CONVENTIONAL COMMENTARY on the "Stetson!" passage at the end of the first section of The Waste Land builds from the hints provided in Eliot's notes to the poem. Beginning with the allusion to Cornelia's Dirge in Webster's The White Devil and some comment on Eliot's substitution of a friendly dog for Webster's wolf that is foe to men, the exposition moves by way of Jesse Weston to remarks upon fertility rituals and the cyclical progress of the vegetation gods from death through resurrection. Many interpretations continue to other associations between dogs and the cycle of life: to the Dog Star and the rising of the Nile, and even to Anubis, the Egyptian mortuary god (though, to be precise about it, he is a jackal).1 My purpose is not to object to a primary line of enquiry that is sanctioned, at least at its outset, by Eliot's own notes, but to suggest that in addition to the context provided by the study of comparative religion, the passage fits in a complementary context that is specifically Christian.
1 Studies in The Waste Land, ed. Bradley Gunter (Columbus, Ohio, 1971) contains several well-known readings of the passage.
[" 'The Burial of the Dead': Eliot's Corpse in the Garden in a Christian Context," American Literature, Vol. 50, No. 2. (May, 1978), 282.]
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: 'Stetson!
'You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
'That corpse you planted last year in your garden, *
'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
'Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
'O keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men, *
'Or with his nails he'll dig it up again!
'You! Hypocrite lecteur! - mon semblable, - mon frère!'
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Eliot's notes to the poem reveal that the corpse is a reference to one dug up by a wolf in John Webster's play The White Devil. Further discussion can be found in, among other sources,
Gilbert, Sandra M.
"Rats' Alley": The Great War, Modernism, and the (Anti)Pastoral Elegy
New Literary History - Volume 30, Number 1, Winter 1999, pp. 179-201
"The Burial of the Dead: Eliot's Corpse in the Garden in a Christian Context" by Jeffrey L. Spear in JStor
From: Tom Gray <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: The Yoruba and TSE
Date: Sat, 2 Jun 2007 07:32:24 -0700
From today's issue of the Guardian:
From a description of a talk by Wole Soyinka - Nobel
'He reserved a sideswipe for TS Eliot, for stealing a
Yoruba saying for The Waste Land. According to
Soyinka, the original line was: "That corpse that you
buried in your garden: its toes have begun to poke
Full article at: