Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Poetry Week: The Waste Land by T.S.Eliot

thewastelandThere has been so much written about The Waste Land – where do I even start?

I could talk about the intertextuality, the themes of culture and civilisation in tatters after the first world war, the Fisher King, Philomela, its fragmented nature, its relation to Modernism and Ulysses.

I could talk about my dissertation that took the whole thing in relation to the Philomela myth where Philomela (raped by a king and whose tongue is cut out to keep her silence) begins to weave her story into a tapestry…the idea of a trauma being so huge to talk about, and how The Waste Land itself can be read like a huge tapestry – its famous fragments and snippets of dialogue, of parody, of other works over the centuries, of other voices from the history of literature itself, weaving together into its meaning. And the trauma behind it? The War? The breakdown and disintegration of culture and literature? Or the personal disintegration of the poet himself descending into mental breakdown and caught in a painfully unhappy marriage?

The Waste Land is like a giant crossword puzzle. You can read pretty much anything and everything into it and there are so many angles to take – personal, universal, political, mythological – take your pick.

But this isn’t a dissertation and I don’t have 10,000 words. And really, for all its fascination, is that stuff really THE POINT? It isn’t why I love The Waste Land. It may make it great academic fodder but it doesn’t make it the undoubtedly great poem that it is.

When I asked the foxes what they would want to see from a piece like this, many of them had the same request: they didn’t like the poem, they didn’t understand it. Its reputation for fearsome difficulty went before it. They wanted to know how the lay reader could find a way into it and why it was I loved it so much.

Perhaps the question to ask rather, is: why do people hate it so much?

For those used to picking apart poems to find their meaning The Waste Land offers the ultimate prize…and also the ultimate frustration. There have been accusations of elitism, of obscurity. What if you don’t know Tristan and Isolde, that section in Cleopatra, The Old Testament, or can’t speak German? How can you ever hope to grasp the meaning? It’s too much like hard work and why should you be bothered?

Well, I don’t think you necessarily should. I don’t know Tristan and Isolde either. I can’t speak German or understand the significance of all the fragments. I can’t tell you how The Fisher King relates to Tiresias or the deep significance (if there is any) of hyacinths.

Yet, still, I love the poem and always have. I never felt it was beyond me because, for me, it is like music. The meaning resonates almost like a feeling, and the feeling is communicated by the sounds of the words and the rhythms of the sections. Some of these sections are lyrical, some awkward, some are like monologue and some rhyming couplets – all working together like a strange collage to create something of the fast and slow movements of a symphony rather than a conventional poem.

Simply: the power of The Waste Land lies with the words.

The Words

Going back to the beginning of the poem for this post, I am struck all over again:

April is the cruelest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

Immediately, I get shivers down my spine. There is an intellectual inversion: spring (associated with life, renewal and hope) is associated with seediness, deadness and decay. Winter kept us “warm”. But it is through the sound that we feel the unrest. Those famous driving endings of “breeding” “mixing” “stirring” make the passage restless and uneasy.  The idea of the lilacs being forced into existence, the rain stirring up the mud around the roots. Not exactly the usual idyllic, lovely invocation of spring. The idea that to be alive, to remember, to be woken is nothing but a torment. Spring, in this context, is not renewal, not hope – but unrest and pain and the pain of remembering.

Winter, we are told, was at least comfortable because we could forget. There is a comfort in hibernation.

Summer, when it is introduced, is in the past. It is a memory. And it is life pre-War and the language is German. A happy childhood voice from more innocent times? Before the terrible trauma that happened to Europe.

So, the poem starts with a cruel awakening and a cruel remembering. Of an individual? Of a society – an entire civilisation? Into this the voices of different individuals float, remembering happy times in childhood, speaking in different languages, remembering romances…before the ominous Old Testament-style warning to Son of Man with his heap of broken images. After the trauma, after the purge there is nothing but the desert and we are lost. We are nothing.

