“The House Of His Protection The Land Gave To Him That Sought Her Out And Unto Him That Delved Gave Return Of Her Fruits”
-Engraved above the Western-most door of Joslyn Art Museum
Beyond all doubt, T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” is one of the most excruciating works a reader may ever attempt. The reading is painful to the point of exhaustion for the poetry-lover as he scrutinizes the poem pericope by pericope. However, all this suffering (self-inflicted or otherwise) suggests that the author has likewise labored over the poem, emptying himself into his work--pericope by pericope. Suddenly, the reader understands that the poet intends to deliver a specific message, luring his audience to delve into the poem in search of it.
Half of Eliot’s message is indeed clear with his title: we are living in the waste land now. The bulk of the poem he spends showing his audience how we have established for ourselves this waste of a land and the manners in which we continue to waste it- and consequently humanity- primarily with our ennui. Everything builds to the dramatic, and highly ambiguous, conclusion presented in meditation V, “What the Thunder Said”. This conclusion is the other half of Eliot’s message; in which the poet expresses man’s only hope for salvation, leading ultimately to life in a land restored to its natural state, and not the atrophied world we now inhabit.
In order to allow his audience to understand the key to restoring humanity, Eliot provides important clues (because of course he cannot outrightly give it away). He ever so graciously leaves these clues behind mostly in meditations III and V and they emphasize two things: religion and nature. ...
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...s to restoration, nature herself tells us. Thus for Eliot, nature is religion, delivering restoration. The three way dialogue which may exist between nature, religion, and man, only occurs when man decides to live in harmony with nature. This means to be like nature: to give like the sky father, to produce in compassion like the mother earth, and to control ourselves, being a vessel for God.
To conclude, Eliot argues that the truth man finds in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity is reflective of nature. If man has any hope of living in the natural world, he must do the same. Otherwise man is doomed to inhabiting the waste land. There he will live as a solitary creature, unable to relate to his fellow man. He will be caught up with material passions, and his ability to engage in them is due to his ennui, allowing him to overlook the harm they cause.
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