Stanza Analyses: T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land

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  • Topic: Tarot, The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot
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  • Published : November 14, 2010
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English A1 HL
Stanza Analyses
Sir B
September 30, 2010
T.S Eliot’s “The Waste Land”
Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,|  |
Had a bad cold, nevertheless|  |
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,|   45|
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.|   50|
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.|   55|
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.|  |
 | |

Stanza Analyses
This excerpt from T.S Eliot’s “The Waste land” depicts a scene of a clairvoyant woman using her “abilities” to read aman’sfortune. Unfortunately the fortune being told is not so fortunate; the woman presents the man with a reading of death by drowning, seduction, options (in life) and fortune, some of which seem to not correlate congruently, leaving the man “unfortunately”lost to his ownfate.

The extract begins with the introduction of Madam Sosostris. A fortune teller who from the text is not as capable of using her manipulative cards on this day “Had a bad cold, nevertheless”. Her customer is a man that seems a bit distraught, this coming from the fact he is in desperate need of advice from a fortune teller, a well known one at that “Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe”. The first card that is presented is “…drowned Phoenician Sailor…” This card is not the stereotypical card used by a fortune teller. This card was conjured by T.S Eliot himself. A sign of death by drowning, the man’s brain reregisters the meaning“Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!”He begins a new disposition for the next card that will be presented.

The next card to be unveiled is another one of Eliot’s creations “Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks…” This is Eliot ironically referring to Leonardo’s “The Madonna on the Rocks”. A well known painting depicting Mary high up on jagged rocks, John the Baptist to her left, Jesus to her right and an angel named Uriel in the center. Mary is holding a phantom head, whichUriel is cutting at the neck. This painting can have many relations to the text, but the one most considered to be valid is a form of seduction; Mary using her stunning looks and high ranking as the mother of Jesus to overturn the role of faith and get her way.This ideology of anti-christianitywas predominantly present in Leonardo’s work.

The next card “The man with three staves” staves can also be confused with staffs or wands. The staves symbolize having foresight, exploring the unknown and demonstrating leadership. Which may lead the man to believe that a journey is ahead where he will have to use these skills to survive what was forecasted earlier from Madam Sosostris? This could also be an indication of the man’s profession, as this was written after World War 1, he may be a soldier and the cards are foreshadowing his inevitable death for the war to come.

The “Wheel” is the next card, arbitrarily presented. Also known as the wheel of fortune is the first reading given by Madam Sosostris, which does not indicate any detrimental outcomes. It is read as a form “good luck”. Since this card has no correlation with the others this may be evidence supporting what T.S Eliot presented before “had a cold, nevertheless”, meaning again that she was not at her best. This could also mean simply that if he uses the skills that are relevantto the card of three staves then he will have good fortune.

From the Wheel comes the “One-eyed merchant”. Once again a creation...
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