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.


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