- Mar 2019
- Oct 2016
Picked his bones in whispers.
The brain/ human trying to make sense of his life before it's too late. Forced to take stock of their lives and realize they are living in a cycle of "waste".
shadow at evening rising to meet you;
You're going to leave behind a trace of existence, but at the end of the day, you're going to die like everyone else. This can be seen as a form of exile because no matter what, death is always following to take you away.
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
Already this book is filled with lots of death but this line really stands out. He says it as if the tree should give shelter but a dead tree is weak and rotten.
Memory and desire
Memory and desire seem sort of juxtaposed in this sequence. Everything else in this stanza is pretty abstract and or a very concise image, but these two generalizations might be hints into how to interpret the abstract language and images of the poem. These could represent a glimmer of the speaker giving a clue to the reader in sort of a telling rather than showing way, to ground rest of lines around these generalizations. Memory and desire also may be related in terms of syntax because they’re both very general words placed very closely to each other and this might also show these being somehow intertwined within the conflict or as possible themes of the poem. Also these two words come directly after the verb mixing which could be interpreted as desire arising out of memories or vice versa.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept
A biblical allusion, though I guess this isn't a surprise, referencing the captive Israelites' mourning song at the rivers of Babylon. The intriguing thing here is the contrast between that reference and the word "leman," which is apparently an obscure term for lover, and the preceding references to sexual exploits. Eliot seems to be emphasizing the pollution of sexuality by using the polluted Thames and himself "polluting" a traditional story.
In the mountains, there you feel free. I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
After all this time talking about the comforts of winter, Marie says she goes south in the winter now -- presumably also staying away from the mountains that made her feel free as a child.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
Am not a Russian, stem(tribe)' from Lithuania, genuine German.
The brown land mentioned in this part matches the brown fog mentioned previously in the first part. Both colors make the city seem desolate and eerie.
as previously mentioned, Tiresias lived life both as a man initially, but he was transformed into a women for several years. He makes appearances in many Greek legends and stories, but the one that stands out to many is his role in Oedipus the King. He speaks truths that people often don't want to know (like when Oedipus asks who killed Laius). His prophesies always come true through the actions of others (even as they try to prevent it). Even in the afterlife, he advises Odysseus, which is what is alluded to in the following line: "bring the sailor home from sea." Tiresias experiences a doubleness which allows him to see more.
- Nov 2015
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME
This voice seems to resemble the last call for drinks in a pub, signalling closing time. The repetitive voice which disrupts the rest of the stanza creates a strong sense of unlimited time, of a situation coming to an end. Considering pubs are a place of community and company, where locals of all classes are welcome and come together, this image of time running out implies perhaps society is losing its sense of locality.
Additionally, the conversation which this stanza invokes reveals to the reader an absence of communication. Although there are many voices, not one voice responds to another, they are completely isolated. This is ironic, as speech is a fundamental aspect of human interaction, in this case everyone has a voice, but no one seems to listen or acknowledge one another. Therefore, this scene of conversation suggests there is an absence of community, where although people are speaking and perhaps in the presence of other people, there is a lack of togetherness. Eliot creates the impression that locals are being exiled from their community, thus they are isolated from an environment which is based on shared common interests. Perhaps Eliot is critiquing modern society as a place which no longer appreciates community, the different voices and lack of human interaction indicates there is an absence of togetherness, creating a sense of loneliness.
the drowned Phoenician Sailor
The motif of the sailor is one that repeats throughout the entirety of the poem. The Sailor is constantly trying to get ‘home’ but is unable to. He has been exiled. The first occurrence of this motif takes places in the burial of the dead in which we are introduced to the ‘drowned Phoenician sailor’; the tarot card owned by Madame Sosostris (a character created by Aldous Huxley in his novel Crome Yellow). The sailor acts as a figure of fear of death. However, the recurring image of death via water suggests more of just a death, but a banishment. This echoes Ancient Greek mythology in reference to the River Styx. The River Styx is a river that forms a boundary between the Earth and the Underworld, and ruled by Hades. As the sailor ‘enters the whirlpool’, he enters the exiled no man’s land between Earth and this ‘othered’ place.
