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Title: Selected Poems

Date of first publication: 1948

Author: T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Date first posted: July 3, 2020

Date last updated: July 3, 2020

Faded Page eBook #20200705

This eBook was produced by: Al Haines, Cindy Beyer & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at https://www.pgdpcanada.net


















Prufrock and Other Observations
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock9
Portrait of a Lady15
Rhapsody on a Windy Night23
Poems 1920
Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar32
Sweeney Erect34
A Cooking Egg36
The Hippopotamus38
Whispers of Immortality40
Mr. Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service42
Sweeney Among the Nightingales44
The Waste Land
IThe Burial of the Dead49
IIA Game of Chess52
IIIThe Fire Sermon56
IVDeath by Water61
VWhat the Thunder Said62
The Hollow Men75
Ariel Poems
Journey of the Magi95
A Song for Simeon97
Choruses from ‘The Rock’
Chorus I105
Chorus II110
Chorus III113
Chorus VII116
Chorus IX120
Chorus X123

and Other Observations

For Jean Verdenal, 1889-1915

mort aux Dardanelles

      Or puoi la quantitate

comprender dell’ amor ch’a te mi scalda,

quando dismento nostra vanitate,

trattando l’ombre come cosa salda.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse

A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,

Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.

Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo

Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il rero,

Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherised upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

The muttering retreats

Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:

Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .

Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’

Let us go and make our visit.


  In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.


  The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,

The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,

Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,

Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,

And seeing that it was a soft October night,

Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.


  And indeed there will be time

For the yellow smoke that slides along the street

Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;

There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.


  In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.


  And indeed there will be time

To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—

[They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!’]

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,

My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—

[They will say: ‘But how his arms and legs are thin!’]

Do I dare

Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.


  For I have known them all already, known them all—

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I know the voices dying with a dying fall

Beneath the music from a farther room.

  So how should I presume?


  And I have known the eyes already, known them all—

The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,

And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,

Then how should I begin

To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?

  And how should I presume?


  And I have known the arms already, known them all—

Arms that are braceleted and white and bare

[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]

Is it perfume from a dress

That makes me so digress?

Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.

And should I then presume?

  And how should I begin?


 .         .         .         .


Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets

And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes

Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .


  I should have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.


 .         .         .         .


And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!

Smoothed by long fingers,

Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,

Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,

Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,

Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,

I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,

And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

And in short, I was afraid.


  And would it have been worth it, after all,

After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,

Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,

Would it have been worth while,

To have bitten off the matter with a smile,

To have squeezed the universe into a ball

To roll it toward some overwhelming question,

To say: ‘I am Lazarus, come from the dead,

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all’—

If one, settling a pillow by her head,

  Should say: ‘That is not what I meant at all.

  That is not it, at all.’


  And would it have been worth it, after all,

Would it have been worth while,

After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,

After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—

And this, and so much more?—

It is impossible to say just what I mean!

But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:

Would it have been worth while

If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,

And turning toward the window, should say:

  ‘That is not it at all,

  That is not what I meant, at all.’


 .         .         .         .


No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;

Am an attendant lord, one that will do

To swell a progress, start a scene or two,

Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,

Deferential, glad to be of use,

Politic, cautious, and meticulous;

Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;

At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—

Almost, at times, the Fool.


  I grow old . . . I grow old . . .

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.


  Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.


  I do not think that they will sing to me.


  I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

When the wind blows the water white and black.


  We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Portrait of a Lady

Thou hast committed—

Fornication: but that was in another country,

And besides, the wench is dead.

                The Jew of Malta




Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon

You have the scene arrange itself—as it will seem to do—

With ‘I have saved this afternoon for you’;

And four wax candles in the darkened room,

Four rings of light upon the ceiling overhead,

An atmosphere of Juliet’s tomb

Prepared for all the things to be said, or left unsaid.

We have been, let us say, to hear the latest Pole

Transmit the Preludes, through his hair and finger-tips.

‘So intimate, this Chopin, that I think his soul

Should be resurrected only among friends

Some two or three, who will not touch the bloom

That is rubbed and questioned in the concert room.’

—And so the conversation slips

Among velleities and carefully caught regrets

Through attenuated tones of violins

Mingled with remote cornets

And begins.

‘You do not know how much they mean to me, my friends,

And how, how rare and strange it is, to find

In a life composed so much, so much of odds and ends,

[For indeed I do not love it . . . you knew? you are not blind!

How keen you are!]

To find a friend who has these qualities,

Who has, and gives

Those qualities upon which friendship lives.

How much it means that I say this to you—

Without these friendships—life, what cauchemar!’


  Among the windings of the violins

And the ariettes

Of cracked cornets

Inside my brain a dull tom-tom begins

Absurdly hammering a prelude of its own,

Capricious monotone

That is at least one definite ‘false note’.

—Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance,

Admire the monuments,

Discuss the late events,

Correct our watches by the public clocks.

Then sit for half an hour and drink our bocks.





Now that lilacs are in bloom

She has a bowl of lilacs in her room

And twists one in her fingers while she talks.

‘Ah, my friend, you do not know, you do not know

What life is, you who hold it in your hands’;

(Slowly twisting the lilac stalks)

‘You let it flow from you, you let it flow,

And youth is cruel, and has no remorse

And smiles at situations which it cannot see.’

I smile, of course,

And go on drinking tea.

‘Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall

My buried life, and Paris in the Spring,

I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world

To be wonderful and youthful, after all.’


  The voice returns like the insistent out-of-tune

Of a broken violin on an August afternoon:

‘I am always sure that you understand

My feelings, always sure that you feel,

Sure that across the gulf you reach your hand.


  You are invulnerable, you have no Achilles’ heel.

You will go on, and when you have prevailed

You can say: at this point many a one has failed.

But what have I, but what have I, my friend,

To give you, what can you receive from me?

Only the friendship and the sympathy

Of one about to reach her journey’s end.


  I shall sit here, serving tea to friends . . .’


  I take my hat: how can I make a cowardly amends

For what she has said to me?

You will see me any morning in the park

Reading the comics and the sporting page.

Particularly I remark

An English countess goes upon the stage.

A Greek was murdered at a Polish dance,

Another bank defaulter has confessed.

I keep my countenance,

I remain self-possessed

Except when a street piano, mechanical and tired

Reiterates some worn-out common song

With the smell of hyacinths across the garden

Recalling things that other people have desired.

Are these ideas right or wrong?





The October night comes down; returning as before

Except for a slight sensation of being ill at ease

I mount the stairs and turn the handle of the door

And feel as if I had mounted on my hands and knees.

‘And so you are going abroad; and when do you return?

But that’s a useless question.

You hardly know when you are coming back,

You will find so much to learn.’

My smile falls heavily among the bric-a-brac.


  ‘Perhaps you can write to me.’

My self-possession flares up for a second;

This is as I had reckoned.

‘I have been wondering frequently of late

(But our beginnings never know our ends!),

Why we have not developed into friends.’

I feel like one who smiles, and turning shall remark

Suddenly, his expression in a glass.

My self-possession gutters; we are really in the dark.


  ‘For everybody said so, all our friends,

They all were sure our feelings would relate

So closely! I myself can hardly understand.

We must leave it now to fate.

You will write, at any rate.

Perhaps it is not too late.

I shall sit here, serving tea to friends.’

And I must borrow every changing shape

To find expression . . . dance, dance

Like a dancing bear,

Cry like a parrot, chatter like an ape.

Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance—


  Well! and what if she should die some afternoon,

Afternoon grey and smoky, evening yellow and rose;

Should die and leave me sitting pen in hand

With the smoke coming down above the housetops;

Doubtful, for a while

Not knowing what to feel or if I understand

Or whether wise or foolish, tardy or too soon . . .

Would she not have the advantage, after all?

This music is successful with a ‘dying fall’

Now that we talk of dying—

And should I have the right to smile?





The winter evening settles down

With smell of steaks in passageways.

Six o’clock.

The burnt-out ends of smoky days.

And now a gusty shower wraps

The grimy scraps

Of withered leaves about your feet

And newspapers from vacant lots;

The showers beat

On broken blinds and chimney-pots,

And at the corner of the street

A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.

And then the lighting of the lamps.





The morning comes to consciousness

Of faint stale smells of beer

From the sawdust-trampled street

With all its muddy feet that press

To early coffee-stands.

With the other masquerades

That time resumes,

One thinks of all the hands

That are raising dingy shades

In a thousand furnished rooms.





You tossed a blanket from the bed,

You lay upon your back, and waited;

You dozed, and watched the night revealing

The thousand sordid images

Of which your soul was constituted;

They flickered against the ceiling.

And when all the world came back

And the light crept up between the shutters

And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,

You had such a vision of the street

As the street hardly understands;

Sitting along the bed’s edge, where

You curled the papers from your hair,

Or clasped the yellow soles of feet

In the palms of both soiled hands.





His soul stretched tight across the skies

That fade behind a city block,

Or trampled by insistent feet

At four and five and six o’clock;

And short square fingers stuffing pipes,

And evening newspapers, and eyes

Assured of certain centainties,

The conscience of a blackened street

Impatient to assume the world.


  I am moved by fancies that are curled

Around these images, and cling:

The notion of some infinitely gentle

Infinitely suffering thing.


  Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;

The worlds revolve like ancient women

Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

Rhapsody on a Windy Night

Twelve o’clock.

Along the reaches of the street

Held in a lunar synthesis,

Whispering lunar incantations

Dissolve the floors of memory

And all its clear relations,

Its divisions and precisions,

Every street lamp that I pass

Beats like a fatalistic drum,

And through the spaces of the dark

Midnight shakes the memory

As a madman shakes a dead geranium.


  Half-past one,

The street-lamp sputtered,

The street-lamp muttered,

The street-lamp said, ‘Regard that woman

Who hesitates toward you in the light of the door

Which opens on her like a grin.

You see the border of her dress

Is torn and stained with sand,

And you see the corner of her eye

Twists like a crooked pin.’


  The memory throws up high and dry

A crowd of twisted things;

A twisted branch upon the beach

Eaten smooth, and polished

As if the world gave up

The secret of its skeleton,

Stiff and white.

A broken spring in a factory yard,

Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left

Hard and curled and ready to snap.


  Half-past two,

The street-lamp said,

‘Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,

Slips out its tongue

And devours a morsel of rancid butter.’

So the hand of the child, automatic,

Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.

I could see nothing behind that child’s eye.

I have seen eyes in the street

Trying to peer through lighted shutters,

And a crab one afternoon in a pool,

An old crab with barnacles on his back,

Gripped the end of a stick which I held him.


  Half-past three,

The lamp sputtered,

The lamp muttered in the dark.

The lamp hummed:

‘Regard the moon,

La lune ne garde aucune rancune,

She winks a feeble eye,

She smiles into corners.

She smooths the hair of the grass.

The moon has lost her memory.

A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,

Her hand twists a paper rose,

That smells of dust and eau de Cologne,

She is alone

With all the old nocturnal smells

That cross and cross across her brain.’

The reminiscence comes

Of sunless dry geraniums

And dust in crevices,

Smells of chestnuts in the streets,

And female smells in shuttered rooms,

And cigarettes in corridors

And cocktail smells in bars.


  The lamp said,

‘Four o’clock,

Here is the number on the door.


You have the key,

The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair.


The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,

Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life.’


  The last twist of the knife.



          Thou hast nor youth nor age

But as it were an after dinner sleep

Dreaming of both.

Here I am, an old man in a dry month,

Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.

I was neither at the hot gates

Nor fought in the warm rain

Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,

Bitten by flies, fought.

My house is a decayed house,

And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,

Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,

Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.

The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;

Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.

The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,

Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.

                                  I an old man,

A dull head among windy spaces.


  Signs are taken for wonders, ‘We would see a sign!’

The word within a word, unable to speak a word,

Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year

Came Christ the tiger


  In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,

To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk

Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero

With caressing hands, at Limoges

Who walked all night in the next room;

By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;

By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room

Shifting the candles; Fräulein von Kulp

Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles

Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,

An old man in a draughty house

Under a windy knob.


  After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now

History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors

And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,

Guides us by vanities. Think now

She gives when our attention is distracted

And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions

That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late

What’s not believed in, or if still believed,

In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon

Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with

Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think

Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices

Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues

Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.

These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.


  The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last

We have not reached conclusion, when I

Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last

I have not made this show purposelessly

And it is not by any concitation

Of the backward devils.


  I would meet you upon this honestly.

I that was near your heart was removed therefrom

To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.

I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it

Since what is kept must be adulterated?

I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:

How should I use them for your closer contact?


  These with a thousand small deliberations

Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,

Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,

With pungent sauces, multiply variety

In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do,

Suspend its operations, will the weevil

Delay? De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled

Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear

In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits

Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,

White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims,

And an old man driven by the Trades

To a sleepy corner.

                              Tenants of the house,

Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

Burbank with a Baedeker:
Bleistein with a Cigar

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-laire—nil nisi divinum stabile est: caetera fumus—the gondola stopped, the old palace was there, how charming its grey and pink—goats and monkeys, with such hair too!—so the countess passed on until she came through the little park, where Niobe presented her with a cabinet, and so departed.

Burbank crossed a little bridge

  Descending at a small hotel;

Princess Volupine arrived,

  They were together, and he fell.


Defunctive music under sea

  Passed seaward with the passing bell

Slowly: the God Hercules

  Had left him, that had loved him well.


The horses, under the axletree

  Beat up the dawn from Istria

With even feet. Her shuttered barge

  Burned on the water all the day.


But this or such was Bleistein’s way:

  A saggy bending of the knees

And elbows, with the palms turned out,

  Chicago Semite Viennese.


A lustreless protrusive eye

  Stares from the protozoic slime

At a perspective of Canaletto.

  The smoky candle end of time


Declines. On the Rialto once.

  The rats are underneath the piles.

The jew is underneath the lot.

  Money in furs. The boatman smiles,


Princess Volupine extends

  A meagre, blue-nailed, phthisic hand

To climb the waterstair. Lights, lights,

  She entertains Sir Ferdinand


Klein. Who clipped the lion’s wings

  And flea’d his rump and pared his claws?

Thought Burbank, meditating on

  Time’s ruins, and the seven laws.

Sweeney Erect

              And the trees about me,

Let them be dry and leafless: let the rocks

Groan with continual surges; and behind me

Make all a desolation. Look, look, wenches!

Paint me a cavernous waste shore

  Cast in the unstilled Cyclades,

Paint me the bold anfractuous rocks

  Faced by the snarled and yelping seas.


Display me Aeolus above

  Reviewing the insurgent gales

Which tangle Ariadne’s hair

  And swell with haste the perjured sails.


Morning stirs the feet and hands

  (Nausicaa and Polypheme).

