Evocative Fragments: from Eliot’s ‘Waste Land’

A woman drew her long black hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled, and beat their wings
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.

There are many evocative passages in T.S. Eliot’s marvellous and fragmented portrayal of the spiritual wasteland of the early 20th century, but the one that most resonates for me is this passage towards the end, in the final section ‘What the Thunder Said’. The section as a whole is full of signs and portents and the possibility of restoration, but who cares? These lines are just so wonderfully gothic!

Photo: “Juvenile Mariana Fruit Bat” by USFWS Pacific is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


2 thoughts on “Evocative Fragments: from Eliot’s ‘Waste Land’

  1. David Galef


    Hate to be seen as one of the Gotcha Squad, but it’s “The Waste Land,” not “The Wasteland.” Does it matter? Well, your name isn’t Helweglarsen, is it?

    The other point, and I wish I could locate the source, is that the beautifully evocative lines beginning with “A woman drew her long black hair out tight” are a borrowing from the French.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Robin Helweg-Larsen Post author

      Thanks, David, I stand corrected! (But you’d be surprised how often my name is indeed Helweglarsen these computer-driven days.)

      As for the borrowing from the French, I assume you’re correct, but/and as Eliot said, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” Find your source, and we’ll be able to classify where Eliot stands!

      Liked by 1 person


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