lord) are different. Then, when blessed by him, he gains life eternal" (The Principal Upanisads, ed. and trans. S. Radhakrishnan [London: George Allen & Unwin, 1953]: 713; BL 1120 A3R32). Back to Line
322] In the first part of Part V three themes are
employed: the journey to Emmaus, the ap-
proach to the Chapel Perilous (see Miss
Weston's book), and the present decay of eastern
[Eliot's note]
torchlight: cf. John 18.3. "Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons." Back to Line
323] gardens: cf. the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested on the Mount of Olives; and the garden in Golgotha where he was laid in the sepulchre (John 19:41). Back to Line
324] the agony in stony places: cf. "Golgotha" (`the skull') and Matthew 13:5: "Some [seeds] fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth ... and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away." Back to Line
326] Jesus was first interrogated and beaten at the palace of the high priest, Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-58). Barabbas was released from prison in exchange for Jesus (Luke 23:19). His death on the cross caused upheavals: "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent" (Matthew 27:51). Back to Line
338] Compare the miracle of Moses in the desert when he smote the rock for water. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock; so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink" (Numbers 20:7-8). Paul comments on this miracle as follows: "And did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4). Back to Line
357] This is Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii,
the hermit-thrush which I have heard in
Quebec County. Chapman says (Handbook
of Birds of Eastern North America
) `it is most
at home in secluded woodland and thickety
retreats. ... Its notes are not remarkable
for variety or volume, but in purity and sweet-
ness of tone and exquisite modulation they are
unequalled." Its "water-dripping song" is
justly celebrated.
[Eliot's note] Back to Line
361] The following lines were stimulated by
the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions
(I forget which, but I think one of Shackle-
ton's): it was related that the party of ex-
plorers, at the extremity of their strength,
had the constant delusion that there was one
more member than could actually be counted.
[Eliot's note]
Eliot's note refers to Sir Ernest Shackleton's South: The Story of Shackleton's 1914-1917 Last Expedition (1970; London, 1919; G 850 1914 .S5 Robarts Library), which describes the first attempted crossing of the Antarctic continent from sea to sea via the Pole. Shackleton says concerning their journey across South Georgia (from Haakon Bay to Stromness Bay): "When I look back at those days I do not doubt that Providence guided us, not only across those snowfields, but also across the stormy-white sea which separated Elephant Island from our landing place on South Georgia. I know that during that long march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it often seemed to me that we were four, not three. And Worsley and Crean had the same idea. One feels `the dearth of human words, the roughness of mortal speech,' in trying to describe intangible things, but a record of our journeys would be incomplete without reference to a subject very near to our hearts" (125).
See Luke 24:13-16. "And, behold, two of them [Simon and Cleopas, disciples of Christ] went that same day [the third day after Christ's execution] to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him." Christ (still unknown to them) rebuked the two for their doubts about the prophecied resurrection, and expounded the scriptural prophecies concerning himself to them. When Christ broke bread with them that night, their eyes were opened and they recognized him -- whereupon he vanished. Emmaus is present-day El Qubeibeh, a small Muslim village about 18 kilometers out of Jerusalem on the road to Nablus. The disciples are identified as Cleopas and Simon at 24:18 and 24:34. Back to Line
365] a man or a woman: possibly an allusion to an exemplum from the Buddhist Visuddhi-Magga ("Way of Purity or Salvation"), partly translated in the Buddhist text Eliot referred to before:
The story is that a certain woman had married into a family of rank, but had quarreled with her husband, and, decked and ornamented, until she looked like a goddess, had issued forth from Anuradhapura, early in the morning, and was returning home to her family. On her way she met the elder, as he was on his way from Mt. Cetiya to go on his begging-rounds in Anuradhapura. And no sooner had she seen him, than the perversity of her nature caused her to laugh loudly. The elder looked up inquiringly, and observing her teeth, realized the impurity of the body, and attained to sainthood ....
Then came her husband, following in her footsteps, and seeing the elder, he said:
"Reverend sir, have you seen a woman pass this way?"
And the elder said:
"Was it a woman, or a man,
That passed this way? I cannot tell.
But this I know, a set of bones
Is travelling on upon this road."
(Henry Clarke Warren, Buddhism in Translations [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1922]: 297-98). Back to Line
367] Cf. Hermann Hesse, Blick ins Chaos:
"Schon ist halb Europa, schon ist zumindest
der halbe Osten Europas auf dem Wege zum
Chaos, fährt betrunken im heiligen Wahn am
Abgrund entlang und singt dazu, singt be-
trunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Kara-
masoff sang. Ueber diese Lieder lacht der Bürger beleidigt, der Heilige und Seher hört
sie mit Tränen."
[Eliot's note]

