T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land Wiki

Chapter Summary[]

The chapter is, simply, about sexual intercourse. The title of this chapter, The Fire Sermon, is a sermon given by Buddha. In this sermon, he encourages people to stay away from earthly passion – free themselv

The Fire Sermon

es from the fire of lust. This is a rather ironic reference that Eliot made because in this chapter, that is exactly opposit

e of what people do – they cannot resist lust or earthly passion. In the first stanza, Eliot gave description of  the Wasteland, a place with brown land, wet bank, and no humanity. He did this by taking away symbolisms of water, which is hold as a valuable treasure to many religions and cultures. He also criticized the manner and behavior people treating each other: jealousy, anger and sexual desire.

Tiresias appears to Odysseus during the nekyia of Odyssey xi, in this watercolor with tempera by the Anglo-Swiss Johann Heinrich Füssli, c. 1780-85

Eliot, in the voice of Tiresias, telling his view on relationships among the society these days. He, in the shoe of Tiresias, a blind prophet but has seen it all. He was forced to watch all those empty relationships between humankind. To Eliot, sex is dirty, a sin that all humankind is covered with, a sin that will make us all go to hell. But the Tiresias has both perspectives; men and women because he was turned into a woman for seven years. In another point of view, women are not always the turned sex into an emotionless motion between two lives. Like the relationship between the female typist and her house’s agent clerk. Sex happens between them just like a costumer with a prostitute. The guy satisfies his desire on the female typist body while she feels tasteless, and she’s actually glad that it was over. So the whole part is just saying that love is no longer love, but just plain sexual desire.

With a quotation from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the reader is transported back into the City of London. Here the reader visits a fishmen’s bar, the interior of St. Magnus- the- Martyr, then back to the Thames. The Thames-daughters from Spencer’s poem sings a nonsense chorus, and the scene shifts to Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester, and the queen is unmoved by her lover’s declarations, and think of her people. At the end there is a reference to St. Augustine’s Confession and a simple allusion to Buddhist Fire Sermon.    

Form of the Chapter

  The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed .  175
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song .
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.
And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors;  180
Departed, have left no addresses.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept…
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear  185
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.
A rat crept softly through the vegetation
Dragging its slimy belly on the bank
While I was fishing in the dull canal
On a winter evening round behind the gashouse.  190
Musing upon the king my brother’s wreck
And on the king my father’s death before him.
White bodies naked on the low damp ground
And bones cast in a little low dry garret,
Rattled by the rat’s foot only, year to year.  195
But at my back from time to time I hear
The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring
Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring .
O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter
And on her daughter  200
They wash their feet in soda water
Et, O ces voix d’enfants, chantant dans la coupole!
Twit twit twit
Jug jug jug jug jug jug
So rudely forc’d.  205
Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter noon
Mr Eugenides , the Smyrna merchant
Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants  210
C. i. f. London: documents at sight,
Asked me in demotic French
To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel
Followed by a week-end at the Metropole.
At the violet hour , when the eyes and back  215
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
I Tiresias , though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives  220
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
The typist home at tea-time, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun’s last rays,  225
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest—
I too awaited the expected guest.  230
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
A small house-agent’s clerk, with one bold stare,
One of the low on whom assurance sits
As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.
The time is now propitious, as he guesses,  235
The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,
Endeavours to engage her in caresses
Which still are unreproved, if undesired.
Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;
Exploring hands encounter no defence;  240
His vanity requires no response,
And makes a welcome of indifference.
(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall  245
And walked among the lowest of the dead.)
Bestows one final patronizing kiss ,
And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit…
She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
Hardly aware of her departed lover;  250
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:
“Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.”
When lovely woman stoops to folly and
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,  255
And puts a record on the gramophone.
“This music crept by me upon the waters”
And along the Strand , up Queen Victoria Street.
O City City, I can sometimes hear
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,  260
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.  265
The river sweats
Oil and tar
The barges drift
With the turning tide
Red sails  270
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.
The barges wash
Drifting logs
DownGreenwich reach  275
Past theIsle of Dogs.
            Weialala leia
            Wallala leialala
Elizabeth and Leicester
Beating oars  280
The stern was formed
A gilded shell
Red and gold
The brisk swell
Rippled both shores  285
South-west wind
Carried down stream
The peal of bells
White towers
            Weialala leia  290
            Wallala leialala
“Trams and dusty trees.
Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew
Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees
Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe.“  295
“My feet are at Moorgate , and my heart
Under my feet. After the event
He wept. He promised ‘a new start.’
I made no comment. What should I resent?”
“On Margate Sands.  300
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken finger-nails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
Nothing.”  305
      la la
To Carthage then I came
Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest  310