T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Marianne Thormahlen (Lund University)
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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


, a racy prose narrative from the first century A.D. of which only fragments have survived, sets the tone for

The Waste Land

in more…

5073 words

Citation: Thormahlen, Marianne. "The Waste Land". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 01 February 2002 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=8096, accessed 13 April 2024.]

8096 The Waste Land 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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