T. S. Eliot: The Waste Land

(5073 words)
  • Marianne Thormahlen (University of Lund)

Most first-time readers who approach T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land do so knowing that the poem is generally considered to be difficult, and the two epigraphs, or prefatory quotations, do nothing to dispel their apprehensions. Even at a first glance, the reader encounters difficulty: one of the quotations is in Latin and Greek, the other in mediaeval Italian. The first, “Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere . . .”, translates “For once I saw with my own eyes the Cumean Sibyl hanging in a jar, and when the boys asked the Sibyl, 'what do you want?' she answered 'I want to die'.” This quotation from Petronius's Satyricon, a racy prose narrative from the first century A.D. of …

Please log in to consult the article in its entirety. If you are not a subscriber, please click here to read about membership. All our articles have been written recently by experts in their field, more than 95% of them university professors.

Thormahlen, Marianne. "The Waste Land". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 01 February 2002
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=8096, accessed 16 September 2014.]