The Waste Land is an important poem. It has something important to say and it should have an important effect on the reader. But it is not easy.
In Eliot's own words:
"We can say that it appears likely that poets in our civilization as it exists at present, must be difficult. Our civilization comprehends great variety and complexity, and this variety and complexity, playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various and complex results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into its meaning."
"Tradition cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour." Eliot is dealing with the loss of meaning and significance of many things, and so he continually contrasts the present with the past, often using literary allusions to help to arouse in the reader the response he wants. For this reason he gives some of these allusions in a set of notes. However, he merely says where they come from or gives them in the original Italian or French or German. These notes give the actual allusions, translated into English where necessary, and printed in such a way that the reader can see the allusion and the relevant passage in the poem at the same time. For instance, a passage from the poem is on page 3 and the allusions to it are on page 2. The notes have also amplified Eliot's notes in some cases, with valuable help from three excellent books:
Stephen Coote: The Waste Land in Penguin Master Studies 1985 B C Southam: A Student's Guide to the Selected Poems of T S Eliot Faber and Faber, 1968
George Williamson: A reader's Guide to T S Eliot
Thames and Hudson, Second Edition, 1967
It is a pleasure to thank Sheila Davies for her translation of Baudelaire's Au Lecteur Allusion are numbered and you will seldom have to scroll down more than a page to find the comment on the allusion
The comments on the allusions are in frames.
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The Allusions in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land.doc
The Waste Land
"Nam sibyllam quiden Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Σιβιυλλα τι θελεισ; respondebat illa: A "αποθαειν θελω."
For Ezra Pound
il miglior fabro
A For I once saw with my own eyes the Sybil at Cumae hanging in a cage, and when the boys said to her "What do you want?" she answered, "I want to die." B 'il miglior fabro' means ' the better craftsman', a well-deserved tribute to Ezra Pound. Eliot sent the original manuscript of The Waste Land to Pound, and as Eliot said 'the sprawling, chaotic poem left Pound's hands reduced to about half its size and in the process it was changed from a jumble of good and bad passages into a poem,'
Photo-copies of the manuscript, with the changes made by Pound, are available in book form, and fully support Eliot's acknowledgment of his debt to Pound.
I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD
April is the cruelest month, breeding 1
Lilac out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth with forgetful snow, feeding
Life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee 8
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 keine Russin, stamm aus Litauen, echt deutsch. 12
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's ,
My cousin's , he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. Ands down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read much of the night, and go south in the winter. 18
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man
You cannot 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, 24 And...