The Burial of the Dead
The title of this poem is a homophony, because the word ‘’waste’’ can be associated with the similar word ‘’west’’. The western society is like a waste land, so, the general theme of the poem is the dryness, the corruption and the emptiness of values of the western society.
The epigraph at the beginning of the poem is referred to the decline of the western society; in fact, the epigraph is written in two language, Latin and Greek that are the two language that characterized the western society.
Also, the Cumean Sybil, the woman who predict the future, did not want to live anymore, because all the future is disastrous.
The beginning of the poem refers to the beginning of the Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer that is considered the father of English literature.
Boot the poets, Chaucer and Eliot, introduce the image of the same month: April. In Chaucer’s work, April has a positive reference, because it indicates the awakening of nature, but in Eliot April is the cruelest month, so it has a negative reference.
In the first lines the poet uses the ‘’ing’’ form to underline the natural cycle of a dead nature. The waste land is based on the myth of ‘’fisher king’’. In this myth, there is a sympathetic relationship between the king and his kingdom: when the king is a good mood, his land will be flourishing, whereas, if the king is in a bad mood, his lands will be dry. In this way, Eliot wants to underline the relationship between the western society [that is like a waste land], and the modern common man, that is like an etherized patient. [A man that has lost his individuality]
The mythical method is a stylistic technique based on a story or legend that has a single level of interpretation. With the mythical method, writer can make more objective the message. [He can make a relation between the myth and the modern society to objectify the message]
In the first stanza, there are two narrators: the first is the Fisher King; the second is a member of royal of Habsburg.
The change of narrator occurs through the change of language. The serious language indicates the truth less analysis of society characterized by absence of values made by the Fisher King; instead, the common language indicates the recent past that with his values had a meaning.
The second narrator avoid the water: water is the place where life begins, so, water represents the intellectual life; when the second narrator avoid water, he refuses the renewal of spiritual life, he prefers live an empty life.
The red Rock represents the Catholic Church that has failed in his function as the principal spiritual guide of this society.
Eliot refers Dante’s quotation to London’s citizens. That is to say, in real life there are many alive deaths, that is to say man is an etherized patient that is unconscious of the world around him, that follows massificated behaviors.
In a society in which man has lost each value, it is necessary to turn to someone who organizes our life, like Madame Sosostris, a famous clairvoyant. She uses a wicked pack of cards. Among cards, there is the drowned Phoenician sailor. It is a paradox, because it is improbable that a sailor could drown.
Also, there is a card, the hooded of Emmaus, that Mm. Sosostris cannot see: this means that men cannot understand the spiritual value of life.
The paradox of the Dog digging the corpse up: Dog is the best friend of man, so it would try to exhume him, but the man is a person who lives biologically, he hasn’t any values, so it is better that he dies otherwise he would start to live the same cyclic life.
At the end of the first section there is a Baudelaire’s quotation; the reader is an ‘’hypocrite’’, because he understands the problems of his society, of his existence, but he does not react; also, the writer lives the same condition, and for this reason reader is a brother of writer.
What the Thunder Said
Line seven, ‘’He who was living is now dead’’, represents the life of Christ, that, without resurrection, now is dead. So, Eliot wants to tell us the Catholic Church has forgotten the value of Christ’s resurrection.
The metaphors of rock and water represent the western man’s condition. Western man lives in a society influenced by the Catholic Church, but, it is like a dry and red rock; so, western society becomes a waste land in which there are only dry rocks without water.
Also, the absence of water represents a paradox, because in nature, usually, where there is a rock, there is water; the absence of water represents also the impossibility of regeneration, so, man becomes an ‘’etherized patient’’ who leads a biological life.
In stanza two the sound system is hard, dry, arid, without fluidity, because the main metaphors in this stanza refer to the absence of water, to ‘’mountains of rocks, without water’’, to a ‘’sterile thunder without rain’’.
Eliot uses the second type of conditional to convey a desire and anxiety for water, because it expresses something that is contrary to realty.
The man in lines 39-45 is referred to the hanged man of the first section of the waste land; so this man is the Hooded of Emmaus that represents the image of Christ’s resurrection.
The difficult to recognize him is that we do not want to recognize him. So, western man is like Madame Sosostris, that cannot recognize the most important card of her ‘’wicked pack of cards’’. That is to say, there is an absence of desire for renewal in the western man.
In lines 57-65 and in Prufrock, Eliot says modern society assigns to woman a biological function. In fact, she is considered like a mermaid, and she is compared to Eva; in this way woman becomes the symbol of sin.
In the Gospel is written on the third day Christ raised from the grave, to go back to heaven. This episode represents the redemption of the human being, and the renewal of life.
But, all this, today is happening near an empty chapel that is the wind’s home.
So, this empty chapel represents the Catholic Church, emptied of all meaning that denied the value of Christ’s resurrection.
The Thunder now can speak, so, now it brings rain, because we are at the beginning of the western society. Now the thunder tells us the three precepts of Vedas in Sanskrit, the first Indo-European language.
Datta, Dayadhvam, Damyata: these are three imperatives, and with these, Eliot wants to tell us ‘’Do anything’’, try to find your individuality, your inner spirituality. So, only in this way, we can stop our biological life, and we can take the control of our destiny, of our life, like a captain controls his ship.
So, only if we follow the three precepts of the thunder, peace will pass and understand us.
If everyone follow and respect the three precepts of the thunder, we will find our individuality, our inner life, our inner spirituality; in this way, we can move vertically, so, we can leave from the circle of our biological life, and take the control of our destiny.