In IV: DEATH BY WATER we are presented with Phlebas in which ‘a current under the sea picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell, He passed the stages of his age and youth’. The character of Phlebas echoes the character presented in Madame Sosostris’ tarot cards. Eliot devotes the entirety of the section to this one moment which suggests enormous significance. The whole section was predicted by Sosostris and consequently suggests an inevitability of exile.
Furthermore, what the sailor represents is the epitome of exile. There is no ‘here or there’. There is no ‘black n white’. What the sailor embodies is the exile of everything. To be exiled in this way is to have neither nothing, nor everything. This consequently can be read existentially. What does it mean to exist in limbo? You become an ambiguous human living in an inbetween, blank space, banished by society.
Tiresias was a Greek prophet who was cursed by the goddess Hera to become a woman for seven years, until he was changed back. Then he had the misfortune of being blinded by the goddess Athena (he seems to be a popular target for Greek goddesses) but is then given the gift of foreseeing the future.
As a temporary woman and blind person, Tiresias has experienced exile in several ways. First he was "exiled" from his own masculinity, then he was "exiled" from sight. In the afterlife he faced true exile as a dead person, but he still was able to use his talents to help Odysseus escape from his own exile from his home and family.
In the context of the poem, Tiresias can see the typist in her home and "foresuffered" her to be sexually assaulted by the house-agent's clerk.
The typist herself appears exiled to an otherwise mundane life, aside from the assault in her home. Her home life is detailed extensively, describing how she eats ("food in tins"), her furniture, her drying laundry, and her clothes. Even after the unexpected sexual encounter with the clerk, the typist acts as if nothing happened ("Well not that's done: and I'm glad it's over.") This sense of understatement and self-denial is in itself a form of mental exile.
Tiresias’ predicament is similar to another character from mythology alluded to in the poem: “The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king/So rudely forced; yet the nightingale/Filled all the desert with inviolable voice.” In Greek mythology Philomel was raped by her brother in law, King Tereus, who then kept her quiet about it by cutting to her tongue. Later she got her revenge and was turned into a nightingale who could then sing about all her sorrows. Like Tiresias, Philomel was exiled in several ways: first the loss of her tongue exiled her from the world of communication. And yet, she was still able to express what happened to her through weaving tapestry. Then, upon becoming a bird Philomel was able to fill the desert “with inviolable voice.” Like Tiresias, they both gained from their respective exiles to benefit others.
The Waste Land
The epigraph to Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” written in Greek and Latin, is a quote from Petronius’ Satyricon, and reads (approximately) in English,
“I have seen with my own eyes the Sibyl hanging in a jar, and when the boys asked her ‘What do you want?’ She answered, ‘I want to die.’ ”
The tragic story of Cumaean Sibyl, a Greek prophetess, recounts the negotiation between Apollo and Sibyl, who bargained for immortality but made the mistake of neglecting to wish for eternal youth, and thus withered away for near eternity until she was small enough to live in a jar.
In this myth, Sibyl suffers a slow and painful exile that culminates in her caged isolation, her jar a constant reminder of her tragic mistake. In the case of Sibyl, eternal life is a kind of exile, for she has been banished to a thousand years of feeling herself deteriorate--by the time she is small enough to live hanging in a jar, she only wishes for death. In this instance, before the poem has even begun, Eliot presents exile as punishment, something so painfully isolating that it would drive a powerful, near-immortal prophetess like Sibyl to suicidal pleas. In the instance of Sibyl, exile is torment not just because she has become isolated from humanity, but because there is no foreseeable end. Figures like Sybil, Philomel, and Phlebas are not able to roam or wander the scorched earth; instead, they are tethered (temporally, spatially, existentially) to their exile, suspended within a nightmarish iteration of solitary confinement that demands for a reconsideration of values such as immortality and transformation.
