The Waste Land
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land was a deliberate attempt to model a 20th century mythology patterned after the birth-rebirth motif described by Frazer. --Sholem Stein
The Waste Land (1922) is a highly influential 434-line modernist poem by T. S. Eliot. It is perhaps the most famous and most written-about long poem of 20th century literature. Despite the alleged obscurity of the poem – its shifts between satire and prophecy, its abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location and time, its elegiac but intimidating summoning up of a vast and dissonant range of cultures and literatures – the poem has nonetheless become a familiar touchstone of modern literature. Among its famous phrases are "April is the cruellest month" (its first line); "I will show you fear in a handful of dust"; and the Sanskrit "Shantih shantih shantih" (its last line).