Death by Water (The Waste Land)

By T.S Eliot

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,

Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep- 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 whirpool.

Gentile or Jew

O you who turn the wheel and look to windward

Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as


The Waste Land (Introduction)

by T.S Eliot

About the Poem

“The Waste Land” poem is one of the most important poems of 20th century English literature. It was written by T.S. Eliot and published in 1922. The poem is based on physical and spiritual waste land of modern society which lacks in energy and hence need to rejuvenate. The Waste Land has written in 434 lines in all, and divided in five parts, i.e.

  1. The Burial of the Dead
  2. A Game of Chess
  3. The Fire Sermon
  4. Death by Water
  5. What the Thunder said

Normally, in poetry the story is narrated by narrator or single speaker but in “The Waste Land” there are few characters given like;

Madame Sosostris, Phlebas, Fisherking, Mr. Eugenides, Philomela, The Narrator, The Rich Lady, Tiresias, Fresca and Stetson Typist

Tone of the Poem

The tone of the poem is “unhappiness” due to the commercialization in 20th century of modern world, where according to the poet everything is for sale. Therefore, it is the subject of matter for the modern world.

Setting of the Poem

The poem’s setting is in London, England which explores the aftermath of the life of the world war- I. Also, the deserted area and oceans and bustling metropolis included as well.

Theme of the Poem

The Waste Land is thematically based on disillusionment of the post- world war generation and sterility of modern people. Also, some of the major themes highlighted by T.S. Eliot like, Religion, Memory and the Past, isolation, appearance and sex.

But there are few critics like; F.R. Leavis and I.A. who after analyzing “The Waste Land” said that the theme is “vision of desolation and spiritual drought” and “plight of the whole generation” respectively.

The Burial of the Dead (The Waste Land)

By T.S Eliot

April is the cruelest 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,

And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

Bin gar kein Russian, stamm’aus Litauen, each deutsch (German)

 And we were children staying at the arch-duke’s

My cousin’s, he took me out on 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,

You can not 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,

          Frisch weht der wind

         Der Heimat zu

         Mein Irisch kind

         Wo weilest du?

You gave me hyacinth first a year ago;

‘They called me a hyacinth girt.’

Yet 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,

Looking into the heart of light, the silence

Oed’ und leer das Meer. (German)

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.

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.

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn.

A crown 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!

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?

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

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

‘You’ hypocrite lecturer!- mon semblable,- mon frere! (Freanch)

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