Eliot is writing post-World War 1. One of the most terrible wars there had ever been, that ripped Europe apart – literally – and redrew maps and boundaries, and cultures. Consciousness, in this context, is pain. Memory is a cruelty. New life brings not hope but the painful reminder of before.

To what extent it might be interpretted as the disintegration of an individual consciousness is also open to debate. It is well-known that Eliot himself suffered a personal breakdown whilst writing it – indeed, much of the later part of the writing process happened in Margate whilst he was recuperating.

I do not subscribe to the “personal” interpretation to the extent of seeing it as being directly about Eliot’s breakdown or even so far as seeing the narrator (if there is one) as Eliot himself or even as an actual character in the piece.

However, in a universal sense, the poem can contain both ideas. The fragmentation and disintegration of a culture – of Europe – and the fragmentation and disintegration of an individual mind or consciousness. Indeed, one may become a powerful symbol for the other.

Ok,  I’ve only looked at a handful of lines, but the fact so few lines can contain so much is one of the reasons WHY this poem is so good. It condenses so much into so little. The images and ideas resonate out further and further like the  ripples from a stone entering a pond. The meaning seems to resonate but when you look at it too closely it slips from your grasp and can’t really be put into any other words than the ones that are already there.

Isn’t this what great poetry should do? Capture the intangible and contain simultaneous ideas and interpretations in a single line or image?

And my point is, that you can get all that – or at least a sense of all that – without knowing very much at all. Whether we decide it’s about the disintegration of culture, of Europe, of literature or of one individual consciousness: or all of the above…the underlying feeling is the same: strange, fragmented, angry and elegiac. A sense of being alone. Desolation and emptiness. And this is all communicated through the words themselves.

The Allusions (a red herring, perhaps)

One of the reasons that The Waste Land is considered to be so difficult is because of the literary allusions. It’s an element that can put a lot of people off.

I believe too much is made of the allusions, and indeed Eliot himself said he regretted sending everyone off on such a wild goose chase.

We do not need to know the following is referencing Dante to feel the power of it and get a sense of its desolation:

Unreal City,

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.

We don’t need to know the exact lines of The Old Testament to feel the awe-inspiring grandeur and the terror and fear communicated through this section:

There is shadow under this red rock,

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),

And I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

We don’t need to know the precise reference or ragtime tune to hear the jingle of the ordinary surface of life with:

O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag–

It’s so elegant

So intelligent

And we don’t need to know Spenser to hear the lyricism of the following, undercut by the seedy reality of modern life:

The river’s tent is broken; the last fingers of leaf

Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind

Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.

Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,

Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends

Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.

Whilst you can chart line by line what is happening and the imagery and allusions, the power of the images is enough to give a sense of mood, and the sound and rhythm is enough to give a sense of cynical lyricism, of undercut romance, of desolation and despair – or a tone of irony, cynicism and spikiness of certain passages: even if you don’t know the original works referred to.

Don’t let the allusions put you off. Unless you are spectacularly well-educated in the old-fashioned sense of the word, you are not going to get a lot of them. They will not be lines knocking about in your head as naturally as they knocked about in Eliot’s. For some, this can be alienating or irritating, or – as in the case of many of the students in my year at university – proof that Eliot was elitist (hence bad).

In fact, it was interesting to write this post just as an illustration of how times have changed. At the time of my much-mentioned dissertation, there was no such as thing as wikipedia. You could not google your way through the poem…

Today, as I paused over one I couldn’t remember and pumped it into a search engine, I thought how strangely fitting this poem is for the internet generation. The internet – full of fragments and images that we juxtapose crazily, crankily together, but taken as a horrible messy collage-like whole give us some picture of society. Eliot can no longer be “elitist” with all the knowledge required so handily available at the click of a mouse.

But, the fact I can spend a morning happily googling Eliot’s allusions and references has only served to convince me more strongly than ever that going too far down that line is missing the point.

