T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land Wiki

Chapter Overview[]

This chapter title is taken from two plays by the early-17th playwright Thomas Middleton, in which the theme of one play is, a move in a game of chess denotes stages in seduction. This poem can be divided into three distinct parts; part 1 from line 77-110, part 2 from line 111-138, and part 3 from line 139 – 172. Each part has a different narrator accompanied with totally different settings, tones, and language usage. Interestingly, they all convey a very similar mood to the audiences. This is the most paradoxical poem in the whole chapter with two sets of opposing scenes.  

The first opposing scene is the juxtaposition between the exquisite furnishings inside a beautiful-looking castle from the outside(part 1) compared to paranoid and devastated state inside of the London people after World War 1 (part 2). The second opposing scene juxtaposes two women, one of high-class and one of low-class.  The first part of this chapter depicts a very high-class women (seemingly equal to Cleopatra) being placed on a “burnished throne” in a surreal, mystic chamber full of ivory and colored glass. On the other hand, this last part can be any typical low-class gossiper talking about her friend (who is also low-class and should get her teeth replaced) whose husband is coming home from the army.

All of these oxymoron appear as fix differences just in order to cover up the desolation everyone was in. Castle or just dirty London street, the woman in part 1 (which is alluded to many women with fail romance) is drowning and confused in her ocean of thoughts, the state of London is similar with zombified people who don't have any particular purpose in life.  Low-class or high-class, both women are suffering and crying alone helplessly while one hides her desperation in glorious furniture and the other conceals her sadness by speaking like nothing could ever put her down.

The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne
Glowed on the marble, where the glass
Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines
From which a golden Cupidon peeped out                    80
(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)
Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra     
Reflecting light upon the table as
The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,
From satin cases poured in rich profusion;                         85
In vials of ivory and coloured glass
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,
Unguent, powdered, or liquid—troubled, confused
And drowned the sense in odours; stirred by the air
That freshened from the window, these ascended               90
In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,
Flung their smoke into the laquearia,
Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.
Huge sea-wood fed with copper
Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone,    95
In which sad light a carvèd dolphin swam.
Above the antique mantel was displayed
As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king
So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale                         100
Filled all the desert with inviolable voice
And still she cried, and still the world pursues,
“Jug Jug” to dirty ears.
And other withered stumps of time
Were told upon the walls; staring forms                             105
Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed.
Footsteps shuffled on the stair,
Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair
Spread out in fiery points
Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.                 110
(Common Themes, Mood, Allegory of the section above)
“My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.
What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
I never know what you are thinking. Think.”
I think we are in rats’ alley                                                115
Where the dead men lost their bones.
“What is that noise?”                    
The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
Nothing again nothing.                       120
You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.   125
“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?”
O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—
It’s so elegant
So intelligent                                                                   130
“What shall I do now?
I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?
What shall we ever do?”
                               The hot water at ten. 135
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess,
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.
When Lil’s husband got demobbed, I said,
I didn’t mince my words, I said to her myself,                     140
Now Albert’s coming back, make yourself a bit smart.
He’ll want to know what you done with that money he gave you
To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.
You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,                    145
He said, I swear, I can’t bear to look at you.
And no more can’t I, I said, and think of poor Albert,
He’s been in the army four years, he wants a good time,
And if you don’t give it him, there’s others will, I said.
Oh is there, she said. Something o’ that, I said.                 150
Then I’ll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.
If you don’t like it you can get on with it, I said,
Others can pick and choose if you can’t.
But if Albert makes off, it won’t be for lack of telling.           155
You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
(And her only thirty-one.)
I can’t help it, she said, pulling a long face,
It’s them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
(She’s had five already, and nearly died of young George.)   160
The chemist said it would be alright, but I’ve never been the same.
You are a proper fool, I said.
Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone, there it is, I said,
What you get married for if you don’t want children?
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME                                         165
Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot—
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.        170
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.