Eliot quotes a passage from A Glimpse into Chaos by Hermann Hesse (1872-1962) that refers to the Russian Revolution and other upheavals: "Already half of Europe, already at least half of Eastern Europe, on the way to Chaos, drives drunkenly in spiritual frenzy along the edge of the abyss, sings drunkenly, as though singing hymns, as Dmitri Karamazov [in Feodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov] sang. The offended bourgeois laughs at the songs; the saint and the seers hear them with tears." Back to Line
374] Falling towers: the Tower of the Tarot pack is a crumbling pile, struck by a thunderbolt, with a man and a woman hurtling from its summit. Back to Line
380] According to Eliot (Poems, 1910-1930, p. 155), these details were inspired by a painting from the school of Hieronymus Bosch (a fifteenth-century Dutch artist), one called "Hell" or "The Sinful World" and forming a diptych with Bosch's "Deluge." In a part of the painting one can see a bat-like creature with dull human features crawling headfirst down a rock wall. See Charles de Tolnay, Hieronymus Bosch (Basel: Holbein, 1937), plate 25. Bosch's horrific late Gothic style shows, with extraordinary vividness, allegories of Hell, the fallen world of vice, and wasting self-slaughter. Back to Line
385] In the language of the Old Testament, the empty wells and cisterns signify the drying up of faith in the one God and the worship of false gods in their place. Compare the words of the prophet Jeremiah, "For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and carved themselves out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13), and those of Solomon to his people, "Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well" (Proverbs 5:15). Back to Line
388] the chapel: the Chapel Perilous in the Grail legend, a mysterious and deadly place where the hero knight meets with a strange and terrifying adventure. The details vary. Sometimes there is a dead body laid on the altar; sometimes a black hand extinguishes the tapers. There are threatening voices, and throughout evil and supernatural forces are engaged. In the Percival story the Chapel was built by Queen Brangemore of Cornwall, who was later murdered by her own son Espinogres and buried beneath the altar. Many knights are slain there mysteriously, perhaps by the black hand that appears and puts out the light. The enchantment can only be ended if a valiant knight fights the black hand and, taking a veil kept in the Chapel, dips it in water that has been sanctified, and sprinkles the walls. After being warned, Percival encounters the Chapel he recognizes as being that of the black hand. The hand appears, and Percival fights and wounds it. Then a head appears, and finally the devil in full form, who seizes the knight as he is about to seek the veil. Percival makes the sign of the Cross, the devil vanishes, and the knight falls unconscious before the altar. One reviving, he takes the veil, dips it in holy water, and sprinkles the walls inside and outside. He sleeps there that night. The next morning he sees a belfry. He rings the bell, whereupon an old man, followed by two others, appears. He tells Percival that he is a priest and has buried 3,000 knights slain by the black hand. Every day a fresh marble tomb is added to the graveyard. Especially notable in the Percival story (taken almost verbatim from Jessie Weston's From Ritual to Romance, pp. 175-77) are the bells, the walls, and the graves, all of which are adapted by Eliot in this passage. Back to Line
393] The cock's cry can be interpreted in several ways. (1) In Shakespeare's Hamlet Horatio says that the cry signals the departure of evil spirits:
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day; and, at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
The extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine. (I.2.150-55)

