The Waste Land By T.S.Eliot

April is the cruellest 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.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

In these opening lines of Eliot’s The Waste Land we may look at the way time and space are interwoven,both within themselves as well as between individual chunks of time and space :

First let us talk of time:

April , spring,winter, summer,hour, when,night,winter


Dead land,roots,earth,Starnbergersee,colonnade,Hofgarten,the arch-duke’s,down,in the mountains

Time and space fused together:

I read much of the night and go south in the winter

Shorter time fused with longer time:
I read much of the night(shorter time)
Go south in the winter (longer time)
Space fused with time:
I read much of the time( A temporal frame :much of the night)
Go south in the winter (A spatial frame : Go south )

Conjunction between short term activity and long term activity, without an apparent logical connection:

I read much of the time and go south in the winter

The linkage between the first and the second is neither one of chronology nor of cause-and -effect.

A similar linkage will be found later in the poem about Madam Sosostris

“Madam Sosostris had a bad cold
Nevertheless is known to be the wisest woman in Europe”
(non sequitor)

Summer surprised us coming over the Starnbergersee/with a shower of rain

The music of the line is in a soft repetition of the “s” sound as if it is enacting the rain
falling on the lake Starnbergersee.

The summer is not the summer of every year but a summer that surprises with a shower of rain. Actually summer is coming over the Starnbergersee,not a harsh dry summer on the lake but a soft out-of-the season rainfall that stirs dull roots.

April is the cruellest month,linked to a spatial framework of dead land (space)
The cruelty is in the mixture of memory and desire, sparked off by the lilacs bursting from the dead land.
Spring stirs dull roots (spatial ): spring is dynamic,roots are static.Spring stirs them to motion.
Winter kept us warm, covering earth(space) in forgetful snow.Winter keeping us warm is paradoxical .But winter(time) covers our earth (space) in forgetful snow, making us forget our condition.Note the lazy roots springing to motion in April but now the dried tubers are fed a little life by winter’s snow.

And when we were children (longer time frame)
staying at the arch-duke’s (medium time frame)
he took me out on a sled (narrative- short time frame)
and I was frightened (narrative-recall of feeling)
he said,Mary, Mary,hold on tight (Direct speech-narrative)
and down we went (onomatopoeic ,speech with gesture)
In the mountains there you feel free (universalization of personal experience)
I read much of the night/ Juxtaposing the present with the past
go south in the winter .

The other interesting things are the music of the words and a fine lyricism achieved by clever use of syntax:

In the mountains ( universal for the mountains in general )
there you feel free (particularizing the location :there)

I read much of the night and go south in the winter :The verbs “read” and “go” are balanced to convey that they are sequential activities, which they are not.

The music of words : Mary, Mary, hold on tight /And down we went.

“The burnt out ends of smoky days” (T.S.Eliot’s Preludes)

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimneypots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.

Apart from the “atmosphere” created here,what I have liked about this poem is the exquisite imagery used to create the atmosphere. especially ,the image of “the burnt out ends of smoky days” .The day is unending and one long uneventful dreary passage of smoke-filled time .There is nothing much to do all the time.Nothing really happens,nothing ever happens. The cigarette butts are slowly burning out leaving the ashes smoldering in the ash-tray .The day ,like the cigarette,burns out leaving only the smoky end. Another day,another empty passage of time-a prelude to nothing .