The allusions are an interesting addition to the poem, but they are not the poem itself.

The Voices

It is a similar case  with the voices. For me, the multiple voices (whether they be people: modern, ancient, mythical, aristocratic or working-class; whether they be the voices of  literature in the past)  are essentially a chorus.

It is a mistake to read them too much as characters within some kind of forced narrative and I don’t believe this was the intention. (Some interpreters even manage to unite the various nebulous“I”s and link them all up to create a single character or one narrator. I have even seen it interpreted as one character with some childhood in pre-War Germany, who then sets off and thinks about this and that, has a sexual experience with a typist, pretends to be Tiresias and ends up lamenting with the Fisher King. This – to me – is far too literal an interpretation and nonsensical in every way.)

Rather acting within a narrative – the chorus of many voices lend their fragmented songs and memories to the overall sense of the piece. Like a tapestry, yes. Like Philomela’s tapestry. A tapestry woven because a tongue has been ripped out. A tongue that has been ripped out because there has been a terrible trauma. An immeasurable trauma. So that nothing makes sense anymore and all we can do is pick through the rubble that is left – the fragments – and try and remember.

For me, this form makes total sense in the aftermath of something as ruinous and destructive as the first world war. But I’m not convinced that ruin Eliot feels so keenly is the same kind of straightforward ruin we are used to hearing about –  created by bombs and death, the destruction of cities and nearly a whole generation of young men wiped out…It seems to this interpreter that it is something underpinning all the masonry – the buildings, the art, the human cost in lives. And that thing is culture itself. Eliot seems to lament culture – and particularly literary culture. The fragments left after the trauma (with its associations with a godlike purge and a sexual wound) are from Shakespeare, Dante, the bible, ditties from the music hall, ancient myths and ragtime tunes – the many voices of our culture past and present.

Just as you don’t need to know the Old Testament to know a passage sounds biblical and you don’t need to understand German to know it is German, so you don’t need a particular character to hear that it is a working class voice or that of a child before the war.

You don’t need a classical education or traditional characters within a narrative to get a sense of a miasma of voices from our literary and cultural past and (1920s) present.

How to Love The Waste Land (if you don’t already)

My advice to anyone wanting to engage with and enjoy The Waste Land is to not expect to understand it in the usual sense.  You may read this poem for many years and still not understand it. And if you think you do it’s probably because you have come up with some sterile crossword puzzle-style answers that don’t mean that much.

Investigate the quotes and references and the original works they are taken from if you want – it can make a fascinating piece of detective work, but only in addition to the sense you can already get from the words themselves.

Because it is the words that make this poem great. Listen to the words, the voices – like a chorus. Let it wash over you – like music…

…And let the meaning come.

24 comments on “Poetry Week: The Waste Land by T.S.Eliot

  1. Friday's Footprint
    May 18, 2009

    Wonderful article – illuminating and refreshing!

    I think it illustrates the truth that great poetry doesn’t just say, it sings…

  2. Jackie
    May 18, 2009

    Wow, Rosy, that was an excellent, excellent post! What a great job you did not only explaining the complexities of the poem, but the meaning of it on an emotional sense. At times, your review approached poetry itself.
    I like how you compare the poem to a tapestry or crossword puzzle, even the cover you selected has a cloth-like look to it. And your advice to just let the words wash over you is perfect. But you don’t put down the idea of looking for deeper meanings & the internet analogy is spot on.
    I first read this poem after discovering Genesis was influenced by it when they wrote their album “Selling England By the Pound” and have always liked the melancholy mood of it. Your review opened up even more angles on it. I’m really glad you wrote this piece, it was definitely worth all the work you put into it. Well done!

  3. david
    May 18, 2009

    Yes, indeed, a most excellent overview, making the fundamental point that, with TSE, the words usually precede (and kaleidoscopically multiply and enrich ) the meaning.

