The Waste Land 1922

T.S. Eliot

... and once I saw with my very own eyes the Sibyl at Cumae suspended in a jar

and when the boys asked her 'Sibyl, what do you want?' She replied, 'I want to die.'

For Ezra Pound
il miglior fabbro.

     I.   The Burial of the Dead

April is the cruellest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land,  mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain

Winter kept us warm, covering
earth in forgetful snow, feeding
a little life with dried tubers

Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
with a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
and went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
and drank coffee, and talked for an hour

Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch

and when we were children, staying at the arch-duke's,
my cousin's, he took me out on a sled
and I was frightened.  He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight 
and down we went

In the mountains, there you feel free
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
out of this stony rubbish? Son of man
you cannot say, or guess, for you know only
a  heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
and the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
and the dry stone no sound of water.

there is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock)
and I will show you something different from either
your shadow at morning striding behind you
or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust

                             Frisch weht der Wind
                             Der Heimat zu
                             Mein Irisch Kind
                             Wo weilest du?

'You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
'They called me the  hyacinth girl.'

Yet when we came back, late, from the hyacinth garden,
your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
looking into the heart of light, the silence

                            Oed' und leer das Meer

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
had a bad cold, nevertheless
is known to be the wisest woman in

with a wicked pack of cards

Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes.  Look!)

Here is Belladonna, The Lady of the Rocks, The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
and here is the one-eyed merchant, and  this card,
which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
which I am forbidden to see.  I do not find
The Hanged Man.   Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you.  If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
one must be so careful these days

 Unreal City

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn
a crowd flowed over  London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
and each man fixed his eyes before his feet,
flowed up the hill and down King William Street
to where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
with a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: 'Stetson!
'You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
'That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
'has it begun to sprout?  Will it bloom this year?
'or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
'O keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men,
'or with his nails he'll dig it up again!
'You! Hypocrite lecteur! - mon semblable, - mon frère!'

 II.  A Game of Chess

The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,
glowed on the marble, where the glass
held up by standards wrought with fruited vines
from which a golden Cupidon peeped out
(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)
doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra
reflecting light upon the table as
the glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,
from satin cases poured in rich profusion

In vials of ivory and coloured glass
unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,
unguent, powdered, or liquid - troubled, confused
and drowned the sense in odours

Stirred by the air
that freshened from the window, these ascended
in fattening the prolonged candle-flames,
flung their smoke into the laquearia,
stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling

Huge sea-wood fed with copper
burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone,
in which sad light a carvèd dolphin swam

Above the antique mantel was displayed,
as though a window gave upon the sylvan scene,
the change of Philomel, by the barbarous king
so rudely forced

Yet there the nightingale
filled all the desert with inviolable voice
and still she cried, and still the world pursues,
'Jug Jug' to dirty ears

And other withered stumps of time
were told upon the walls

Staring forms
leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed

Footsteps shuffled on the stair.

Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair
spread out in fiery points,
glowed into words, then would be savagely still

'My nerves are bad to-night.  Yes, bad.  Stay with me.
'Speak to me.  Why do you never speak.  Speak.

'What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
'I never know what you are thinking.  Think.'

I think we are in rats' alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.

  'What it that noise?'

                       The wind under the door

'What is that noise now?  What is the wind doing?'

                       Nothing again nothing

'You know nothing?  Do you see nothing?  Do you remember


 I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes

'Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?'

O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag -
It's so elegant
So intelligent

'What shall I do now?  What shall I do?'
'I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
'with my hair down, so.  What shall we do tomorrow?
'What shall we ever do?'

                                  The hot water at ten
and if it rains, a closed car at four

and we shall play a game of chess,
pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door


When Lil's husband got demobbed, I said,
I didn't mince my words, I said to her myself


"Now Albert's coming back, make yourself a bit smart.
He'll want to know what you done with that money he gave you
To get yourself some teeth".  He did, I was there.
"You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set" he said

"I swear, I can't bear to look at you"
"And no more can't I" I said "and think of poor Albert,
he's been in the army four years, he wants a good time,
and if you don't give it him, there's others will" I said

"Oh is there" she said. "Something o' that" I said
"Then I'll know who to thank" she said and give me a straight look


If you don't like it you can get on with it, I said.
Others can pick and choose if you can't.
But if Albert makes off, it won't be for a lack of telling.

You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
(And her only thirty-one.)

I can't help it, she said, pulling a long face,
It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
(She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.)
The chemist said it would be all right, but I've never been the same.

You are a proper fool, I said.

Well, if Albert won't leave you alone, there it is, I said,
What you get married for if you don't want children?


Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot -



Goonight Bill.  Goonight Lou.  Goonight May.  Goonight.
Ta ta.  Goonight.  Goonight.

Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.


III.  The Fire Sermon


  The river's tent is broken; the last fingers of leaf

Clutch and sink into the wet bank.  The wind

Crosses the brown land, unheard.  The nymphs are departed.

Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,

Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends

Or other testimony of summer nights.  The nymphs are departed.

And their friends, the loitering heirs of City directors;

Departed, have left no addresses.

By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept ...

Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,

Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.

But at my back in a cold blast I hear

The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.

A rat crept softly through the vegetation

Dragging its slimy belly on the bank

While I was fishing in the dull canal

On a winter evening round behind the gashouse

Musing upon the king my brother's wreck

And on the king my father's death before him.

White bodies naked on the low damp ground

And bones cast in a little low dry garret,

Rattled by the rat's foot only, year to year.

But at my back from time to time I hear

The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring

Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring.

O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter

And on her daughter

They wash their feet in soda water

Et O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole!

Twit twit twit

Jug jug jug jug jug jug

 So rudely forc'd.



