Wasteland by TS Eliot
The driving force of all life is procreation and re-birth. For mankind, vegetation, the animal kingdom, the survival of the species is the dominant factor and only the fittest survive. For millennia, different races have believed that the fertility of the land depended on the sexual potency of their ruler or favour of their gods. Pagan, Roman, Greek and other gods have been invented who were believed to control the fertility of the land, such as Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, on which the survival of their populations has been believed to have depended. Various superstitions and religions have further developed and become significant factors in the lives of billions of the world's population. The Waste Land takes these themes and portrays a dead land that lacks the fertility and sexual potency needed to sustain and progress life. A land void of what is needed for re-birth. The 4 life-giving elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water. Earth is sterile; Air is turned to "brown fog"; Fire burns; Water drowns. The sexual imageries are unproductive: sex is present as a lustful functional device but lacking of the necessary fertility. Superstitions are turned to by the society in search of the answer in the form of Tarot cards and religion is a constant thread as evidenced by the recurring Biblical references and themes. In The Burial of the Dead we see that he gives us an image of the Earth as sterile, instead of being the foundation of vegetation. It is only a repository for the dead. Earth is the 1st. of the 4 natural elements. These 4 opening lines echo the "April", "root", "Lilac/flower", and "rain/shower" imagery of the 4 opening lines of The General Prologue of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. These lines are reflecting the image of life and death. Rain usually nurtures and strengthens plants and sustains them, but here we see that life even with water is slowly dying and wasting away. He later goes on to say that the trees will give no shelter and the crickets, no relief. This line comes from Ecclesiastes 12:5-7: "Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets. Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." When he says "I will show you fear in a handful of dust", he again gives us the image of birth because in the Christian belief, God made Adam out of! the dust of the ground. A Game of Chess comes from Thomas Middleton's A Game at Chesse, a controversial Elizabethan play depicting war between England and Spain with England as the white pieces and Spain as the black. In this poem though, the players end in stalemate. As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale Philomel is the character raped by Tereus and who had her tongue cut out so that she couldn't tell. She was turned into a nightingale. These few lines represent sexuality without fertility, and how the earth is so wasted that it can't produce life anymore. The Fire Sermon A key feature of Bramanical philosophy was the worship of fire as part of the Vedic rituals. Fire in that sense was used as cleansing. In this use it is cleansing the world of all immoral things. Fire was the voice of the god Agni personified by man, water personified by woman. In Death By Water, water here doesn't give life, it takes life away. Short, resolute and uncompromising. Water is the 3rd. of the 4 natural elements. In the Christian belief water is used for baptizing. This process is like dying in water, and being ressurrected into a new life. In the next chapter this same thing does the divine voice here, thunder, repeating Da! Da! Da! that is, restrain yourselves, give, sympathise. One should practise this same triad: self-restraint, giving, sympathy." Thunder brings the promise of rain but fails to provide it. Thunder represents Air, the 4th. of the 4 natural elements.