(Poem #859) Waste Land Limericks
I In April one seldom feels cheerful; Dry stones, sun and dust make me fearful; Clairvoyantes distress me, Commuters depress me-- Met Stetson and gave him an earful. II She sat on a mighty fine chair, Sparks flew as she tidied her hair; She asks many questions, I make few suggestions-- Bad as Albert and Lil--what a pair! III The Thames runs, bones rattle, rats creep; Tiresias fancies a peep-- A typist is laid, A record is played-- Wei la la. After this it gets deep. IV A Phoenician named Phlebas forgot About birds and his business--the lot, Which is no surprise, Since he'd met his demise And been left in the ocean to rot. V No water. Dry rocks and dry throats, Then thunder, a shower of quotes From the Sanskrit and Dante. Da. Damyata. Shantih. I hope you'll make sense of the notes.
Reams of critical analysis are all very well, but sometimes I think the best thing to have come out of "The Waste Land" is Wendy Cope's inspired summary of the poem. Her stripped down version of Eliot's rather impenetrable masterpiece is (as we've come to expect from Cope) excruciatingly funny, but it's also amazingly faithful to the original - she seems to capture the essence of each (long and complex) section in just a few short lines. And in the pithiest of language, too: phrases such as "After this it gets deep" invariably set me laughing out loud. thomas. [Links etc] Wendy Cope rules. Check out Poem #587, Strugnell's Rubaiyat Poem #693, Strugnell's Haiku on the Minstrels website. T. S. Eliot rules too, but in a more, well, rarefied way. See Poem #9, La Figlia Che Piange (The Weeping Girl) Poem #107, Preludes Poem #193, The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock Poem #248, Sweeney Among the Nightingales Poem #258, Macavity: The Mystery Cat Poem #291, The Journey of the Magi Poem #466, Rhapsody on a Windy Night Poem #532, Little Gidding Poem #574, Growltiger's Last Stand Poem #630, To Walter de la Mare Poem #846, The Hippopotamus and especially Poem #354, The Waste Land (Part IV) Poem #858, The Waste Land (Part V) The entire text of this poem, quite possibly the most influential of the 20th century, can be found at http://www.bartleby.com/201/1.html "The Waste Land" has a (not completely unwarranted) reputation for being rather hard to parse. I recommend Hugh Kenner's essay "The Invisible Poet", and "The Waste Land: A Critique of the Myth" by Cleanth Brooks for perceptive (if somewhat dated) readings of the poem, and descriptions of Eliot's then-revolutionary poetic technique. My enjoyment of Cope's limericks was enhanced immeasurably by my reading of these two scholarly articles (and others; John Wain's Waste Land Casebook is a good compendium, if you really want to go into depth).