Eliot has not yet begun to complicate his exploration of exile and its effects; here, he offers the image of a prophetess, a clairvoyant with access to the divine, begging for death after undergoing the torment of eternity. Later, with his other allusions to exile with figures like Philomel and Tiresias, Eliot indicates that there exists the possibility of redemption, even exaltation, coloring the experience of exile as something at once traumatizing and transformative.
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale 100 Filled all the desert with inviolable voice And still she cried, and still the world pursues, “Jug Jug” to dirty ears.
The Greek myth of Philomel depicts an Athenian princess who, after being raped and mutilated by her brother-in-law, transforms into a nightingale. In this tale she has been exiled from humanity and robbed of her ability to communicate with other people with words, but her story can never be forgotten; instead, it lives on and "fills all the desert with inviolable voice," forever reminding humanity of her unjust fate, her trauma rewarded with supernatural transfiguration. Within the context of "The Wasteland," Philomel exemplifies the exiled figure that recurs throughout the poem. Other notable figures of exile in “The Wasteland” include Tiresias (from “The Fire Sermon”), a blind prophet was was transformed into a woman for seven years; and Phlebas the Phoenician (from “Death by Water”), who dies and is exiled to the River Styx, where he “enters the whirlpool” of other mortals. What these particular figures of exile have in common is an experience of empowerment and transformation in their exile. Philomela, no longer a human, has the power of transfiguration; Tiresias, no longer a man, gains a particular understanding of both masculinity and femininity, a second sight no one else possesses; Phlebas, no longer alive, reflects on life from Styx and understands mortality, a knowledge one can only gain after experiencing death.
With this, Eliot expresses multiple attitudes towards exile. For him, exile can be something liberating and restorative, giving those like Philomel (and Tiresias and Phlebas) the power to transcend their trauma and gain a unique understanding of humanity and existence as an outsider. However, Eliot also illustrates that exile is still, after all, exile: it is an experience so alienating (and dehumanizing, in the case of Eliot’s hyperbolic figures) that it drives its victim to a point of meditative isolation. In “The Wasteland,” where Eliot crafts a landscape of a barren and desolate sprawl, it may be the case that everyone in the poem is a figure of exile. After all, “the nymphs are departed” (line 179)—there is no pleasure or joy that can be had anymore, and all of humanity has abandoned this scorched earth. There is nowhere else to go, and thus they wander. “The Wasteland” depicts a disconnect of humans between themselves and each other most explicitly with figures like Philomel, with her lonely cries of “Jug Jug” to dirty ears (103), but the poem asserts a loss of community and communication between all of its numerous characters and voices, a cacophony of the lost and the exiled.
Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together
In this final section of the poem, Eliot conveys the ambiguity and alienation of identity. To be exiled is to be stripped of your humanity. Eliot conveys this idea in several ways; by use of imagery and language techniques.
Firstly, the image of the 'third walking beside you' is one that is hard to picture due to the lack of description. The 'third' appears almost like a silhouette or a shadow, which in itself creates its own connotations. Is the 'third' a replication of the character walking? or perhaps they are symbolic of the consequences of being exiled. Interestingly, the 'third' is not given a gender, we cannot tell 'whether a man or a woman' and therefore is presented as simply a 'thing'. It is this ambiguity which alienates this figure from what is happening in the poem. Readers cannot connect with the 'third'. However, we are forced to view this ambiguous figure as part of the group due to the use of the word 'third'. They are neither part of nor not a part of the party and therefore are in an inbetween state
In a poem that is packed with voices and narrations, this 'third' is not given any direct speech. Instead we are introduced to this silhouette through the eyes of a persona. Not only has the 'third' been stripped of identity and gender identity, but also speech, both within the poem and in the explicit words on the page.
