A Game of Chess (The Waste Land)

By T.S. Eliot

The chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,

Glowed on the marble, where the glass

Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines.

From which a golden Cupidon peeped out

Another hid his eyes behind his wing

Double the flames of seven branched candelabra

Reflecting light upon the table as

The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,

From satin cases poured in rich profusion.

In vials of ivory and coloured glass

Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,

Unguent, powdered, or liquid- troubled, confused

And drowned the sense in odours: stirred by the air

That freshened from the window, these ascended

In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,

Flung their smoke into the laquearia,

Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.

Huge sea-wood fed with copper

Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone,

In which sad light a carved dolphin swam.

Above the antique mantel was displayed

As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene

The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king

So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale

Filled all the desert with inviolable voice

And still she cried, and still the world pursues,

‘Jug Jug to dirty ears.

And other withered stumps of time

Were told upon the walls; staring forms

Leaned out, learning, hushing the room enclosed.

Footsteps shuffled on the stair.

Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair

Spread out in fiery points

Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.

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

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

What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

I never know what you are thinking. Think.

I think we are in rats’ alley

Where the dead men lost their bones.

What is that noise?

The wind under the door.

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

Nothing again nothing.

Do You know nothing? Do you see nothing?

Do you remember?

Nothing? I remember

Those are pearls that were his eyes.

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


O O O O O that Shakespeare Rag-

It’s so elegant

So intelligent

What shall I do now? What shall I do?

I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street

With my hair down, so. What shall we do tomorrow?

What shall we ever do?

That 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


When L’il’s husband got demobbed, I said-

I didn’t mince my words, I said to her myself,


Now Albert’s coming back, make yourself a bit smart.

He’ll want to know what you done with that money he gave you

To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.

You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,

He said, I swear, I can’t bear to look at you.

And no more can’t I, I said, and think of poor Albert,

He’s been in the army four years, he wants a good time,

And if you don’t give it him there’s others will, I said.

Oh is there, she said. Something o’ that, I said,

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

Straight look.


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

Others can pick and choose if you can’t.

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

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

(And her only thirty one)

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

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

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

The chemist said it would be alright, but I have never been

the same.

You are a proper fool, I said

Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone, there it is I said,

What you get married for if you don’t want children?


Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot


and they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it




Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight,

Ta ta. Goonight, Goonight.

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

Good night.

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