Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd 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?
'Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
'Or with his nails he'll dig it up again!
'You! Hypocrite lecteur! – mon semblable, - mon frère!'
T.S. Eliot, “The Burial of the Dead”, The Waste Land, lines 60-76.
T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land is a Modernist piece of literature. Combining “traditional content” and radical style, Eliot has captured the tension between past and present. For him, the past is at once nostalgic, yet responsible for the present shared post-war “sense of desolation, of uncertainty, of futility, of the groundlessness of aspirations, of the vanity of endeavour and a thirst for a life-giving water which seems to have suddenly failed” as critic I. A. Richards put forth. The Waste Land reflects a people’s struggle to recover not just from the resultant physical damage of World War I, but a sudden collapse of their traditions which constituted the “life-giving water” of a society, so steeped in history and culture, and their subsequent inability to cope with such devastating disillusionment.
The Waste Land is a patchwork of past literary works. Eliot borrows allusions and quotations, weaving a panoramic landscape of desolation and futility. Its very title refers to the mythical Fisher King who is...