The Waste Land

Play Audio | Get the Book |

What is that sound high in the air Murmur of maternal lamentation Who are those hooded hordes swarming Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth 370 Ringed by the flat horizon only What is the city over the mountains Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air Falling towers Jerusalem Athens Alexandria Vienna London Unreal

A woman drew her long black hair out tight And fiddled whisper music on those strings And bats with baby faces in the violet light 380 Whistled, and beat their wings And crawled head downward down a blackened wall And upside down in air were towers Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.

In this decayed hole among the mountains In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home. It has no windows, and the door swings, 390 Dry bones can harm no one. Only a cock stood on the rooftree Co co rico co co rico In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust Bringing rain

Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves Waited for rain, while the black clouds Gathered far distant, over Himavant. The jungle crouched, humped in silence. Then spoke the thunder 400 DA Datta: what have we given? My friend, blood shaking my heart The awful daring of a moment's surrender Which an age of prudence can never retract By this, and this only, we have existed Which is not to be found in our obituaries Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor In our empty rooms 410 DA Dayadhvam: I have heard the key Turn in the door once and turn once only We think of the key, each in his prison Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus DA Damyata: The boat responded Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar 420 The sea was calm, your heart would have responded Gaily, when invited, beating obedient To controlling hands

I sat upon the shore Fishing, with the arid plain behind me Shall I at least set my lands in order? London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina Quando fiam ceu chelidon - O swallow swallow Le Prince d'Aquitaine a la tour abolie 430 These fragments I have shored against my ruins Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe. Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata. Shantih shantih shantih

Line 416 aetherial] aethereal Line 429 ceu] uti - Editor


Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston's book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance (Macmillan).<1> Indeed, so deeply am I indebted, Miss Weston's book will elucidate the difficulties of the poem much better than my notes can do; and I recommend it (apart from the great interest of the book itself) to any who think such elucidation of the poem worth the trouble. To another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognise in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies.

<1> Macmillan] Cambridge.


Line 20. Cf. Ezekiel 2:1.

23. Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:5.

31. V. Tristan und Isolde, i, verses 5-8.

Next Page