As the speaker walks through the ‘unreal city’ of London in THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD, he comes into contact with ghostly figures. London is populated by the dead. Each man ‘fixed his eyes before his feet’ in a synonymous manner. These men embody the ambiguity shown by the ‘third man’ and represent this sense of exile. Eliot’s use of language heightens this further with the inclusion of ‘dead sound on the final stroke of nine’. What is dead sound? And why is nine the final stroke? His diction choices convey a sense of death and banishment. The poem is ‘haunted’ by these ghosts just as the speaker is haunted by the ‘third man’ in the final section.
- Oct 2015
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air Falling towers Jerusalem Athens Alexandria Vienna London 375 Unreal
Jerusalem, Athens and Alexandria were all major cultural and economic centres of fallen ancient civilisations which no longer have any agency in world politics. Their empires have broken down and seize to have major input in modern civilisation. Moreover, Vienna was the capital of the Austria-Hungary empire which fell apart after their defeat in World War 1 and had to pay severe reparations to the Allies. All of these empires have cracked and reformed and broken down again, or even “burst”. Consequently, citizens of these cities have been exiled from everything that they understand of their home, their nationality. In a society which looks upon ones nationality to dictate ones identity, who do you become when your home falls apart?
Perhaps Eliot is suggesting that London, a significant centre of Europe as well as the British Empire is “falling”, and all that will be left will be the memory of a distant empire, it will be transformed into something “unreal” as it will no longer exist. By listing these empires, Eliot implies London’s eventual fall is inevitable, leaving civilisation as we know it, isolated.
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit There is not even silence in the mountains
The description recalls someone who has been exiled from civilization and forced to wander a wasteland of sorts
(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Tiresias was transformed into a woman for seven years, a sort of "exile" from his/her original gender/identity. Could this also be a commentary on losing one's sense of masculinity in the modern age?
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 of telling. You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
Lil's problems with her husband Albert reflect a superficiality and conflict of values in the modern/urban age, which can alienate/exile a person if they fail to meet those expectations. A similar problem arises in Elliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
"Death by Water" tells a story of a Phoenician named Phlebas, who was apparently great in his lifetime, but has now died and "enters the whirlpool" (the river Styx, which is said to exist in between earth and the underworld), as death has disregarded his greatness. The speaker says "consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you," reminding the reader of mortality's indifference and the possibility of death's exile.
The nymphs are departed.
The beginning of "The Fire Sermon" offers imagery of an abandoned society, devoid of any vestiges of human life. The nymphs are departed, have left no addresses, which suggests that they have fled the barren land. Mythologically, nymphs are associated with pleasure, song, nature, and youth; clearly, this Unreal City has nothing to offer in terms of hedonism, so the nymphs have no choice but to depart without a trace, perhaps to return back to nature.
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME
Last call at the pub. The group must wrap up their conversation, concerned with aging Lil and her soldier husband. The repetition and capitalization of "HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME" suggest an urgency for them to leave and say their goodbyes. Albert's been "demobbed" (demobilized) and discharged from the military, so he is experiencing a sort of exile on his own as well.
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king So rudely forced
The Greek myth of Philomela depicts an Athenian princess who transforms into a nightingale after being raped and mutilated by her brother-in-law. She has been exiled, literally dehumanized, her speech suppressed, but is supposedly redeemed with her sorrowful song which "filled all the desert with inviolable voice," reminding the world of her unjust fate.
I do not know whether a man or a woman
The removal of gender (or the ambiguity of which) again acts a removal of identity. This 'other' is not given any direct speech. They are outcast from the situation as depicted and also from the language of the poem itself
Prison and palace and reverberation
The image of the prison is one that connotes confinement. However the use of reverberation suggests a desire in this isolation. Perhaps the setting in 'The Wasteland' although bleak could be considered better than living in exile.
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
The ambiguity of who is walking conveys a loss of individuality. to be exiled strips you from your identity entirely and you become almost like a silhouette.
Place away from society where it is possible to be lost
brings the sailor home from sea