Previously the cock has indeed cried out as the Ghost of Hamlet's murdered father is about to speak, and its spirit (who is condemned to suffer in purgatory for a time) hastens away. (2) Also in Hamlet, Marcellus adds that the cock crowed especially at seasons connected with events in Christ's life:
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome ... (I.2.158-62)

Easter as well as Christmas brings the cock into the story of Christ, for he predicted that before the cock crowed Peter would betray him three times on the night he was taken away by the Jewish priests to Pilate for trial. "And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he [Peter] went out, and wept bitterly" (Matthew 26:73-75). (3) In Shakespeare's The Tempest Ariel leads Ferdinand on by his singing and music (which the prince hears beside the waters), and just before the lyric stanza that includes the line, "Those are pearls that were his eyes," Ariel sings out:
Hark, hark! I hear
The strain of strutting chanticleer
Cry, Cock-a-diddle-dow. (I.2.385-87)
Back to Line
394] Compare Joseph Conrad's An Outcast of the Islands, IV.5:
Then the heavy air round him was pierced by a sharp gust of wind, bringing with it the fresh, damp feel of the falling rain; and all the innumerable treetops of the forests swayed to the left and sprang back again in a tumultuous balancing of nodding branches and shuddering leaves. A light frown ran over the river, the clouds stirred slowly, changing their aspect but not their place, as if they had turned ponderously over; and when the sudden movement had died out in a quickened tremor of the slenderest twigs, there was a short period of formidable immobility above and below, during which the voice of the thunder was heard, speaking in a sustained, emphatic and vibrating roll, with violent bursts of crashing sound, like a wrathful and threatening discourse of an angry god.
Back to Line
396] Ganga: the sacred Indian river Ganges. The Hindu faith is that bathing in it brings renewal to a person. Back to Line
398] Himavant: "Snowy Mountain" -- one or more sacred mountains in the Himalayas. Back to Line
400] the thunder: the voice of God (Christian or otherwise). Compare Job 26: 6-11, 14: "Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering. He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them. He holdeth back the face of the throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it. He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end. The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof .... Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?" Compare also Psalms 77:16-20 (also 104:7): "The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled. The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightenings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook. Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron [out of Egypt, the desert, the waste land]." Back to Line
402] "Datta, dayadhvam, damyata" (Give,
sympathise, control). The fable of the mean-
ing of the Thunder is found in the Brihada-
-- Upanishad, 5, 1. A translation is
found in Deussen's Sechzig Upanishads des
, p. 489.
[Eliot's note]
Eliot refers to the Indian legend of the Thunder in the sacred book, Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, in which the Lord of Creation, Prajapati, thunders three times, the sound being represented by the Sanskrit word "DA". The complete myth is as follows (The Principal Upanisads, ed. and trans. S. Radhakrishnan [London: George Allen & Unwin, 1953]: 289-91; BL 1120 A3R32):
The threefold offspring of Praja-pati, gods, men and demons, lived with their father Praja-pati as students of sacred knowledge. Having completed their studentship the gods said, "Please tell (instruct) us, sir." To them, then, he uttered the syllable da (and asked) "Have you understood?" They (said), "We have understood, you said to us `damyata,' `control yourselves.'" He said, "Yes, you have understood."
Then the men said to him, "Please tell (instruct) us, sir." To them he uttered the same syllable da (and asked) "Have you understood?" They said, "We have understood. You said to us `give.'" He said, "Yes, you have understood."
Then the demons said to him, "Please tell (instruct) us, sir." To them he uttered the same syllable da and asked, "Have you understood?" They said, "We have understood, you said to us, `dayadhvam,' `be compassionate.'" He said, "Yes, you have understood." This very thing the heavenly voice of thunder repeats da, da, da, that is, control yourselves, give, be compassionate. One should practise this same triad, self-control, giving and compassion.
The gods, being unruly, are asked to exercise self-control; men, being avaricious, are asked to give in the way of charity; the demons, being cruel, are asked to take pity. Back to Line
408] Cf. Webster, The White Devil, V. vi:
"... they'll remarry
Ere the worm pierce your winding-sheet, ere
the spider
Make a thin curtain for your epitaphs."
[Eliot's note]
Back to Line
412] Cf. Inferno, XXXIII, 46:
ed io sentii chiavar l'uscio di sotto
all'orribile torre.