Gesture of orang-outang

  Rises from the sheets in steam.


This withered root of knots of hair

  Slitted below and gashed with eyes,

This oval O cropped out with teeth:

  The sickle motion from the thighs


Jackknifes upward at the knees

  Then straightens out from heel to hip

Pushing the framework of the bed

  And clawing at the pillow slip.


Sweeney addressed full length to shave

  Broadbottomed, pink from nape to base,

Knows the female temperament

  And wipes the suds around his face.


(The lengthened shadow of a man

  Is history, said Emerson

Who had not seen the silhouette

  Of Sweeney straddled in the sun.)


Tests the razor on his leg

  Waiting until the shriek subsides.

The epileptic on the bed

  Curves backward, clutching at her sides.


The ladies of the corridor

  Find themselves involved, disgraced,

Call witness to their principles

  And deprecate the lack of taste


Observing that hysteria

  Might easily be misunderstood;

Mrs. Turner intimates

  It does the house no sort of good.


But Doris, towelled from the bath,

  Enters padding on broad feet,

Bringing sal volatile

  And a glass of brandy neat.

A Cooking Egg

En l’an trentiesme de mon aage

Que toutes mes hontes j’ay beues . . .

Pipit sate upright in her chair

  Some distance from where I was sitting;

Views of the Oxford Colleges

  Lay on the table, with the knitting.


Daguerreotypes and silhouettes,

  Her grandfather and great aunts,

Supported on the mantelpiece

  An Invitation to the Dance.


 .         .         .         .


I shall not want Honour in Heaven

  For I shall meet Sir Philip Sidney

And have talk with Coriolanus

  And other heroes of that kidney.


I shall not want Capital in Heaven

  For I shall meet Sir Alfred Mond.

We two shall lie together, lapt

  In a five per cent. Exchequer Bond.


I shall not want Society in Heaven,

  Lucretia Borgia shall be my Bride;

Her anecdotes will be more amusing

  Than Pipit’s experience could provide.


I shall not want Pipit in Heaven:

  Madame Blavatsky will instruct me

In the Seven Sacred Trances;

  Piccarda de Donati will conduct me.


 .         .         .         .


But where is the penny world I bought

  To eat with Pipit behind the screen?

The red-eyed scavengers are creeping

  From Kentish Town and Golder’s Green;


Where are the eagles and the trumpets?


  Buried beneath some snow-deep Alps.

Over buttered scones and crumpets

  Weeping, weeping multitudes

Droop in a hundred A.B.C.’s.

The Hippopotamus

And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans.

The broad-backed hippopotamus

Rests on his belly in the mud;

Although he seems so firm to us

He is merely flesh and blood.


  Flesh and blood is weak and frail,

Susceptible to nervous shock;

While the True Church can never fail

For it is based upon a rock.


  The hippo’s feeble steps may err

In compassing material ends,

While the True Church need never stir

To gather in its dividends.


  The ’potamus can never reach

The mango on the mango-tree;

But fruits of pomegranate and peach

Refresh the Church from over sea.


  At mating time the hippo’s voice

Betrays inflexions hoarse and odd,

But every week we hear rejoice

The Church, at being one with God.


  The hippopotamus’s day

Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;

God works in a mysterious way—

The Church can sleep and feed at once.


  I saw the ’potamus take wing

Ascending from the damp savannas,

And quiring angels round him sing

The praise of God, in loud hosannas.


  Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean

And him shall heavenly arms enfold,

Among the saints he shall be seen

Performing on a harp of gold.


  He shall be washed as white as snow,

By all the martyr’d virgins kist,

While the True Church remains below

Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.

Whispers of Immortality


Webster was much possessed by death

And saw the skull beneath the skin;

And breastless creatures under ground

Leaned backward with a lipless grin.


  Daffodil bulbs instead of balls

Stared from the sockets of the eyes!

He knew that thought clings round dead limbs

Tightening its lusts and luxuries.


  Donne, I suppose, was such another

Who found no substitute for sense,

To seize and clutch and penetrate;

Expert beyond experience,


  He knew the anguish of the marrow

The ague of the skeleton;

No contact possible to flesh

Allayed the fever of the bone.


 .         .         .         .


Grishkin is nice: her Russian eye

Is underlined for emphasis;

Uncorseted, her friendly bust

Gives promise of pneumatic bliss.


  The couched Brazilian jaguar

Compels the scampering marmoset

With subtle effluence of cat;

Grishkin has a maisonnette;


  The sleek Brazilian jaguar

Does not in its arboreal gloom

Distil so rank a feline smell

As Grishkin in a drawing-room.


  And even the Abstract Entities

Circumambulate her charm;

But our lot crawls between dry ribs

To keep our metaphysics warm.

Mr. Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service

Look, look, master, here comes two religious caterpillars.

The Jew of Malta



The sapient sutlers of the Lord

Drift across the window-panes.

In the beginning was the Word.


  In the beginning was the Word.

Superfetation of τὸ ἔν,

And at the mensual turn of time

Produced enervate Origen.


  A painter of the Umbrian school

Designed upon a gesso ground

The nimbus of the Baptized God.

The wilderness is cracked and browned


  But through the water pale and thin

Still shine the unoffending feet

And there above the painter set

The Father and the Paraclete.


 .         .         .         .


The sable presbyters approach

The avenue of penitence;

The young are red and pustular

Clutching piaculative pence.


  Under the penitential gates

Sustained by staring Seraphim

Where the souls of the devout

Burn invisible and dim.


  Along the garden-wall the bees

With hairy bellies pass between

The staminate and pistillate,

Blest office of the epicene.


  Sweeney shifts from ham to ham

Stirring the water in his bath.

The masters of the subtle schools

Are controversial, polymath.

Sweeney Among the Nightingales

ὤμοι, πέπληγμαι χαιρίαν πληγὴν ἔοω.


Apeneck Sweeney spreads his knees

Letting his arms hang down to laugh,

The zebra stripes along his jaw

Swelling to maculate giraffe.


  The circles of the stormy moon

Slide westward toward the River Plate,

Death and the Raven drift above

And Sweeney guards the horned gate.


  Gloomy Orion and the Dog

Are veiled; and hushed the shrunken seas;

The person in the Spanish cape

Tries to sit on Sweeney’s knees


  Slips and pulls the table cloth

Overturns a coffee-cup,

Reorganised upon the floor

She yawns and draws a stocking up;


  The silent man in mocha brown

Sprawls at the window-sill and gapes;

The waiter brings in oranges

Bananas figs and hothouse grapes;


  The silent vertebrate in brown

Contracts and concentrates, withdraws;

Rachel née Rabinovitch

Tears at the grapes with murderous paws;


  She and the lady in the cape

Are suspect, thought to be in league;

Therefore the man with heavy eyes

Declines the gambit, shows fatigue,


  Leaves the room and reappears

Outside the window, leaning in,

Branches of wistaria

Circumscribe a golden grin;


  The host with someone indistinct

Converses at the door apart,

The nightingales are singing near

The Convent of the Sacred Heart,


  And sang within the bloody wood

When Agamemnon cried aloud,

And let their liquid siftings fall

To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.


‘Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Σίβυλλα τί θέλειξ; respondebat illa: ἀποθαυεἴν θέλω.’

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,10

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,20

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water. Only

There is shadow under this red rock,

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),

And I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.30

              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,40

Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

Öd’ und leer das Meer.


  Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,

Had a bad cold, nevertheless

Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,

With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,

Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,

(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)

Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,

The lady of situations.50

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,60

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!70

That corpse you planted last year in your garden,

Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?

Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?

Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,

Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!

You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!’

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 out80

(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 ascended90

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 nightingale100

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.110


  ‘My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.

Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.

  What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

I never know what you are thinking. Think.’


  I think we are in rats’ alley

Where the dead men lost their bones.


‘What is that noise?’

                    The wind under the door.

‘What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?’

                    Nothing again nothing.120


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 intelligent130

‘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,140

Hurry up please it’s time

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, 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.150

Then I’ll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.

Hurry up please it’s time

If you don’t like it you can get on with it, I said.

Others can pick and choose if you can’t.

But if Albert makes off, it won’t be for lack of telling.

You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.

(And her only thirty-one.)

I can’t help it, she said, pulling a long face,

It’s them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.

(She’s had five already, and nearly died of young George.)160

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?

Hurry up please it’s time

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

Hurry up please it’s time

Hurry up please it’s time

Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.170

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;180

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 gashouse190

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 daughter200

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 currants210

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 upwards 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 strives220

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.230

He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,

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

One of the low on whom assurance sits

As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.

The time is now propitious, as he guesses,

The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,

Endeavours to engage her in caresses

Which still are unreproved, if undesired.

Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;

Exploring hands encounter no defence;240

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;250

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,260

The pleasant whining of a mandoline

And a clatter and a chatter from within

Where fishermen 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 sails270


        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 oars280

        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 leia290

            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.300

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 pluckest310



IV. Death by Water

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,

Forgot the cry of gulls, and the sea swell

And the profit and loss.

                        A current under sea

Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell

He passed the stages of his age and youth

Entering the whirlpool.

                        Gentile or Jew

O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,320

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 patience330


  Here is no water but only rock

Rock and no water and the sandy road

The road winding above among the mountains

Which are mountains of rock without water

If there were water we should stop and drink

Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think

Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand

If there were only water amongst the rock

Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit

Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit340

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 spring350

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 together360

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 only370

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 wings380

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.390

Only a cock stood on the rooftree

Co co rico co co rico

In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust

Bringing rain


  Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves

Waited for rain, while the black clouds

Gathered far distant, over Himavant.

The jungle crouched, humped in silence.

Then spoke the thunder


Datta: what have we given?

My friend, blood shaking my heart

The awful daring of a moment’s surrender

Which an age of prudence can never retract

By this, and this only, we have existed

Which is not to be found in our obituaries

Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider

Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor

In our empty rooms


Dayadhvam: I have heard the key

Turn in the door once and turn once only

We think of the key, each in his prison

Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison

Only at nightfall, aethereal rumours

Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus


Damyata: The boat responded

Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar

The sea was calm, your heart would have responded420

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 ruins430

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

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

              Shantih shantih shantih

Notes on the Waste Land

Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston’s book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance (Cambridge). 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 recommend 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 profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognise in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies.


Line 20. Cf. Ezekiel II, i.

23. Cf. Ecclesiastes XII, v.

31. V. Tristan und Isolde, I, verses 5-8.

42. Id. III, verse 24.

46. I am not familiar with the exact constitution 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.

60. Cf. Baudelaire:

‘Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves,

Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant.’

63. Cf. Inferno III, 55-57:

                          ‘si lunga tratta

di gente, ch’io non avrei mai creduto

  che morte tanta n’avesse disfatta.’

64. Cf. Inferno IV, 25-27:

‘Quivi, secondo che per ascoltare,

non avea pianto, ma’ che di sospiri,

che l’aura eterna facevan tremare.’

68. A phenomenon which I have often noticed.

74. Cf. the Dirge in Webster’s White Devil.

76. V. Baudelaire, Preface to Fleurs du Mal.


77. Cf. Antony and Cleopatra, II, ii, l. 190.

92. Laquearia. V. Aeneid, I, 726:

dependant lychni laquearibus aureis incensi, et noctem flammis funalia vincunt.

98. Sylvan scene. V. Milton, Paradise Lost, IV, 140.

99. V. Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI, Philomela.

100. Cf. Part III, l. 204.

115. Cf. Part III, l. 195.

118. Cf. Webster: ‘Is the wind in that door still?’

126. Cf. Part I, l. 37, 48.

138. Cf. the game of chess in Middleton’s Women beware Women.


176. V. Spenser, Prothalamion.

192. Cf. The Tempest, I, ii.

196. Cf. Marvell, To His Coy Mistress.

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 . . .’

199. I do not know the origin of the ballad from which these lines are taken: it was reported to me from Sydney, Australia.

202. V. Verlaine, Parsifal.

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.

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 interest:

‘. . . Cum lunone 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 lovis 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.

221. This may not appear as exact as Sappho’s lines, but I had in mind the ‘longshore’ or ‘dory’ fisherman, who returns at nightfall.

253. V. Goldsmith, the song in The Vicar of Wakefield.

257. V. The Tempest, as above.

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.).

266. The Song of the (three) Thames-daughters begins here. From line 292 to 306 inclusive they speak in turn. V. Götterdämmerung, III, i: the Rhine-daughters.

279. V. Froude, Elizabeth, Vol. I, ch. iv, letter of De Quadra to Philip of Spain:

‘In the afternoon we were in a barge, watching 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.’

293. Cf. Purgatorio, V, 133:

‘Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia;

Siena mi fe’, disfecemi Maremma.’

307. V. St Augustine’s Confessions: ‘to Carthage then I came, where a cauldron of unholy loves sang all about mine ears’.

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.

309. From St Augustine’s Confessions again. The collocation of these two representatives of eastern and western asceticism, as the culmination of this part of the poem, is not an accident.


In the first part of Part V three themes are employed: the journey to Emmaus, the approach to the Chapel Perilous (see Miss Weston’s book) and the present decay of eastern Europe.

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 sweetness of tone and exquisite modulation they are unequalled’. Its ‘water-dripping song’ is justly celebrated.

360. The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton’s): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted.

366-76. 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 betrunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Karamasoff sang. Ueber diese Lieder lacht der Bürger beleidigt, der Heilige und Seher hört sie mit Tränen’.

401. ‘Datta, dayadhvam, damyata’ (Give, sympathise, control). The fable of the meaning of the Thunder is found in the Brihadaranyaka—Upanishad, 5, 1. A translation is found in Deussen’s Sechzig Upanishads des Veda, p. 489.

407. 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.’

411. Cf. Inferno, XXXIII, 46:

‘ed io sentii chiavar l’uscio di sotto

all’orribile torre.’

Also F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, 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.’

424. V. Weston: From Ritual to Romance; chapter on the Fisher King.

427. 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.’

428. V. Pervigilium Veneris. Cf. Philomela in Parts II and III.

429. V. Gerard de Nerval, Sonnet El Desdichado.

431. V. Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy.

433. Shantih. Repeated as here, a formal ending to an Upanishad. ‘The Peace which passeth understanding’ is our equivalent to this word.


Mistah Kurtz—he dead

The Hollow Men

A penny for the Old Guy




We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

Or rats’ feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar


  Shape without form, shade without colour,

Paralysed force, gesture without motion;


  Those who have crossed

With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom

Remember us—if at all—not as lost

Violent souls, but only

As the hollow men

The stuffed men.





Eyes I dare not meet in dreams

In death’s dream kingdom

These do not appear:

There, the eyes are

Sunlight on a broken column

There, is a tree swinging

And voices are

In the wind’s singing

More distant and more solemn

Than a fading star.


