The Dead Tree Gives No Shelter (1 Viewer)

So ... I re-read T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" this morning for the first time in umpteen years as background research for my September column. As usual, the poem is challenging to absorb but for some reason I was mesemerized by this verse from the first segment, "Burial of the Dead", and I keep coming back to it. Must be my mood. I dunno. Here it is:

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
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.


Thanks for the excerpt. I read the entire poem and had to resist the sudden urge to put the revolver to the side of my head - such turgid melancholy as if everyone within this land of the dead was trying to wake up from a nightmare. And all the literary associations Eliot uses would take a life-time to understand. No wonder - Ezra Pound evidently helped edit this thing! But I was fascinated by it and am glad you posted what you did. Thank you... I think a lot of the writers were truly f/k-up from witnessing the carnage of WW1 - terrible! - and all the poor bastards who died in the trenches or were gassed were perfuming the air with their morbidity and making their presence felt through someone like Eliot, though there is no direct reference to such a thing in this poem other than through its oppressive and palpable melancholy. It was the era they lived in. It speaks: what have we done to ourselves as Man? The answer isn't very encouraging.

Here's a good one too:

I think we are in rats' alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.


Glad you shared Eliot's wonderful lines, and good luck with your article. Best wishes.

eliot and miles davis drove me to poetry. I mean "I will show you fear in a handful of dust?"


and if you breeze right past the obscure "LITTRATEUR", some of those lines are the pure horrible truth...
I've loved the Hollow Men since I first read it randomly in high school. I loved the imagery invoked. Same with The Wasteland. I hate all the allusions that I don't understand, but... the language, the imagery... I love it. I have at least 3 or 4 copies that I've read through and marked up over the years.

Also, Prufrock is quite good. I haven't really enjoyed much else... Generally the Modernists are a bit more irritating than entertaining...
Well he was the first person who gave me any indication that it was OK to think like that. Most of my friends and teachers looked horrified when I said I loved poetry but didn't like cummings or William Carlos Williams.

And I often wondered WHY Eliot packed so much crap into his poems that, without footnotes, I would have no idea what the hell he was writing about. I'd much rather let the language flow over me than spend hours and hours picking out allusions to books or poems that I never plan on reading...

But hey that's me.
Well, that's me too. I'd prefer to listen to the word and fuck the allusions and elusions or illustrous shit. It's hard to read sophisticated shit and get it, but Buk keeps most of it straight and simple. Not too much allusion, but beauty, in its candor and complexity.

Sorry, drunk, but barely coherent...
Every time I read Eliot or many of the other modernists, it's with the same approach as LTS. There are, for instance, references to Dante. I know that but I don't care to search for them. The beauty of the language at face value is enough for me. Some of the greatest phrases in modern language ("April is the cruelest month") derive from The Wasteland.

Still a favorite. Still my favorite lines come from Prufrock...

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.


For I have known them all already, known them all:"”
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

Love those lines. He had a great flow. Just a little too presumptuous at times.

Cheap versions of the poems, ISBN 0486400611

Good ol' Dover...
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