T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land Wiki

Sweet Thames in Prothalamion

Refrain from Prothalamion by Spenser[]

"Along the shore of silver streaming Thames,

Whose rutty bank, the which his river hems,

Was painted all with variable flowers,

And all the meads adorned with dainty gems,

Fit to deck maidens' bowers,

And crown their paramours,

Against the bridal day, which is not long:      

Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song."


This is a song refrain from Spenser’s Prothalamion. These 2 lines are one of the few lines in this poem that have rhyme meter. The poem is written in the form of a marriage song. It begins with a description of the Sweet Thames, where the author found two beautiful maidens, Elizabeth Somerset and Katherine Somerset. In this poem’s setting, the water represents a merry atmosphere and hope of a better life, which contradict with the water in The Waste Land. The narrator of this part “sat down and wept” by the river. In other word, the water in The Waste Land has been corrupted. It’s no longer stand for happiness or life. Now the river is just an empty place - "The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers, / Silk handkerchiefs, carboard boxes, cigarette ends". The river is lifeless with no human - a left over of a great party. It also represents death - the Phoenician sailor.