  Let me be no nearer

In death’s dream kingdom

Let me also wear

Such deliberate disguises

Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves

In a field

Behaving as the wind behaves

No nearer—


  Not that final meeting

In the twilight kingdom





This is the dead land

This is cactus land

Here the stone images

Are raised, here they receive

The supplication of a dead man’s hand

Under the twinkle of a fading star.


Is it like this

In death’s other kingdom

Waking alone

At the hour when we are

Trembling with tenderness

Lips that would kiss

Form prayers to broken stone.





The eyes are not here

There are no eyes here

In this valley of dying stars

In this hollow valley

This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms


  In this last of meeting places

We grope together

And avoid speech

Gathered on this beach of the tumid river


  Sightless, unless

The eyes reappear

As the perpetual star

Multifoliate rose

Of death’s twilight kingdom

The hope only

Of empty men.





Here we go round the prickly pear

Prickly pear prickly pear

Here we go round the prickly pear

At five o’clock in the morning.


  Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow

                      For Thine is the Kingdom


  Between the conception

And the creation

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the Shadow

                              Life is very long


  Between the desire

And the spasm

Between the potency

And the existence

Between the essence

And the descent

Falls the Shadow

                      For Thine is the Kingdom


  For Thine is

Life is

For Thine is the


  This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.




Because I do not hope to turn again

Because I do not hope

Because I do not hope to turn

Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope

I no longer strive to strive towards such things

(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)

Why should I mourn

The vanished power of the usual reign?


  Because I do not hope to know again

The infirm glory of the positive hour

Because I do not think

Because I know I shall not know

The one veritable transitory power

Because I cannot drink

There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again


  Because I know that time is always time

And place is always and only place

And what is actual is actual only for one time

And only for one place

I rejoice that things are as they are and

I renounce the blessèd face

And renounce the voice

Because I cannot hope to turn again

Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something

Upon which to rejoice


  And pray to God to have mercy upon us

And I pray that I may forget

These matters that with myself I too much discuss

Too much explain

Because I do not hope to turn again

Let these words answer

For what is done, not to be done again

May the judgement not be too heavy upon us


  Because these wings are no longer wings to fly

But merely vans to beat the air

The air which is now thoroughly small and dry

Smaller and dryer than the will

Teach us to care and not to care

Teach us to sit still.


  Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death

Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.



Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree

In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety

On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained

In the hollow round of my skull. And God said

Shall these bones live? shall these

Bones live? And that which had been contained

In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:

Because of the goodness of this Lady

And because of her loveliness, and because

She honours the Virgin in meditation,

We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled

Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love

To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.

It is this which recovers

My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions

Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn

In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.

Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.

There is no life in them. As I am forgotten

And would be forgotten, so I would forget

Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said

Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only

The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping

With the burden of the grasshopper, saying



  Lady of silences

Calm and distressed

Torn and most whole

Rose of memory

Rose of forgetfulness

Exhausted and life-giving

Worried reposeful

The single Rose

Is now the Garden

Where all loves end

Terminate torment

Of love unsatisfied

The greater torment

Of love satisfied

End of the endless

Journey to no end

Conclusion of all that

Is inconclusible

Speech without word and

Word of no speech

Grace to the Mother

For the Garden

Where all love ends.



  Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining

We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,

Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,

Forgetting themselves and each other, united

In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye

Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity

Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.



At the first turning of the second stair

I turned and saw below

The same shape twisted on the banister

Under the vapour in the fetid air

Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears

The deceitful face of hope and of despair.


  At the second turning of the second stair

I left them twisting, turning below;

There were no more faces and the stair was dark,

Damp, jaggèd, like an old man’s mouth drivelling, beyond repair,

Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.


  At the first turning of the third stair

Was a slotted window bellied like the fig’s fruit

And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene

The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green

Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.

Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,

Lilac and brown hair;

Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,

Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair

Climbing the third stair.


  Lord, I am not worthy

Lord, I am not worthy


                but speak the word only.


Who walked between the violet and the violet

Who walked between

The various ranks of varied green

Going in white and blue, in Mary’s colour,

Talking of trivial things

In ignorance and in knowledge of eternal dolour

Who moved among the others as they walked,

Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs


  Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand

In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary’s colour,

Sovegna vos


  Here are the years that walk between, bearing

Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring

One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing


  White light folded, sheathed about her, folded.

The new years walk, restoring

Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring

With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem

The time. Redeem

The unread vision in the higher dream

While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.


  The silent sister veiled in white and blue

Between the yews, behind the garden god,

Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word


  But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down

Redeem the time, redeem the dream

The token of the word unheard, unspoken


  Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew


  And after this our exile



If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent

If the unheard, unspoken

Word is unspoken, unheard;

Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,

The Word without a word, the Word within

The world and for the world;

And the light shone in darkness and

Against the World the unstilled world still whirled

About the centre of the silent Word.


    O my people, what have I done unto thee.


  Where shall the word be found, where will the word

Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence

Not on the sea or on the islands, not

On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,

For those who walk in darkness

Both in the day time and in the night time

The right time and the right place are not here

No place of grace for those who avoid the face

No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice


  Will the veiled sister pray for

Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,

Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between

Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait

In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray

For children at the gate

Who will not go away and cannot pray:

Pray for those who chose and oppose


        O my people, what have I done unto thee.


  Will the veiled sister between the slender

Yew trees pray for those who offend her

And are terrified and cannot surrender

And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks

In the last desert between the last blue rocks

The desert in the garden the garden in the desert

Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.


        O my people.


Although I do not hope to turn again

Although I do not hope

Although I do not hope to turn


  Wavering between the profit and the loss

In this brief transit where the dreams cross

The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying

(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things

From the wide window towards the granite shore

The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying

Unbroken wings


  And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices

In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices

And the weak spirit quickens to rebel

For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell

Quickens to recover

The cry of quail and the whirling plover

And the blind eye creates

The empty forms between the ivory gates

And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth


  This is the time of tension between dying and birth

The place of solitude where three dreams cross

Between blue rocks

But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away

Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood

Teach us to care and not to care

Teach us to sit still

Even among these rocks,

Our peace in His will

And even among these rocks

Sister, mother

And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,

Suffer me not to be separated


  And let my cry come unto Thee.


Journey of the Magi


‘A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.’

And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.


  Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

But there was no information, and so we continued

And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.


  All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

A Song for Simeon


Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and

The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;

The stubborn season has made stand.

My life is light, waiting for the death wind,

Like a feather on the back of my hand.

Dust in sunlight and memory in corners

Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.


  Grant us thy peace.

I have walked many years in this city,

Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,

Have given and taken honour and ease.

There went never any rejected from my door.

Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children

When the time of sorrow is come?

They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,

Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.


  Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation

Grant us thy peace.

Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,

Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,

Now at this birth season of decease,

Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,

Grant Israel’s consolation

To one who has eighty years and no tomorrow.


  According to thy word.

They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation

With glory and derision,

Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.

Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,

Not for me the ultimate vision.

Grant me thy peace.

(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,

Thine also.)

I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,

I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.

Let thy servant depart,

Having seen thy salvation.