    Have to say that personally, I much prefer the much longer and much less fragmented, fractured and tortured ‘Four Quartets’ but, like TWL think this is a poem of almost infinite depth of meaning as well as of unsurpassed beauty and craftsmanship. A fellow TSE fan, who happens to be German-speaking Swiss architect in Zurich , can recall out of his head every word of ‘Four Quartets’ in impeccable English, such is the enthusiasm TSE’s words can generate.

    Thanks again for such an original and thoughtful review of such a very ‘difficult’ work.

  4. Nikki
    May 18, 2009

    The only other poem I’ve read by Eliot is The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock which I read before The Waste Land and really loved. I took an extra English class which was a fantastic just studying completely random things sort of class. One day, we looked at The Waste Land and continued to look at it for a couple more weeks and after that it always came up no matter what the subject.
    I used snippets of it as epigraphs for chapters of something I wrote for Doctor Who and I made reference to that “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” line in a poem of my own. When we read it in class I read the “Time, gentlemen please!” bit because I had the right accent. It’s those voices I love so much, all the clamour from different ages, stories, that anyone might be able to make them into one voice seems impossible. It’s like listening to history talking.

    I completely agree with your suggestion that you just let it wash over you. I never referred to it in any essay I ever wrote because I never really studied it apart from a few things that occurred to me when reading it, which are interesting to re-read along with the poem.

  5. rosyb
    May 18, 2009

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Really nice of you.

    “It’s like listening to history talking.” What a brilliant was of putting it, Nikki.

    “that anyone might be able to make them into one voice seems impossible.”

    Come to think of it, maybe it’s Prufrock that leads people to look for the single uniting character. People tend to study Prufrock first, and there are similarities in parts, so perhaps it sets a precident. Falsely, in my view. I don’t know though.

    David, thank you. The Waste Land is very different to The Four Quartets isn’t it? In the latter, Eliot seems to go into the timeless universal voice…and completely away from the different voices and dialogues. I prefer The Waste Land to The Four Quartets because it seems looser, somehow. And perhaps, because the general sensibility seems to be more of a godless universe, rather than a godly one. The Four Quartets is very beautiful…but seems to me to be the closest thing I can think of to one of the more beautiful sections of the bible…without being. (Very suitable for funerals that don’t want to use the bible I keep thinking.) It seems like a more philosophical thought kind of poetry rather than a visceral sound and image type of poetry. And I find that lets me in less somehow and rhythmically seems a little relentless without any of the lowbrow jollity throw in! I know a lot of people who much prefer it though.

    Interesting how Emma will look at a book about Donne later this week. Now there’s a poet I’ve always struggled with, despite the mad acclaim. Yet all the people who dislike TWL seem to go for Donne. For me it is because of the mental density without – to my ear – the music or the arresting imagery. And without the looseness- the slight awkwardness or lack of symmetry that lets me in.

    I don’t tend to like totally balanced, perfect things.

    As I was comparing Eliot to music, I suppose I have a very particular kind of musical taste. I prefer the quartets of Shostakovich and Beethoven’s last quartets to Bach or Mozart. Slight irregularity to very symmetrical patterned regularity. And slight misery with a little spikiness to completely happy and ordered, or sad and beautiful. I think my taste in poetry reflects this and it is – to some extent – a musical thing.

    Jackie, thanks. That is so lovely of you to say. Now if I could just get it so that posts didn’t take me quite such a ridiculous amount of time to do and weren’t quite so horrendous long…like Friday Footprint, who seems to have summed things up beautifully in a single line! Why can’t I do that instead of waffling on interminably? 😉

  6. Hilary
    May 18, 2009

    Rosy, I was hoping that you would give me some reasons to go back and re-discover The Waste Land, and you have given me more than enough. I loved your review, but especially “How to love The Waste Land (if you don’t already)”. You reinforce a lesson that it took me years to learn, that poetry can work on the senses and the mind without the need to pull it apart and seek the meaning (or a meaning, any meaning) in every line.

