Written in 1922, T.S. Eliot’s epic poem, “The Waste Land,” is considered a masterpiece of poetic writing. The characters in the poem are many, the sense of depression drips from their stories and there is little politeness in this work.
Eliot wrote this in the aftermath World War I in a world of chaos and change. He himself struggled to figure out where mankind was headed, to the point of a depression that sent him to a sanatorium. It was there that much of this work was written.
His friend and editor for much of this work was the poet and critic Ezra Pound. Pound was a leader in the modernist movement in writing and his effect on “The Waste Land” is everywhere.
Critics have noted that “The Waste Land” broke with the politeness of the era. The willingness to cover up the bad news with polite expressions and business as usual was not to be found in this work.
We are given a glimpse into the world between World War and World War II through the eyes of a genius writer who saw the world broken by war and wondering where direction and sanity could be found for another day.
Epic poems such as this are not high on the list for today’s readers. They take time and thought; we have cell phones and Snapchat. Our loss.
As one who loves history, this poem is that in a most personal way. This is not about the overarching reviews of World War I, but the troubling and desperate effects of the war on the many as seen through the eyes of Eliot.
Eliot was born in St. Louis, attended Harvard and would travel and teach on both sides of the ocean. He ultimately became a British citizen, but always spoke of the lessons he learned along the Mississippi.
“The poet’s mind is in fact a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feelings, phrases, images, which remain there until all the particles which can unite to form a new compound are present together.” - T.S. Eliot
Gary Thorne is the play-by-play voice of the Orioles on MASN, and the 2017 season is his 11th with the club and 32nd covering Major League Baseball. His blog will appear regularly throughout the season. The Orioles and Sarasota County have partnered on the Big League Reader Program, which rewarded kids who read three books in February with tickets to a Grapefruit League game at Ed Smith Stadium in March.
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