Also F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality [1893], p. 346.
"My external sensations are no less private to
myself than are my thoughts or my feelings.
In either case my experience falls within my
own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and,
with all its elements alike, every sphere is
opaque to the others which surround it. ...
In brief, regarded as an existence which
appears in a soul, the whole world for each is
peculiar and private to that soul."
[Eliot's note]

Eliot refers, in his quotation from Dante's Inferno (XXXIII:46), in particular to the words of Ugolino della Gherardesca, a thirteenth-century Italian noble, as he recalls his imprisonment in a tower with his two sons and two grandsons, where they starved to death: "and below I heard the door of the horrible tower being locked up." The reason Ugolino heard the key turn once and turn once only was that the jailers threw that key into the river, and the prisoners were left to starve to death inside. Although Dante does not mention this fact, Eliot would have found it in a footnote to his edition of Dante. Ugolino is frozen in the same hole as is Archbishop Ruggieri, the man who betrayed him, and is condemned to gnaw and chew on the part of his enemy's head where the brain meets the nape of the neck. The two share the same hole because both (like Coriolanus) are traitors.
Eliot's doctoral thesis at Harvard University, which he began October 1911 and finished April 1916, was entitled "Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley." Eliot never defended the thesis, and so he never received the Ph.D., but the book was published all the same in 1964. Back to Line
417] a broken Coriolanus: the protagonist of Shakespeare's tragedy of same name, a great Roman general and aristocratic despiser of the fickle mob, turns double traitor. First, his pride and desire to punish an ungrateful Roman populace make him go into exile, join the Volscian forces against Rome, and defeat his mother country in battle. Second, by the intervention of his Roman mother, wife, and son, Coriolanus is persuaded to spare Rome from sacking; and the Volscians hack him to death to punish his treachery to them. Back to Line
424] V. Weston: From Ritual to Romance;
chapter on the Fisher King.
[Eliot's note]
Jessie Weston, in her chapter on the Fisher King, discusses the Fish as a universal life symbol, one of some antiquity. The Fisher, as a royal title, is thus associated with life-creating-and-preserving deities. In very early Christianity, the word "icthys" (the Greek word for "fish") is an acronym for "Jesus Christ, King of the Jews" (note courtesy of Jonathan Harvey); Christ's apostles are given the name, "fishers of men"; and the Fisherman has a papal ring. The M{_a}h{_a}yana scriptures give another example of the use of this symbol: Buddha is named the Fisherman who draws fish from the ocean of Samsara to the light of salvation (pp. 124-26). Back to Line
426] Compare the words of the prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah, a sick man whose kingdom lies waste under Assyrian conquest: "Thus saieth the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live" (Isaiah 38:1). Hezekiah prays for nercy and God answers him, promising to deliver his country from the Assyrians and granting him a further fifteen years of life.
Note also the epigraph to Dante's Purgatorio, a prayer of the poet Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306): "Ordina quest' amore, O tu che m' ami'" -- "set my love in order, O thou who lovest me." Back to Line
427] The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes gives the following version:
London Bridge is broken down,
Broken down, broken down,
London Bridge is broken down,
My fair lady.
Build it up with wood and clay,
Wood and clay, wood and clay,
Build it up with wood and clay,
My fair lady.
Wood and clay will wash away,
Wash away, wash away,
Wood and clay will wash away, My fair lady.