  7. david
    May 19, 2009

    Hi Rosy,

    Yes, 4Q and TWL are very very different and only comparable up to a point.

    Someone who regarded himself as a much much lesser light than TSE – Norman Nicholson – once asserted perhaps rather tongue in cheek and with feigned innocence that he was ” a modern poet but not a modernist one” and added that he preferred poems that had a beginning a middle and an end.

    Your comparisons with music are interesting; think it much the same with art. Some rave over Picasso or Ben Nicholson whilst others don’t and prefer complete images with foreground background and perspective.

    Then there’s the old chestnut about whether any work of art, to be understood fully, needs to be understood in the context of its creator’s inner life. 4Q for example is in many ways the total opposite of anyone who ‘can connect nothing with nothing’ As you say, it’s a bit sepulchral, reflecting TSE’s deep religious faith, but it’s also intensely themed and structured as a philosophical treatise as the musical analogies of the different ‘quartets’ intertwine.

    It’s just such a mark of utter genius that the same person had the talent to create both !!

  8. Lisa
    May 19, 2009

    “For me, this form makes total sense in the aftermath of something as ruinous and destructive as the first world war. But I’m not convinced that ruin Eliot feels so keenly is the same kind of straightforward ruin we are used to hearing about”

    I thought this was fascinating, Rosy.

    I was ‘taught’ TWL in such dry lectures, that the poem left me cold. Your enthusiasm for TWL makes me want to revisit it and try again. Thank you.

  9. Moira
    May 19, 2009

    I think the English schools system has a lot to answer for you know … because I have a suspicion that if Rosy had been my teacher all those years ago, I’d have learned to love The Wasteland as she does.

    You have, very nearly, convinced me to go back and try again.

    I agree completely with Hilary about enjoying poetry for itself, and often (these days, now that I’m old and stroppy) question the sense of analyzing novels and poems to death. I know it CAN serve a useful purpose, and if it’s a work you’re particularly interested in yourself, you’re in there with them, applying the scalpel – but sometimes, it can be positively damaging – especially to young, bolshie and easily p***ed off minds.

  10. Leena
    May 21, 2009

    And my point is, that you can get all that – or at least a sense of all that – without knowing very much at all.

    Rosy, that was a fascinating post and I SO agree with the point above. I originally did everything I could to make sure I ‘got’ The Waste Land – read it with a ‘Guidebook to The Waste Land’ and ‘The Waste Land Glossary’ at hand, read a number of critical essays afterwards… only to not ‘get’ very much at all. Then later I read the poem again, only to ‘get’ it perfectly. Probably not exactly as it was intended, but the experience was perfect enough for me.

    By the way, I keep telling you to read Waugh, but you really should read A Handful of Dust – the title is from TWL but it is thematically connected as well… in a v. interesting way.

  11. rosyb
    May 21, 2009

    Hye! How lovely to see you, Leens!

    It’s a bit like chasing your tail, looking up all the allusions, isn’t it? I was wondering, though, whether doing the tail-chasing thing is necessary at some point in order to kind of absorb them a bit and come back to the poem and read it more fluidly, like you say. Im not sure. But I think I got as much emotionally from the poem when I first read it than after studying it and writing a dissertation on it and returned to the notion that this was the power of it anyway. There are so many websites devoted to how to interpret the tarot symbols etc that I lose the will to live. And once people have outlined that it could mean a b or c. Or d e f or g. And if you look at it this way then h. And if you go back to the origin of the word then you get i…And at the end of all this – you STILL don’t have a coherent meaning being offered. I really don’t believe it is designed to be read quite in this manner. Symbols and allusions resonate with associations and ideas…but I don’t believe it is quite so prescriptive. I think the poem radiates outward with these associations and is comfortable containing many at once, rather than hiding a single very precise and exact meaning or narrative that we all could decode if only we look at it upsidedown, backwards, whilst balancing a cup of tea and a ham sandwich on our heads.

