"You! hypocrite lecteur! - mon semblable, - mon frere!" The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

From the preface, To The Reader, to Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil (1857):

It’s BOREDOM. Tears have glued its eyes together.
You know it well, my Reader. This obscene
beast chain-smokes yawning for the guillotine —
you — hypocrite Reader — my double — my brother!

Ouch, he’s breaking the fourth wall and speaking to us, the reader, directly. By quoting Baudelaire’s highly poetical (on the very being of poetry) poem, Eliot places himself in one line with Baudelaire’s poetics.

This video is processing – it'll appear automatically when it's done.

Show other contributors +

"Oh keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men, The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

Eliot’s note to line 74 tells us to compare his line to the dirge song by Cornelia in The White Devil, Act 5, Scene 4, the play by John Webster (published 1612.)

This video is processing – it'll appear automatically when it's done.

Show other contributors +

"You who were with me in the ships at Mylae! The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

A Sicilian seaport, now called Milazzo. Near here, in 260 BC, Rome won a major naval battle with Carthage.

According to Polybius, the battle of Mylae was ancient Rome’s first-ever naval battle and first naval victory. Rome had no fleet before, having constructed it first solely for the purpose of the (ongoing, at this time) First Punic War with Carthage, a major naval power. We might draw a slight parallel with the United States becoming a new global power after WWI.

Because the Romans had no experience of fighting on water, they invented a device known as the raven—a boarding bridge to hook an enemy ship and perform an abordage.

Mylae was an atypical naval battle; as Polybius describes it in book 1 23:6, although it took place on the sea, it was:

just like a fight on land.

The Carthaginians were descendants of the Phoenician settlers in North Africa. Hence the term Punic War, after the Roman name for them: “punici.” This connects to the drowned Phoenician sailor later in the poem, who might be in parallel with a soldier of WWI.

This video is processing – it'll appear automatically when it's done.

Show other contributors +

There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying "Stetson! The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

There have been several suggestions to the significance of the name Stetson. Stetson was the name of a co-worker at the bank at which Eliot worked. However, Eliot’s friends saw this as a reference to Eliot’s American friend, Ezra Pound.

This video is processing – it'll appear automatically when it's done.

Show other contributors +

King William Street, The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

A road in London that directly follows the London bridge, crossing it southside to north.

This video is processing – it'll appear automatically when it's done.

Show other contributors +

To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

St. Mary Woolnoth is an Anglican church in the City of London, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. It is located on the corner of Lombard Street and King William Street, and yeah: it has a clock.

Fun fact

Eliot used to work across the street at the Lloyds Bank.

This video is processing – it'll appear automatically when it's done.

Show other contributors +

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled, The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

Another allusion to Dante Alighieri’s poem Inferno, Canto IV, verses 25-27, which describes a layer of hell where people reside that will never find redemption.

The lines from Dante quoted by Eliot in his note for this line can be translated as:

Quivi, secondo che per ascoltare
Non avea pianto, ma' che di sospiri
Che l'aura eterna facevan tremare

Here, as mine ear could note
No plaint was heard, except of sighs
That made th' eternal air tremble

This video is processing – it'll appear automatically when it's done.

Show other contributors +

I had not thought death had undone so many. The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

As noted by the author, this is an allusion to Dante Alighieri’s poem Inferno, Canto III, verses 55-57, in which Dante describes a near-endless procession of people filing into Hell:

Si lunga tratta
Di gente, ch'io non avrei mai creduto
Che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta

The lines from Dante quoted by Eliot in his note for this line can be translated as:

Such a long train of spirits
I should ne'er Have thought
that death so many had despoil’d

This video is processing – it'll appear automatically when it's done.

Show other contributors +

Unreal City, The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

Refers to the opening lines of Charles Baudelaire’s poem Les Sept vieillards (The Seven Old Men), one of the poems in the collection Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). The specific line “Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves” translates roughly to “swarming city, city full of dreams.” So Eliot reverses Baudelaire’s line: he begins with the dream-like or “Unreal City”, but saves the more grotesque physical realities of “fourmillante” (which is related etymologically to the word “fourmi” for ant) until later in the stanza.

Eliot wasn’t the only modern poet to view London as a ghostly city. In an 1888 letter to Katherine Tynan, W. B. Yeats (whom Eliot greatly admired) wrote:

This melancholy London. I sometimes imagine that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through its streets perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of air.

There is also an echo of Joseph Conrad’s 1897 story Karain: A Memory. It is about European arms smugglers to Karain, a warlord in Southern Phillipines, who at the end of their acquaintance tells them a ghost story: all his successes were driven by his fear of the ghost of the friend he had murdered. Now that Karain has lost his charm-bearer he begs them for a new charm against the ghost. The Europeans make him believe a Victorian jubilee coin is one.

Conrad’s story ends with one of the Europeans contemplating a busy street on the Strand in London:

“Yes; I see it,” said Jackson, slowly. “It is there; it pants, it runs, it rolls; it is strong and alive; it would smash you if you didn’t look out; but I’ll be hanged if it is yet as real to me as … as the other thing … say, Karain’s story.”

This video is processing – it'll appear automatically when it's done.

Show other contributors +

I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring. The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

There is a Tarot card in the Rider-Waite deck called Judgment (XX in the Major Arcana), which has six people ‘ringed’ around an angel blowing a trumpet. It seems to refer to The Last Judgment.

This image may also refer to the cycle of destruction exemplified in the first stanza of the poem (and which Madame Sorostris has just replicated in the fortune she has told for the narrator?).

More immediately, the image relates to the flowing “crowd” in the following stanza, shuffling drearily through the London streets. Perhaps Eliot is epitomizing human ignorance, anomie, or ineffectuality.

This video is processing – it'll appear automatically when it's done.

Show other contributors +