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 . . . breeding lilacs out of the dead land
I haven't had the pleasure of breathing in that special aroma that is lilacs in over 15 years.  There is no dead land, i.e. winter and thus, lilacs do not bloom here, here in the land of forever spring and summer.  When I did reside in the land of the lilacs, Easter meant spring to me and warmth, air that I could actually breathe in.  But that all too brief span of time that contained the lilacs and the roses were not sufficient for my high temperature needs and so I deserted the lilacs and content myself with jasmine.


On Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 9:54 PM, Chanan Mittal <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
THE WASTE LAND - a Christian perspective

In the modern-day secular scenario, the opening voice in 'The Waste Land,' a deeply Christian one, agonizes over the abysmal absence of the Christian sense of spring, of Easter and all the sacrosanct memories associated with it. What meets the eye is a world asleep to, and oblivious of, all that constitutes the discipline, the joy, and the glory of Easter. 

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. 

Implicitly, the contemporary secular scenario evokes a strong contrast with Chaucer's April with its "showers sweet" that engender a strong spiritual urge in the inhabitants of a Christian land.

The passage which follows (Eliot's notes direct us to Ezekiel 2:7 and Ecclesiastes 12:5) makes a befitting Christian response to the secular scenario depicted in the opening passage.  

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.  

Remarkably the opening lines, "April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire" have their counterpart in 'Gerontion,' a poem intended by Eliot to preface The Waste Land: 

In the juvescence of the year
Came Christ the tiger

In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,
To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk
Among whispers 

Sections II and III, A Game of Chess and The Fire Sermon are wholly given to the inferno that inflicts the domestic and social fronts. 

Even though the title of section III, The Fire Sermon is derived from Buddha, its elaboration is in terms of a Western society viewed by a Christian who can draw upon his erudition of diverse lores: 

Et O ces voix d’enfants, chantant dans la coupole! 

A Christian longing is at the heart of The Waste Land:

O City city, I can sometimes hear
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,
The pleasant whining of a mandoline
And a clatter and a chatter from within
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
Of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.

It is not a coincidence that The Fire Sermon culminates in a vision of St Augustine engulfed by the fires of lust: 

To Carthage then I came

Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest

burning

Remarkably the admonition with which Death by Water closes is administered to Gentiles and Jews, denizens of a Christian world: 

                                   Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.  

The "memory and desire" associated with Easter at the outset of the poem find expression in What the Thunder Said in terms of the passion of Christ: 

After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience

It is followed by a yearning for the waters, both literal and metaphoric, that would redeem the land: 

Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses
                                      If there were water
   And no rock
   If there were rock
   And also water
   And water
   A spring
   A pool among the rock
   If there were the sound of water only
   Not the cicada
   And dry grass singing
   But sound of water over a rock
   Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
   Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
   But there is no water

There is the "memory" too of Christ's resurrection: 

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you? 

There is the grim and frightening scenario of Europe in the grip of a war with a secular civilization breaking apart. 

The Christian quest ends with the arrival at a chapel, neglected in a secular world, only the wind's home. A highly symbolic crowing of the cock brings a damp gust that brings rain. 

The Christian quest theme is then reinforced by drawing upon the wisdom of the East in terms of what the Thunder said. 

The protagonist of the poem who took on different voices in the course of the poem resolves to redeem his lands in the light of the wisdom drawn from various lores. 

With a final recapitulation of the fragments he has shored against his ruins he prepares to put them together to restore fertility to the land.

Not without a reaffirmation of the wisdom and a prayer for peace. 

CR