  12. david
    May 22, 2009

    Yes, it’s the virtually inexhaustible layers of meaning that go to make TSE so toweringly unique.

    Another interesting link between TS Eliot and Norman Nicholson was that NN assiduously followed the allusion trail by ploughing through every word of, what was it? – ‘The Golden Bough’ etc etc. NN freely admitted that it took him a decade or more to get the words of TSE out of his personal poetic consciousness and develop his own voice in this regard.

    It’s interesting to go back over the mixed critical reception that TSE’s work received when first published – some a bit like that pop promoter who turned down the Beatles.

    The criticism of Helen Gardner, although now getting quite ancient is I remember hard to beat, still.

    I do think there are many similarities here with modern art – for example both Picasso and even David Hockney could dash off the most incredible conventional non-modernist stuff if of a mind too – one might never guess it was ever by one of them ! It was I think just that their talent was so immense that they had to try to break the shackes of tradition.

    Rambling again, I know…………………..

  13. david
    May 22, 2009

    ‘shackles’ !!

  14. Pingback: One Night Stanzas » Blog Archive » Procrastination Station #38

  15. rosyb
    May 22, 2009

    Hmm. I’m a bit of an unbeliever about this “genius” tag myself. I absolutely love Picasso and think he was one of the most inspiring artists for other artists there has ever been. I also think he was a massive self-hyper. When I went to see the Picasso juvenalia in Barcelona with all his stuff about painting like an old master at 7 and spending the rest of his life learning to paint like a 7 year old ringing in my ears…I was greatly disappointed. I don’t think he is anything like as good as the old masters at that style of painting and his juvenalia looks like someone with talent who was taught a few techniques by his dad (who taught painting) young, and they are ok but they are not brilliant by any means. Picasso is brilliant at being Picasso – not being Rembrandt. And the greatness of Rembrandt doesn’t lie in tricksy techniques but in the enormous humanity of his portraits. And I think Picasso himself knew that Velasquez is something else.

    It was refreshing looking up some of Pounds comments on the edits of The Waste Land. There are whole sections excised where Pound says things like – err, so and so does this soooooo much better than you. What’s the point. Cut it.

    And when you look at the drafts it is true. There is some mediocre stuff in there.

    Eliot is brilliant at being Eliot. He is another one-off, as Picasso was. But parodying or referencing another work doesn’t mean you could have made that other work. I think Picasso is full of nonsense when he said things like that. Part of his Picasso as genius mythmaking process. Just like it is Picasso – not Braque who is always seen to be the genius of Cubism.

    Picasso’s “reworkings” of Velasquez are absolute brilliant works that are personal favourites of mine. But they are not Velasquez and could never be – of course they aren’t meant to be, but I don’t believe that Picasso could ever have ever painted like Velasquez. Velasquez is not just a brilliant painter but a brilliant observer of humanity, commentator on society and captures both the individual psyche and contrasts it with an almost satirical view of the person’s outside role. Picasso – for all his formal greatness – is not a great observer of individual humanity. People become parts of his formal constructs. He does not engage with the individual or their psychology at all. And I don’t think he can either.

  16. rosyb
    May 22, 2009

    I would also argue that Picasso is not such a great PAINTER as Velasquez. Or, indeed, Rembrandt or Van Gogh or Soutine. I believe Picasso is a brilliant brilliant artist and has produced some of the most exciting work that has ever been. But its power is not primarily through the exciting or innovative or sensuous or obsessive use of paint. Picasso’s extremely powerful imagery translates to black and white drawings and sculpture and all sorts. I don’t believe you come away from Guernica thinking about the incredible way it is painted. YOu think about the incredibly strong and dynamic image. You think about the incredible imagination coming up with all these ways of looking at things. The restless creativity always turning things over and creating anew again and again and again.

