The point is that there are many "lines," not one. The poem ends with a
series of "lines" that are not simply pessimistic but apocalyptic. Then
it adds on one "line" as a "formal ending" that, according to Kearns,
leaves off "Om," which does seem to raise a significant question.

Part of "what we know" is that the reading by Brooks assumes that the
Weston story is a "scaffold" on which the poem is placed and that
therefore we see a pattern throughout of two kinds of life and two kinds
of death revealed by the Weston story. But Weston's "pattern" only
appears, if at all, in section V; Eliot later repudiated the notes and
the fact that he sent a generation off on a wild goose chase after all
those allusions. He also said it was just his own "relief of a personal
and wholly insignificant grouse against life"; we now know far more
about his marriage and the profound impact on him of the War as well as
the implications of what was then defined as "neurasthenia" (his
diagnosis in 1921); we know that the poem was not (and this is a fact)
written as a unified work but was carved out of a mass of many parts
written over several years--a few bits as early as 1913, and that the
organization of those parts was deeply indebted to Pound. All of this is
post-Brooks, whose famous article came out in 1937.

This is just a slight list from memory, but if it is not enlightening to
you, I suggest you read a great deal of later critical work other than
what reinforces very early readings. And that includes Eliot's own later

And a more important point is that the poem is not an artifact that only
a few can see truly and that is not open to any alternative reading,
despite the fact that from its publication it has evoked contrasting and
conflicting readings. Just go through the early reviews in the
collection edited by Jewel Brooker to see the broad range from the

>>> Chokh Raj 09/10/11 10:53 AM >>>
Okay, let me be precise and to the point.

The point here is the closing lines of The Waste Land. 

I'm curious to know how the much more that we now know modify/improve
upon Brooks' reading of these lines.

I shall be obliged if anyone throws any light on the subject. 


From: Chokh Raj 
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Saturday, September 10, 2011 10:11 AM
Subject: Re: 'The Waste Land' - a recitation (was Re: vis-a-vis 'Four

nil nisi divinum stabile est; caetera fumus 

'The Waste Land' - it's a story of the human spirit. 

As for "we know too much more than we did when Brooks wrote," 

"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?" 


From: Nancy Gish 
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Saturday, September 10, 2011 9:49 AM
Subject: Re: 'The Waste Land' - a recitation (was Re: vis-a-vis 'Four

What it evokes in you is not what it evokes in everyone. I suggest you
read some views that are not reinforcements of what you already think,
including Eliot's own later statements about the poem.

No text is entirely subjective for the reader or entirely an objective
thing (a "verbal icon") made by the author: it involves a relationship,
and not that of only one or a few. As I said already, we know too much
more than we did when Brooks wrote to take it as final.

>>> Chokh Raj 09/09/11 11:40 PM >>>
What is "simply fact" is only a half truth.

The truth of poetry also lies in what it evokes. 

"Those are pearls that were his eyes."


From: Nancy Gish 
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Friday, September 9, 2011 11:00 PM
Subject: Re: 'The Waste Land' - a recitation (was Re: vis-a-vis 'Four

I know Broooks's view. It is one of many. But my point is that none of
this is simply fact; it is interpretation.

>>> Chokh Raj 09/09/11 10:28 PM >>>
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down 

Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina 
Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow 
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie 
These fragments I haShantih shantih shantih 

While the civilization is crumbling, the poet has "saved" some fragments
from his "ruins" from which he seeks light for a lasting peace. 

Yes, this is only 'one' interpretation of the closing lines but, to me,
the most valid so far.

I hold fast to Cleanth Brooks' interpretation of the closing llines
(quoted above) and oppose it to yours which chooses to look only at the
negative aspect of things -- "violence, chaos and murder" -- closing
eyes to what positive might emerge out of them, so as to make what Yeats
aptly called "a vineyard of the curse". 

Here's the relevant excerpt from Brooks: 


The bundle of quotations with which the poem ends has a very definite
relation to the general theme of the poem and to several of the major
symbols used in the poem. Before Arnaut leaps back into the refining
fire of Purgatory with joy he says: "I am Arnaut who weep and go
singing; contrite I see my past folly, and joyful I see before me the
day I hope for. Now I pray you by that virtue which guides you to the
summit of the stair, at times be mindful of my pain." This theme is
carried forward by the quotation from Pervigilium Veneris: "When shall I
be like the swallow." The allusion is also connected with the Philomela
symbol. (Eliot's note on the passage indicates this clearly.) The sister
of Philomela was changed into a swallow as Philomela was changed into a
nightingale. The protagonist is asking therefore when shall the spring,
the time of love, return, but also when will he be reborn out of his
sufferings, and--with the special meaning which the symbol takes on from
the preceding Dante quotation and from the earlier contexts already
discussed--he is asking what is asked at the end of one of the minor
poems: "When will Time flow away."
The quotation from "El Desdichado," as Edmund Wilson has pointed out,
indicates that the protagonist of the poem has been disinherited, robbed
of his tradition. The ruined tower is perhaps also the Perilous Chapel,
"only the wind's home," and it is also the whole tradition in decay. The
protagonist resolves to claim his tradition and rehabilitate it.
The quotation from The Spanish Tragedy--"Why then Ile fit you.
Hieronymo's mad againe"--is perhaps the most puzzling of all these
quotations. It means, I believe, this: The protagonist's acceptance of
what is in reality the deepest truth will seem to the present world mere
madness. ("And still she cried . . . 'Jug jug' to dirty ears.")
Hieronymo in the play, like Hamlet, was "mad" for a purpose. The
protagonist is conscious of the interpretation which will be placed on
the words which follow--words which will seem to many apparently
meaningless babble, but which contain the oldest and most permanent
truth of the race:
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Quotation of the whole context from which the line is taken confirms
this interpretation. Hieronymo, asked to write a play for the court's
entertainment, replies:
Why then, I'll fit you; say no more.
When I was young, I gave my mind
And plied myself to fruitless poetry;
Which though it profit the professor naught
Yet it is passing pleasing to the world.
He sees that the play will give him the opportunity he has been seeking
to avenge his son's murder. Like Hieronymo, the protagonist in the poem
has found his theme; what he is about to perform is not "fruitless."
After this repetition of what the thunder said comes the benediction:
Shantih Shantih Shantih


From: Nancy Gish 
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Friday, September 9, 2011 7:41 PM
Subject: Re: 'The Waste Land' - a recitation (was Re: vis-a-vis 'Four

That is an (not "the") interpretation of "Shantih." But the lines above
that are about violence, chaos, and murder. Moreover, Cleo Kearnes has
pointed out that the full ending of the Upanishad starts with "Om," and
Eliot omits it (though we know he studied them). 

So you are free to interpret ointerpretation is not "what the lines say": it is one reading of very
mixed lines.

>>> Chokh Raj 09/09/11 7:20 PM >>>
apropos TWL's ending 

Peter Montgomery wrote: "They end it with a very positive tone, but then
that's what the lines say."

A valuable observation, Peter. Thanks. 


From: Peter Montgommery 
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Friday, September 9, 2011 2:07 AM
Subject: Re: vis-a-vis 'Four Quartets'

Interesting to see that presentation again. 
They end it with a very positive tone, but then that's what the lines
I suppose one could render them in an ironic way, but that would seem
rather forced.


Quoting Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]>: 
> THE WASTE LAND - read by Edward Fox, Eileen Atkins, and Michael Gough