‘Issues from the hand of God, the simple soul’

To a flat world of changing lights and noise,

To light, dark, dry or damp, chilly or warm;

Moving between the legs of tables and of chairs,

Rising or falling, grasping at kisses and toys,

Advancing boldly, sudden to take alarm,

Retreating to the corner of arm and knee,

Eager to be reassured, taking pleasure

In the fragrant brilliance of the Christmas tree,

Pleasure in the wind, the sunlight and the sea;

Studies the sunlit pattern on the floor

And running stags around a silver tray;

Confounds the actual and the fanciful,

Content with playing-cards and kings and queens,

What the fairies do and what the servants say.

The heavy burden of the growing soul

Perplexes and offends more, day by day;

Week by week, offends and perplexes more

With the imperatives of ‘is and seems’

And may and may not, desire and control.

The pain of living and the drug of dreams

Curl up the small soul in the window seat

Behind the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Issues from the hand of time the simple soul

Irresolute and selfish, misshapen, lame,

Unable to fare forward or retreat,

Fearing the warm reality, the offered good,

Denying the importunity of the blood,

Shadow of its own shadows, spectre in its own gloom,

Leaving disordered papers in a dusty room;

Living first in the silence after the viaticum.


  Pray for Guiterriez, avid of speed and power,

For Boudin, blown to pieces,

For this one who made a great fortune,

And that one who went his own way.

Pray for Floret, by the boarhound slain between the yew trees,

Pray for us now and at the hour of our birth.


Quis hic locus, quae

regio, quae mundi plaga?


What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands

What water lapping the bow

And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog

What images return

O my daughter.


  Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning


Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning


Those who sit in the stye of contentment, meaning


Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning



  Are become unsubstantial, reduced by a wind,

A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog

By this grace dissolved in place


  What is this face, less clear and clearer

The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger—

Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the eye


  Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet

Under sleep, where all the waters meet.

Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.

I made this, I have forgotten

And remember.

The rigging weak and the canvas rotten

Between one June and another September.

Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.

The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.

This form, this face, this life

Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me

Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,

The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.


  What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers

And woodthrush calling through the fog

My daughter.




The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,

The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.

O perpetual revolution of configured stars,

O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,

O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!

The endless cycle of idea and action,

Endless invention, endless experiment,

Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;

Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;

Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,

All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,

But nearness to death no nearer to God.

Where is the Life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries

Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.


  I journeyed to London, to the timekept City,

Where the River flows, with foreign flotations.

There I was told: we have too many churches,

And too few chop-houses. There I was told:

Let the vicars retire. Men do not need the Church

In the place where they work, but where they spend their Sundays.

In the City, we need no bells:

Let them waken the suburbs.

I journeyed to the suburbs, and there I was told:

We toil for six days, on the seventh we must motor

To Hindhead, or Maidenhead.

If the weather is foul we stay at home and read the papers.

In industrial districts, there I was told

Of economic laws.

In the pleasant countryside, there it seemed

That the country now is only fit for picnics.

And the Church does not seem to be wanted

In country or in suburb; and in the town

Only for important weddings.



    Silence! and preserve respectful distance.

  For I perceive approaching

  The Rock. Who will perhaps answer our doubtings.

  The Rock. The Watcher. The Stranger.

  He who has seen what has happened

  And who sees what is to happen.

  The Witness. The Critic. The Stranger.

  The God-shaken, in whom is the truth inborn.


Enter the ROCK, led by a BOY:


    The lot of man is ceaseless labour,

  Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,

  Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.

  I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know

  That it is hard to be really useful, resigning

  The things that men count for happiness, seeking

  The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting

  With equal face those that bring ignominy,

  The applause of all or the love of none.

  All men are ready to invest their money

  But most expect dividends.

  I say to you: Make perfect your will.

  I say: take no thought of the harvest,

  But only of proper sowing.


    The world turns and the world changes,

  But one thing does not change.

  In all of my years, one thing does not change.

  However you disguise it, this thing does not change:

  The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.

  Forgetful, you neglect your shrines and churches;

  The men you are in these times deride

  What has been done of good, you find explanations

  To satisfy the rational and enlightened mind.

  Second, you neglect and belittle the desert.

  The desert is not remote in southern tropics,

  The desert is not only around the corner,

  The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you,

  The desert is in the heart of your brother.

  The good man is the builder, if he build what is good.

  I will show you the things that are now being done,

  And some of the things that were long ago done,

  That you may take heart. Make perfect your will.

  Let me show you the work of the humble. Listen.


The lights fade; in the semi-darkness the voices of WORKMEN are heard chanting.

  In the vacant places

  We will build with new bricks

  There are hands and machines

  And clay for new brick

  And lime for new mortar

  Where the bricks are fallen

  We will build with new stone

  Where the beams are rotten

  We will build with new timbers

  Where the word is unspoken

  We will build with new speech

  There is work together

  A Church for all

  And a job for each

  Every man to his work.


Now a group of WORKMEN is silhouetted against the dim sky. From farther away, they are answered by voices of the UNEMPLOYED.

  No man has hired us

  With pocketed hands

  And lowered faces

  We stand about in open places

  And shiver in unlit rooms.

  Only the wind moves

  Over empty fields, untilled

  Where the plough rests, at an angle

  To the furrow. In this land

  There shall be one cigarette to two men,

  To two women one half pint of bitter

  Ale. In this land

  No man has hired us.

  Our life is unwelcome, our death

  Unmentioned in ‘The Times’.


Chant of WORKMEN again.

  The river flows, the seasons turn,

  The sparrow and starling have no time to waste.

  If men do not build

  How shall they live?

  When the field is tilled

  And the wheat is bread

  They shall not die in a shortened bed

  And a narrow sheet. In this street

  There is no beginning, no movement, no peace and no end

  But noise without speech, food without taste.

  Without delay, without haste.

  We would build the beginning and the end of this street.

  We build the meaning:

  A Church for all

  And a job for each

  Each man to his work.



Thus your fathers were made

Fellow citizens of the saints, of the household of GOD, being built upon the foundation

Of apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself the chief cornerstone,

But you, have you built well, that you now sit helpless in a ruined house?

Where many are born to idleness, to frittered lives and squalid deaths, embittered scorn in honeyless hives,

And those who would build and restore turn out the palms of their hands, or look in vain towards foreign lands for alms to be more or the urn to be filled.

Your building not fitly framed together, you sit ashamed and wonder whether and how you may be builded together for a habitation of GOD in the Spirit, the Spirit which moved on the face of the waters like a lantern set on the back of a tortoise.

And some say: ‘How can we love our neighbour? For love must be made real in act, as desire unites with desired; we have only our labour to give and our labour is not required.

We wait on corners, with nothing to bring but the songs we can sing which nobody wants to hear sung;

Waiting to be flung in the end, on a heap less useful than dung.’


  You, have you built well, have you forgotten the cornerstone?

Talking of right relations of men, but not of relations of men to GOD.

‘Our citizenship is in Heaven’; yes, but that is the model and type for your citizenship upon earth.


  When your fathers fixed the place of GOD,

And settled all the inconvenient saints,

Apostles, martyrs, in a kind of Whipsnade,

Then they could set about imperial expansion

Accompanied by industrial development.

Exporting iron, coal and cotton goods

And intellectual enlightenment

And everything, including capital

And several versions of the Word of GOD:

The British race assured of a mission

Performed it, but left much at home unsure.


  Of all that was done in the past, you eat the fruit, either rotten or ripe.

And the Church must be forever building, and always decaying, and always being restored.

For every ill deed in the past we suffer the consequence:

For sloth, for avarice, gluttony, neglect of the Word of GOD,

For pride, for lechery, treachery, for every act of sin.

