Death by Water Poem Summary

About the poem

“Death by Water” is the shortest poem of five sections of all the poems from The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot published in 1922.

Theme of the poem

The theme of this short poem majorly deals with birth, death and rebirth.


The poem “Death by Water” is a fourth part of “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot, this is the shortest poem in all five parts in which the poet describes a man, name Phlebas (the Phoenician) who has died by drowning, and has forgotten his worldly cares as the creatures of the sea have picked his body apart. In this poem, narrator asks his reader to consider Phlebas and recall his own mortality.

Form of the poem

Death by Water has written in ten- line stanzas which has four- line couplets. The alliteration and the deliberately archaic language, also the poem has an intense feeling in didactic section. Death by Water is one of the most well organized among all the four parts of The Waste Land, that means, it recalls other highly organized forms that often have philosophical or religious import, like aphorisms and parables.

Therefore, the major point of this short section is to rebut ideas of renewal and regeneration. Phlebas just dies, i.e. like; Stetson’s corpse in the first part. Phlebas’s body yields nothing more than products of decay.

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