The remaining refrain lines are as follows:
Build it up with bricks and mortar.
Bricks and mortar will not stay.
Build it up with iron and steel.
Iron and steel will bend and bow.
Build it up with silver and gold.
Silver and gold will be stolen away.
Set a man to watch all night.
Suppose the man should fall asleep.
Give him a pipe to smoke all night.
Back to Line
428] V. Purgatorio, XXVI, 148.
"Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
`que vos guida al som de l'escalina,
`sovegna vos a temps de ma dolor.'
Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina."
[Eliot's note]

Eliot's source (XXVI.145-48) recounts how the Provençal poet Arnaut Daniel speaks of his suffering, punishment for his lusts, even as he experiences the cleansing fires of Purgatory: "`And so I pray you, by that virtue which leads you to the topmost of the stair -- be mindful in due time of my pain." Then dived he back into that fire which refines them.' Line 427 is this last sentence. Dante listens to this speech during his climb up the mount of purgatory. Back to Line
429] V. Pervigilium Veneris. Cf. Philomela
in Parts II and III.
[Eliot's note]
A line from an anonymous, possibly 4th-century, Latin love poem, "The vigil of Venus":
quando fiam uti chelidon, ut tacere desinam?
perdidi Musam tacendo, nec me Apollo respicit:
[When shall I be like the swallow and from dumb distress be free?
I have lost the Muse by silence: me Apollo heedeth not.]

See Pervigilium Veneris. The Vigil of Venus, ed. Cecil Clementi, 3rd edn. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1936): lines 90-91, p. 200 (PA 6557 P3 1936 Robarts Library).
The poem celebrates Venus' life-force surging in nature and contrasts the poet's own dispirited silence with the singing of the birds, even that of "terei puella" (`the girl of Tereus'), who was raped by the barbarous king ("de marito barbaro"), whom Eliot mentions in Part II when he relates the story of Procne and Philomela.
O swallow swallow: much like a cry that runs through Swinburne's poem, "Itylus," a lament sung by the nightingale Philomela to her sister the swallow Procne. Philomela reproaches her sister for rejoicing with the spring and for forgetting the tragic rape and murders that led to their metamorphosis. The opening lines of Swinburne's poem are as follows:
Swallow, my sister, O sister swallow,
How can thine heart be full of the spring?
A thousand summers are over and dead.
What hast thou found in the spring to follow?
What hast thou found in thine heart to sing?

The image and voice of the slain boy haunt Philomela, a constant reminder of the past reaching into the present. Swinburne's last stanza is:
O sister, sister, thy first-begotten!
The hands that cling and the feet that follow,
The voice of the child's blood crying yet
Who hath remembered me? who hath forgotten?
Thou hast forgotten, O summer swallow,
But the world shall end when I forget.

