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MonkeyNotes-The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
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The young man carbuncular (lines 231-248)

He visits the typists apartment one evening and has a sordid and loveless sexual encounter with her. He hardly leaves any impression on her of true passion or romance.

Elizabeth and Leicester (lines 279-289)

This is a reference to Englandís famous Queen, Elizabeth I who ruled from 1556 to 1602. She was often referred to as "the Virgin Queen" as she never married although she has many admirers. One of them was Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester and the other was the Earl of Essex who led an ill-fated rebellion against her in 1601 and was beheaded.

The Thames-daughters (lines 176, and 183-84) and the Rhine Maidens (Lines 277-78 and 290-305)

At the start and close of Part III are present the three Thames- daughters or Rhine Maidens, who are depicted as a composite picture. In the early segment, they recite the refrain from Edmund Spenserís Prothalamion "Sweet Thames run softly till I end my song" and in the famous chant from Richard Wagnerís opera: The Ring of the Nibelungs: "Weialala Leia." Then, they speak in turn, about their loss of love.

Buddha and St. Augustine (lines 307-311)

Here, Eliot recalls both the famous "Fire sermon" that Lord Buddha gave to his disciples in ancient India and to the words of St. Augustine in The Confessions on the lusts of the flesh. Both these holy men speak of fire as both a symbol of an all- consuming passion and an agent of purification.

Part Four

Phlebas, the Phoenician sailor

He is first mentioned in Part one by Madame Sosostris as she reads the Tarot cards for her fortune seeking client. Here, her fatal prediction: "Fear death by Water" comes ironically true for Phlebas.

Part Five


At several points in Part Five of the poem, Eliot brings in the Christ figure. In lines 322-330, he describes Christís agony in the garden, his betrayal by Judas, his trial before Caiphas, the High Priest, and Pirate, the Roman governor of Jerusalem; as well as the mocking crowd that followed him to his crucifixion.

In lines 359-365, "Who is the third who always walks beside you?," there is an obvious reference to the risen Christís appearance to two of his disciplines on the road to Emmaus. Again, in lines 377-379, there is a covert reference to Christís conversion of Mary Magdaline from a life of sensual pleasure to one of spiritual devotion.

Moses (lines 331-358)

In this famous sequence about drought in dusty deserts and water dripping out of rocks, Eliot recalls Moses famous miracle of "divining" water from arid rocks. When he touched it with his rod, it brought relief to the Israelites in their wanderings through the Sinai desert after their escape from Egypt, as described in The Old Testament (Book of Exodus).

John, the Baptist (lines 379-84)

A brief reference to the prophet, John, who paved the way for Christís divine mission and baptized Christ in the river Jordan. John was arrested by King Herod and imprisoned in an empty cistern, from which he was taken and executed later as a result of Herodís wife Herodiaís evil wishes.

Grail Maiden and Questor Knight (lines 285-294)

After several earlier references (Part III, line 202 "Et O ces voix des enfants ... "), Eliot once more refers to the Chapel Perilous where the sacred Grail of Christ was secretly preserved by the Grail Maiden. The questing knight has to endure many perils or tests before he can reach the Chapel and obtain a glimpse of the Holy Grail.

Prajapati, Devas, Asuras and Manusyas (lines 395-422)

The Waste Land closes with a reference to the Hindu pantheon of ancient Vedic times in India. Prajapati, the father of all, dwelt in the Himalayan ranges along with Gods (Devas), Men (Manusyas), and Evil spirits (Asuras) who were all his students or brahamacharis. Prajapati taught them to subdue, to give and to be merciful. This reference proclaims the final message of the poem: "Shantih ... " (the peace that surpasses all understanding).

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MonkeyNotes-The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot


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