And of all that was done that was good, you have the inheritance.

For good and ill deeds belong to a man alone, when he stands alone on the other side of death,

But here upon earth you have the reward of the good and ill that was done by those who have gone before you.

And all that is ill you may repair if you walk together in humble repentance, expiating the sins of your fathers;

And all that was good you must fight to keep with hearts as devoted as those of your fathers who fought to gain it.

The Church must be forever building, for it is forever decaying within and attacked from without;

For this is the law of life; and you must remember that while there is time of prosperity

The people will neglect the Temple, and in time of adversity they will decry it.


  What life have you if you have not life together?

There is no life that is not in community,

And no community not lived in praise of GOD.

Even the anchorite who meditates alone,

For whom the days and nights repeat the praise of GOD,

Prays for the Church, the Body of Christ incarnate.

And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,

And no man knows or cares who is his neighbour

Unless his neighbour makes too much disturbance,

But all dash to and fro in motor cars,

Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.

Nor does the family even move about together,

But every son would have his motor cycle,

And daughters ride away on casual pillions.


  Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore;

Let the work not delay, time and the arm not waste;

Let the clay be dug from the pit, let the saw cut the stone,

Let the fire not be quenched in the forge.



  The Word of the LORD came unto me, saying:

  O miserable cities of designing men,

  O wretched generation of enlightened men,

  Betrayed in the mazes of your ingenuities,

  Sold by the proceeds of your proper inventions:

  I have given you hands which you turn from worship,

  I have given you speech, for endless palaver,

  I have given you my Law, and you set up commissions,

  I have given you lips, to express friendly sentiments,

  I have given you hearts, for reciprocal distrust.

  I have given you power of choice, and you only alternate

  Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.

  Many are engaged in writing books and printing them,

  Many desire to see their names in print,

  Many read nothing but the race reports.

  Much is your reading, but not the Word of GOD,

  Much is your building, but not the House of GOD.

  Will you build me a house of plaster, with corrugated roofing,

  To be filled with a litter of Sunday newspapers?



  A Cry from the East:

  What shall be done to the shore of smoky ships?

  Will you leave my people forgetful and forgotten

  To idleness, labour, and delirious stupor?

  There shall be left the broken chimney,

  The peeled hull, a pile of rusty iron,

  In a street of scattered brick where the goat climbs,

  Where My Word is unspoken.



  A Cry from the North, from the West and from the South

  Whence thousands travel daily to the timekept City;

  Where My Word is unspoken,

  In the land of lobelias and tennis flannels

  The rabbit shall burrow and the thorn revisit,

  The nettle shall flourish on the gravel court,

  And the wind shall say: ‘Here were decent godless people:

  Their only monument the asphalt road

  And a thousand lost golf balls’.



  We build in vain unless the LORD build with us.

  Can you keep the City that the LORD keeps not with you?

  A thousand policemen directing the traffic

  Cannot tell you why you come or where you go.

  A colony of cavies or a horde of active marmots

  Build better than they that build without the LORD.

  Shall we lift up our feet among perpetual ruins?

  I have loved the beauty of Thy House, the peace of Thy sanctuary,

  I have swept the floors and garnished the altars.

  Where there is no temple there shall be no homes,

  Though you have shelters and institutions,

  Precarious lodgings while the rent is paid,

  Subsiding basements where the rat breeds

  Or sanitary dwellings with numbered doors

  Or a house a little better than your neighbour’s;

  When the Stranger says: ‘What is the meaning of this city?

  Do you huddle close together because you love each other?’

  What will you answer? ‘We all dwell together

  To make money from each other’? or ‘This is a community’?

  And the Stranger will depart and return to the desert.

  O my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger,

  Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.


    O weariness of men who turn from GOD

  To the grandeur of your mind and the glory of your action,

  To arts and inventions and daring enterprises,

  To schemes of human greatness thoroughly discredited,

  Binding the earth and the water to your service,

  Exploiting the seas and developing the mountains,

  Dividing the stars into common and preferred,

  Engaged in devising the perfect refrigerator,

  Engaged in working out a rational morality,

  Engaged in printing as many books as possible,

  Plotting of happiness and flinging empty bottles,

  Turning from your vacancy to fevered enthusiasm

  For nation or race or what you call humanity;

  Though you forget the way to the Temple,

  There is one who remembers the way to your door:

  Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.

  You shall not deny the Stranger.



  In the beginning GOD created the world. Waste and void. Waste and void. And darkness was upon the face of the deep.

  And when there were men, in their various ways, they struggled in torment towards GOD

  Blindly and vainly, for man is a vain thing, and man without GOD is a seed upon the wind: driven this way and that, and finding no place of lodgement and germination.

  They followed the light and the shadow, and the light led them forward to light and the shadow led them to darkness,

  Worshipping snakes or trees, worshipping devils rather than nothing: crying for life beyond life, for ecstasy not of the flesh.

  Waste and void. Waste and void. And darkness on the face of the deep.


    And the Spirit moved upon the face of the water.

  And men who turned towards the light and were known of the light

  Invented the Higher Religions; and the Higher Religions were good

  And led men from light to light, to knowledge of Good and Evil.

  But their light was ever surrounded and shot with darkness

  As the air of temperate seas is pierced by the still dead breath of the Arctic Current;

  And they came to an end, a dead end stirred with a flicker of life,

  And they came to the withered ancient look of a child that has died of starvation.

  Prayer wheels, worship of the dead, denial of this world, affirmation of rites with forgotten meanings

  In the restless wind-whopped sand, or the hills where the wind will not let the snow rest.

  Waste and void. Waste and void. And darkness on the face of the deep.


    Then came, at a predetermined moment, a moment in time and of time,

  A moment not out of time, but in time, in what we call history: transecting, bisecting the world of time, a moment in time but not like a moment of time,

  A moment in time but time was made through that moment: for without the meaning there is no time, and that moment of time gave the meaning.

  Then it seemed as if men must proceed from light to light, in the light of the Word,

  Through the Passion and Sacrifice saved in spite of their negative being;

  Bestial as always before, carnal, self-seeking as always before, selfish and purblind as ever before.

  Yet always struggling, always reaffirming, always resuming their march on the way that was lit by the light;

  Often halting, loitering, straying, delaying, returning, yet following no other way.


    But it seems that something has happened that has never happened before: though we know not just when, or why, or how, or where.

  Men have left GOD not for other gods, they say, but for no god; and this has never happened before

  That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first Reason,

  And then Money, and Power, and what they call Life, or Race, or Dialectic.

  The Church disowned, the tower overthrown, the bells upturned, what have we to do

  But stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards

  In an age which advances progressively backwards?



                                In this land

There shall be one cigarette to two men,

To two women one half pint of bitter

Ale . . .



  What does the world say, does the whole world stray in high-powered cars on a by-pass way?



                            In this land

  No man has hired us . . .



  Waste and void. Waste and void. And darkness on the face of the deep.

  Has the Church failed mankind, or has mankind failed the Church?

  When the Church is no longer regarded, not even opposed, and men have forgotten

  All gods except Usury, Lust and Power.



Son of Man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears

And set thine heart upon all that I show thee.

Who is this that has said: the House of GOD is a House of Sorrow;

We must walk in black and go sadly, with longdrawn faces,

We must go between empty walls, quavering lowly, whispering faintly,

Among a few flickering scattered lights?

They would put upon GOD their own sorrow, the grief they should feel

For their sins and faults as they go about their daily occasions.