  Unreal City

Under the brown fog of a winter noon

Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant

Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants

C.i.f. London: documents at sight,

Asked me in demotic French

To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel

Followed by a weekend at the Metropole.

  At the violet hour, when the eyes and back

Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits

Like a taxi throbbing waiting,

I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,

Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see

At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives

Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,

The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights

Her stove, and lays out food in tins.

Out of the window perilously spread

Her drying combinations touched by the sun's last rays,

On the divan are piled (at night her bed)

Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.

I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs

Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest -

I too awaited the expected guest.

He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,

A small house agent's clerk, with one bold stare,

One of the low on whom assurance sits

As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.

The time is now propitious, as he guesses,

The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,

Endeavours to engage her in caresses

Which are still unreproved, if undesired.

Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;

Exploring hands encounter no defence;

His vanity requires no response,

And makes a welcome of indifference.

(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all

Enacted on this same divan or bed;

I who have sat by Thebes below the wall

And walked among the lowest of the dead.)

Bestows one final patronising kiss,

And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit...


  She turns and looks a moment in the glass,

Hardly aware of her departed lover;

Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:

'Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over.'

When lovely woman stoops to folly and

Paces about her room again, alone,

She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,

And puts a record on the gramophone.


  'This music crept by me upon the waters'

And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.

O City city, I can sometimes hear

Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,

The pleasant whining of a mandoline

And a clatter and a chatter from within

Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls

Of Magnus Martyr hold

Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.


          The river sweats

          Oil and tar

          The barges drift

          With the turning tide

          Red sails


          To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.

          The barges wash

          Drifting logs

          Down Greenwich reach

          Past the Isle of Dogs.

                   Weialala leia

                   Wallala leialala

          Elizabeth and Leicester

          Beating oars

          The stern was formed

          A gilded shell

          Red and gold

          The brisk swell

          Rippled both shores

          Southwest wind

          Carried down stream

          The peal of bells

          White towers

                   Weialala leia

                   Wallala leialala


          'Trams and dusty trees.

          Highbury bore me.  Richmond and Kew

          Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees

          Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe.'


          'My feet are at Moorgate and my heart

          Under my feet.  After the event

          He wept.  He promised "a new start."

          I made no comment.  What should I resent?'


          'On Margate Sands.

          I can connect

          Nothing with nothing.

          The broken fingernails of dirty hands.

          My people humble people who expect


la la


          To Carthage then I came

          Burning burning burning burning

          O Lord Thou pluckest me out

          O Lord Thou pluckest



IV. Death by Water

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead, 

Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell

And the profit and loss.

                          A current under sea

Picked his bones in whispers.  As he rose and fell

He passes the stages of his age and youth

Entering the whirlpool.

                         Gentile or Jew

O you who turn the wheel and look windward,

Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

V. What the Thunder Said 


  After the torchlight red on sweaty faces

After the frosty silence in the gardens

After the agony in stony places

The shouting and the crying

Prison and palace and reverberation

Of thunder of spring over distant mountains

He who was living is now dead

We who were living are now dying

With a little patience


  Here is no water but only rock

Rock and no water and the sandy road

The road winding above among the mountains

Which are mountains of rock without water

If there were water we should stop and drink

Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think

Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand

If there were only water amongst the rock

Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit

Here one can neither stand not lie nor sit

There is not even silence in the mountains

But dry sterile thunder without rain

There is not even solitude in the mountains

But red sullen faces sneer and snarl

From doors of mudcracked houses



                                     If there were water

And no rock

If there were rock

And also water

And water 

A spring

A pool among the rock

If there were the sound of water only

Not the cicada

And dry grass singing

But sound of water over a rock

Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees

Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop

But there is no water


  Who is the third who walks always beside you?

When I count, there are only you and I together

But when I look ahead up the white road

There is always another one walking beside you

Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded

I do not know whether a man or a woman

 - But who is that on the other side of you?


  What is that sound high in the air

Murmur of maternal lamentation

Who are those hooded hordes swarming

Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth

Ringed by the flat horizon only

What is the city over the mountains

Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air

Falling towers

Jerusalem Athens Alexandria

Vienna London



  A woman drew her long black hair out tight

And fiddled whisper music on those strings

And bats with baby faces in the violet light 

Whistled, and beat their wings

And crawled head downward down a blackened wall

And upside down in air were towers

Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours

And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.


  In this decayed hole among the mountains

In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing

Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel

There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.

It has no windows, and the door swings,

Dry bones can harm no one.

Only a cock stood on the rooftree

Co co rico co co rico  392

In a flash of lightning.  Then a damp gust

Bringing rain


  Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves

Waited for rain, while the black clouds

Gathered far distant, over Himavant.

The jungle crouched, humped in silence.

Then spoke the thunder


Datta: what have we given?

My friend, blood shaking my heart

The awful daring of a moment's surrender

Which an age of prudence can never retract

By this, and this only, we have existed

Which is not to be found in our obituaries

Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider

Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor

In our empty rooms



Dayadhvam: I have heard the key

Turn in the door once and turn once only

We think of the key, each in his prison

thinking of the key, each confirms a prison

Only at nightfall, aethereal rumours

Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus



Damyata: The boat responded

Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar

The sea was calm, your heart would have responded

Gaily, when invited, beating obedient

To controlling hands


                     I sat upon the shore

Fishing, with the arid plain behind me

Shall I at least set my lands in order?

London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down

Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina

Quando fiam uti chelidon - O swallow swallow

Le Prince d'Aquitaine à la tour abolie

These fragments I have shored against my ruins

Why then Ile fit you.  Hieronymo's mad againe.

Datta.  Dayadhvam.  Damyata.

            Shantih shantih shantih