Eliot may also have in mind Alfred lord Tennyson's lyric poem, "O Swallow, Swallow":
O Swallow, Swallow, flying, flying South,
Fly to her, and fall upon her gilded eaves,
And tell her, tell her, what I tell to thee.
O tell her, Swallow, thou that knowest each,
That bright and fierce and fickle is the South,
And dark and true and tender is the North.
O Swallow, Swallow, if I could follow, and light
Upon her lattice, I would pipe and trill,
And cheep and twitter twenty million loves.
O were I thou that she might take me in,
And lay me on her bosom, and her heart
Would rock the snowy cradle till I died.
Why lingereth she to clothe her heart with love,
Delaying as the tender ash delays
To clothe herself, when all the woods are green?
O tell her, Swallow, that thy brood is flown:
Say to her, I do but wanton in the South,
But in the North long since my nest is made.
O tell her, brief is life but love is long,
And brief the sun of summer in the North,
And brief the moon of beauty in the South.
O Swallow, flying from the golden woods,
Fly to her, and pipe and woo her, and make her mine,
And tell her, tell her, that I follow thee.
Back to Line
430] V. Gerard de Nerval, Sonnet El
[Eliot's note]
"The Prince of Aquitaine [a region in southwest France], of the ruined tower" is a line from the sonnet "El Desdichado" ("The Disinherited") by Gerard de Nerval (1808-55), in which the speaker describes himself as heir to the tradition of medieval Troubadour poets associated with the castles of Aquitaine. The poem reads
Je suis le ténébreux, -- le veuf, -- l'inconsolé,
Le prince d'Aquitaine à la tour abolie:
Ma seule étoile est morte, -- et mon luth constellé
Porte le soleil noir de la Mélancolie.
Dans la nuit du tombeau, toi qui m'as consolé,
Rends-moi le Pausilippe et la mer d'Italie,
La fleur qui plaisait tant à mon coeur désolé,
Et la treille où le pampre à la rose s'allie.
Suis-je Amour ou Phébus? ... Lusignan ou Biron?
Mon front est rouge encor du baiser de la reine;
J'ai rêvé dans la grotte où nage la sirène ...
Et j'ai deux fois vanqueur traversé l'Achéron:
Modulant tour à tour sur la lyre d'Orphée
Les soupirs de la sainte et les cris de la fée.
and a modern English translation of it
I am the shadowed one, -- the widower, -- the unconsoled,
The Prince of Aquitaine, at the ruined tower:
My only star is dead, -- and my star-studded lute
Carries the black sun of Melancholy.
In the night of the tomb, you who have consoled me,
Give me back Pausilippe and the sea of Italy,
The flower who so much pleased my grieving heart,
And the trellis where the vine has joined the rose.
Am I Love or Phebus? ... Lusignan or Biron?
My forehead is still red from the queen's kiss;
I have dreamed in the grotto where the siren swims ...
And I have twice crossed the Acheron triumphant:
Playing by turns on the lyre of Orpheus
The sighs of the saint and the fairy's cries.

See Gérard de Nerval, Oeuvres, ed. Albert Richer (Gallimard, 1952): I, 29 (PR 2260 G36A6 1952 Robarts Library). Back to Line
432] V. Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. [Eliot's note]
"Why then Ile [I'll] fit [supply] you [with what you need]" is spoken by Hieronimo in Thomas Kyd's Elizabethan revenge tragedy, The Spanish Tragedy, one of the forerunners of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Hieronimo's son Horatio is murdered by the brother and would-be lover of the woman with whom he was carrying on an illicit love affair. Like Hamlet, Hieronimo suffers in his grief from moments of seeming insanity as he tries to find out the identity of these murderers. When he at last determines who they are, and when the guilty ask him to prepare a court entertainment in which all of them will act, Hieronimo sees an opportunity to enact his revenge:
Why then I'll fit you, say no more.
When I was young, I gave my mind
And plied myself to fruitless poetry:
Which though it profit the professor naught,
Yet is it passing pleasing to the world. (IV.1.70-74)

By echoing this passage, Eliot (as before in the allusion to Pervigilium) contrasts the world's content and his own unhappiness.
Hieronimo's play-within-a-play is also a tragedy. It concerns a prince who kills a husband to get his wife but who is foiled when she murders him in turn and suicides. Hieronimo ensures that the players will all die in their parts. Like Eliot, Hieronimo writes his tragic ending in many languages and instructs his players as follows:
Each one of us must act his part
In unknown languages,
That it may breed the more variety,
As you, my lord, in Latin, I in Greek,
You in Italian, and for because I know
That Bel-imperia [Horatio's beloved] hath practised the French,
In courtly French shall all her phrases be. (172-78)

When one of the characters objects that the play will then be "a mere confusion" (180), Hieronimo replies that "the conclusion / Shall prove the invention and allwas good" (182-83). Eliot may have intended to apply this passage in anticipating critical response to his own work.
Hieronymo's mad againe: the subtitle of the 1615 quarto of The Spanish Tragedy is "Hieronymo is Mad Againe." Back to Line
434] Shantih. Repeated as here, a formal
ending to an Upanishad. "The Peace which
passeth understanding" is a feeble translation
of the content of this word.
[Eliot's note]
Eliot refers here to Paul's words: "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ" (Philippians 4:7). Back to Line
Publication Start Year
RPO poem Editors
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition
RPO 1999.
Special Copyright

© T.S. Eliot and Faber and Faber Ltd 1974