    Whereas Van Gogh is nothing but paint, Rembrandt the paint becomes the psychology and Velasquez’s use of paint is breath-taking. It’s just different.

    I’m not dissing P btw. He is one of favourite artists. I just think we shouldn’t take at face value everything he said about himself.

  17. Jackie
    May 22, 2009

    Van Gogh is emotion in paint. Every line, every squiggle was pure feeling there on the canvas. The pictures almost vibrate with it.His heart is laid bare. (Van Gogh was my first obsession. Red-haired, odd, religious guy, who would guess?)
    Rosy, you said about Picasso: “You think about the incredible imagination coming up with all these ways of looking at things. The restless creativity always turning things over and creating anew again and again and again.” That’s the perfect description of why Picasso matters, why every artist after him is indebted. He showed a brand new way of looking at things, even though, as you say, others were much better painters.

  18. david
    May 23, 2009

    Re the ‘brand new way’ of looking at things, just as was said of economics that ‘we are all Keynsians now’ might probably just as well apply to art and literature as ‘we are all modernists now’ – in that sense it’s part of everyone’s consciousness, even if those whose output isn’t overtly modernist.


  19. david
    May 29, 2009

    Incidentally, this may be of interest – sounds like a rare treat !!

  20. david
    August 13, 2010

    Hi again all TSE enthusiasts !

    Last year, I left a link to the 2009 TSE International Summer School.

    Unfortunately, couldn’t make 2009, but we managed 2010 – for full prog. see

    Just a few impressions of a totally absorbing and stimulating week and a wholehearted commendation of the whole event to anyone it might appeal to.

    Imagine a humble amateur just interested a little in world politics suddenly getting the opportunity to spend a whole week being instructed in and discussing all aspects of the subject with all the major world leaders in person. For world politics, substitute TSE studies, and you might get the picture.

    For example, the School was launched by Sir Tom Stoppard, with Mrs Valerie Eliot in the audience.

    Mrs Eliot had we learned very kindly funded several scholarships for School attendees along with a sumptuous post-launch drinks party and Reception.

    As the week went on, the thought never left me as to just what a total privilege this all was – even if I’d been a student at the appropriate university, I’d be lucky probably to get taught by some nonedescript senior lecturer, yet here I eas surrounded by the cream of the Emeritus Professors !

    Highlights were the venue – London University’s Senate House is a magnificent place, both inside and out, along with the excursions.

    At Burnt Norton, now the family home of Lord and Lady X, we were very warmly welcomed by them in person and found it a truly special location.

    At Little Gidding, a festival day was jointly organised with the TSE Society and the Friends of Little Gidding whilst at East Coker we visited Eliot’s Memorial and listened in the church to readings from the poem and a talk by the Church Warden. (The nearby Helyar Arms Inn is enchanting too.)

    All in all, 5000% better than a month in Marbella !!

  21. bogdy
    April 7, 2013

    I’m reading TwL right, really tough to get it,,,

  22. Pingback: “The Walls Do Not Fall” by HD: some thoughts on the importance of poetry, words and the roots of language | Vulpes Libris

  23. Advaita Shyam Sunder
    April 19, 2017

    Hiiiii :))) this poem has intrigued me and much more than that the analysis by various people :))) wish you were my guide in college.. you explained it ao beautifully and opend a whole new world out to me… you are right we should just revel in the glory of Eliot’s words and enjoy the rhythm rather than dissecting each and every word to know about its source.. going too far can actually make you lose the essence.


    P.S. Go thru my latest blogpost on FOMO and Certain pursuits are meaningless.. and kindly give me your inputs and views. It would be useful considering your flair for wonderful analysis.

  24. Advaita Shyam Sunder
    April 19, 2017

    Let the meaning dawn upon you rather you going in search of it :)))) loved it

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This entry was posted on May 18, 2009 by in Entries by Rosy, Poetry Week, Poetry: 20th Century and tagged , , , , .



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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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