Yet they walk in the street proudnecked, like thoroughbreds ready for races,

Adorning themselves, and busy in the market, the forum,

And all other secular meetings.

Thinking good of themselves, ready for any festivity,

Doing themselves very well.

Let us mourn in a private chamber, learning the way of penitence,

And then let us learn the joyful communion of saints.


  The soul of Man must quicken to creation.

Out of the formless stone, when the artist united himself with stone,

Spring always new forms of life, from the soul of man that is joined to the soul of stone;

Out of the meaningless practical shapes of all that is living or lifeless

Joined with the artist’s eye, new life, new form, new colour.

Out of the sea of sound the life of music,

Out of the slimy mud of words, out of the sleet and hail of verbal imprecisions,

Approximate thoughts and feelings, words that have taken the place of thoughts and feelings,

There spring the perfect order of speech, and the beauty of incantation.


  LORD, shall we not bring these gifts to Your service?

Shall we not bring to Your service all our powers

For life, for dignity, grace and order,

And intellectual pleasures of the senses?

The LORD who created must wish us to create

And employ our creation again in His service

Which is already His service in creating.

For Man is joined spirit and body,

And therefore must serve as spirit and body.

Visible and invisible, two worlds meet in Man;

Visible and invisible must meet in His Temple;

You must not deny the body.


  Now you shall see the Temple completed:

After much striving, after many obstacles;

For the work of creation is never without travail;

The formed stone, the visible crucifix,

The dressed altar, the lifting light,





  The visible reminder of Invisible Light.



You have seen the house built, you have seen it adorned

By one who came in the night, it is now dedicated to GOD.

It is now a visible church, one more light set on a hill

In a world confused and dark and disturbed by portents of fear.

And what shall we say of the future? Is one church all we can build?

Or shall the Visible Church go on to conquer the World?


  The great snake lies ever half awake, at the bottom of the pit of the world, curled

In folds of himself until he awakens in hunger and moving his head to right and to left prepares for his hour to devour.

But the Mystery of Iniquity is a pit too deep for mortal eyes to plumb. Come

Ye out from among those who prize the serpent’s golden eyes,

The worshippers, self-given sacrifice of the snake. Take

Your way and be ye separate.

Be not too curious of Good and Evil;

Seek not to count the future waves of Time;

But be ye satisfied that you have light

Enough to take your step and find your foothold.


  O Light Invisible, we praise Thee!

Too bright for mortal vision.

O Greater Light, we praise Thee for the less;

The eastern light our spires touch at morning,

The light that slants upon our western doors at evening,

The twilight over stagnant pools at batflight,

Moon light and star light, owl and moth light,

Glow-worm glowlight on a grassblade.

O Light Invisible, we worship Thee!


  We thank Thee for the lights that we have kindled,

The light of altar and of sanctuary;

Small lights of those who meditate at midnight

And lights directed through the coloured panes of windows

And light reflected from the polished stone,

The gilded carven wood, the coloured fresco.

Our gaze is submarine, our eyes look upward

And see the light that fractures through unquiet water.

We see the light but see not whence it comes.

O Light Invisible, we glorify Thee!


  In our rhythm of earthly life we tire of light. We are glad when the day ends, when the play ends; and ecstasy is too much pain.

We are children quickly tired: children who are up in the night and fall asleep as the rocket is fired; and the day is long for work or play.

We tire of distraction or concentration, we sleep and are glad to sleep,

Controlled by the rhythm of blood and the day and the night and the seasons.

And we must extinguish the candle, put out the light and relight it;

Forever must quench, forever relight the flame.

Therefore we thank Thee for our little light, that is dappled with shadow.

We thank Thee who hast moved us to building, to finding, to forming at the ends of our fingers and beams of our eyes.

And when we have built an altar to the Invisible Light, we may set thereon the little lights for which our bodily vision is made.

And we thank Thee that darkness reminds us of light.

O Light Invisible, we give Thee thanks for Thy great glory!

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Readers who are familiar only with the ‘traditional’ poets must revise their attitude to poetry if they are to get on terms with T. S. Eliot, the major poet of this modern age. They may be shaken, for example, by his manner of interpolating sardonic or colloquial passages into a ‘serious’ poem—

‘I grow old . . . I grow old

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.’

And they may feel that by calling a poem, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, Mr. Eliot is being derisive or satirical. It is quite certain that such readers will need time and patience to discover the clues of his unconventional conception of poetic aim and method. Some of the poems in this collection, now presented for the first time in a popular edition, reveal these clues more quickly than others: ‘Journey of the Magi’, for instance, or ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’, and once the reader becomes familiar with Mr. Eliot’s ‘poetic shorthand’ he will the more easily follow such major poems as ‘The Waste Land’. There are no poetic ‘subjects’ in this book, no conventional nightingales and daffodils, and there is no acceptance, either, of the traditional rules of metre and rhyme. As one discerning critic has said: ‘We have here, in short, poetry that expresses freely a modern sensibility, the ways of feeling and the modes of experience of one fully alive in his own age’.

The main poem in this collection is ‘The Waste Land’ (1922) to which Mr. Eliot has himself supplied some revealing footnotes which help the reader to cope with the associations and allusions in which the poem is so rich. His theme here, as in most of his other poems, is disillusion with our contemporary civilization, which he contrasts in several of its aspects with the beliefs and practices of other and earlier races. It is a difficult poem to follow and even Mr Eliot’s own sign-posts are sometimes cryptic. But of ‘The Waste Land’, as of all the other poems in this book, it can be said that they incite the reader to pursue their meaning. The process is not a rapid one, and many people will ‘feel’ the poems long before they understand them. Mr. Eliot himself has said: ‘Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood’, and in the rhythms, images and epithets of these poems there is an unmistakable and incandescent power of communication.


Thomas Stearns Eliot, O.M., poet and critic, was born of New England stock in St Louis, Missouri, U.S.A., in September, 1888, and was educated at Harvard, after which he spent a year at the Sorbonne, Paris, and a year at Merton College, Oxford. He settled in England in 1915. After eight years in Lloyds Bank in the City of London—during which period he began his editorship of The Criterion, a literary quarterly—he joined the firm of publishers which later became Faber and Faber. His first volume of verse, Prufrock and Other Observations, was published in London in 1917. His first critical essays and reviews were collected in 1920 in a volume entitled The Sacred Wood. The Waste Land, his most influential poem, followed in 1922. A collected edition of his essays was published in 1932, and a collected edition of his poems in 1936. Another volume of verse, Four Quartets, was published in 1944. He has also written three plays in verse, Murder in the Cathedral (1935), The Family Reunion (1939), and The Cocktail Party (1950). His verse and prose have been translated into many foreign languages (see Bibliography by D. Gallup, Yale, 1947), and his influence on contemporary English literature has been widespread and profound. His literary honours include: The Clark Lectureship, Cambridge University, 1926; The Charles Eliot Norton Visiting Professorship, Harvard University, 1932-33, Presidency of the Classical Association in 1943 and of the Virgil Society in 1944; honorary fellowships of Merton College, Oxford, and Magdalene College, Cambridge; and honorary doctorates of twelve English, European and American Universities. In 1948 he was awarded the O.M., and in the same year the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Misspelled words and printer errors have been corrected. Where multiple spellings occur, majority use has been employed.

Punctuation has been maintained except where obvious printer errors occur.


[The end of Selected Poems by T. S. Eliot]