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The Waste Land (Part V) -- T S Eliot

Guest poem submitted by Cristina Gazzieri:
(Poem #858) The Waste Land (Part V)
 V. What the Thunder Said

 Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves
 Waited for rain, while the black clouds
 Gathered far distant, over Himavant.
 The jungle crouched, humped, in silence.
 Then spoke the thunder
 D A
 _Datta_: what have we given?
 My friend, blood shaking my heart
 The awful daring of a moment's surrender
 Which an age of prudence can never retract
 By this, and this only, we have existed
 Which is not to be found in our obituaries
 Or in memories draped by the beneficient spider
 Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
 In our empty rooms
 D A
 _Dayadhvam_: I have heard the key
 Turn in the door once and turn once only
 We think of the key, each in his prison
 Only at nightfall, aethereal rumors
 Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
 D A
 _Damyata_: the boat responded
 Gaily, to the hand expert with the sail and oar
 The sea was calm, your heart would have responded
 Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
 To controlling hands

                                I sat upon a shore
 Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
 Shall I at least set my lands in order?
 London Bridge is falling down, falling down falling down
 _Poi s'ascose nel foco che li affina
 Quando fiam ut chelidon_ - O swallow swallow
 _Le Prince d'aquitaine à la tour abolie_
 These statements I have shored against my ruins
 Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.
 Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

              Shantih shantih shantih
-- T S Eliot
 From "What the Thunder Said", the fifth and final section of "The Waste
Land", 1922.
 Words and phrases surrounded by _underscores_ are supposed to be in

 These are the last, conclusive, lines of the "Waste Land", which is a text
which often frightens the reader for the obscurity and complexity  of its
references. Yet, I think that, with just a few clues, the text can be fully
enjoyed by any lover of poetry.

 The "Waste Land" is the story of a journey or "Quest" that the man of the
early 20th century makes through the sterility and spiritual aridity of his
modern world, until he arrives, in this final lines, at the Ganges, the
sacred river, where, eventually, he finds some answers to his existential

 "Ganga", the river Ganges is sunken. Water, a symbol of life and fertility
is scarce in the modern world, yet, here he hears the words of the thunder
tThe voice of God according to many ancient religions). The thunder speaks
Sanskrit, because Eliot goes back to the cradle of Western civilisation to
the roots and the most vital source of Western culture. The Thunder-God
repeats to man the three imperatives of the Upanishad, a Hindu sacred book:
        DATTA = give
        DAYADHVAM = co-operate, accept the others
        DAMYATA = control
 So the spiritual quest of the modern wanderer, the modern knight comes to
these ancient, elementary, basic precepts of life on which to rebuild a
crumbled civilisation.

 Yet, the poem does not finish on these three imperatives. Eliot now
introduces the image of the fisher, (which is reminiscent of many legends
and myths: the Fisher King, King  Arthur, Christ, and which represents Man
in his best specifications); this man wants to reorganise his life, his
kingdom, his future, saving something from the collapse of the ideals that
he has witnessed. Of course, he saves poetry, (Dante, Latin literature,
French poetry, Elizabethan drama) which contains those elements of the
growth of the human soul that must not be lost. Probably, in this context,
the last words, "Shantih shantih shantih" (which mean "peace" in Hindi, and
which conclude the Upanishad), are, at the same time, a message, a farewell
and an element of quotation from a consciously "poetic" text  Eliot
eminently loved.

 I have certainly oversimplified things, but basically, starting from these
ideas, I think a reader can go deep further into the interpretation of the
text and find a rich texture of references and suggestions.



  Poem #354, "The Waste Land (Part IV)"

8 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

SuzanneDwight said...

Does anyone know the original sanskrit script of Datta, Dayadhvam and
With Thanks

Joh4nn4 said...

I was wondering if you recieved any feedback to your question because I too
am looking for an original sanskrit form of Datta, Dayadhvam, Damyata....

Thank you()

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