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Voices Hollow and Plaintive, Unattended and Peregrine: Hints and Guesses in The Waste Land

  • G. Douglas Atkins
Chapter
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Abstract

Reading the notes Eliot added as closely as the verses, this chapter reveals the satire present and at work in The Waste Land, a poem renowned for its allusiveness, indirectness, and difficulty. The reader, aware of the satire, works to make the connections that the wastelanders fail to make. In fact, they, and the speaking voice who represents them, stand exposed as variously incapable. Simply put, they desire and seek the wrong thing, including painless relief, escape, and death, instead of the purifying fire available in, through, and by means of the very waste land they inhabit.

Keywords

Representation Echo Individual Talent Waste Land Western Asceticism Speaking Voice 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Qtd. in B.C. Southam, A Guide to the Selected Poems of T.S. Eliot, 6th edn (San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, 1996), 26.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
  4. 4.
  5. 5.
    Ibid., 27.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    T.S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (London: Methuen, 1920), 44.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    From Eliot’s notes to The Waste Land.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    As Southam discovered, this note is replete with inaccuracy, with bits of “mock-bibliographical detail which [Eliot] picked up from his own ‘London Letter’ in The Dial, May 1921, when casting around for material to bulk out the notes” (27). The quotation from The Sacred Wood is from page 48.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    T.S. Eliot, preface, Anabasis, St.-J. Perse, trans. Eliot (London: Faber and Faber, 1930), 8.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Eliot, preface, Anabasis.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See my Reading T.S. Eliot: “Four Quartets” and the Journey toward Understanding (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    T.S. Eliot, “The Humanism of Irving Babbitt,” Selected Essays, 3rd edn (London: Faber and Faber, 1951), 476.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1943).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    T.S. Eliot, “Lancelot Andrewes,” Selected Essays, 347–48; “The Metaphysical Poets,” Selected Essays, 287.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    T.S. Eliot, “Ulysses, Order, and Myth,” The Dial, n.s. (Fall 1959), 153–58 (originally published in The Dial, November 1923).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    T.S. Eliot, Essays Ancient and Modern (London: Faber and Faber, 1936), 86n.Google Scholar

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© G. Douglas Atkins 2013

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  • G. Douglas Atkins

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