The Waste Land

“The Waste Land” is a famous, seminal poem by T.S. Eliot that I read this summer (if you’re so inclined, you can read it at Eliot, T. S. 1922. The Waste Land)

Imagine my surprise when I noticed that the five sections of the poem were entitled “The Burial of the Dead,” “A Game of Chess,” “The Fire Sermon,” “Death by Water,” and “What the Thunder Said.”

There are some fun lines in the poem that seem, well, very slightly coincidental to the world of Fallen London, and my favorite of this is:

[color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]"Who are those hooded hordes swarming
[/color][color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
[/color][color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]Ringed by the flat horizon only[/color][color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]
[color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]What is the city over the mountains
[/color][color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air[/color]
[color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]Falling towers[/color]
[color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]Jerusalem Athens Alexandria[/color]
[color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]Vienna London"[/color]
-(lines 366-375)

Hmm… falling towers in five cities? And what’s the fifth?

Dear god. I’m an English major about to start my master’s in 19th-early 20th century literature and I missed this. I’m the worst English major ever. (OTOH, I’m the biggest plebian ever when it comes to Eliot. I still find Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats to be my favorite poetry of his.)

Quite the sharp observation there, You have succeeded in a watchful challenge! ;-)

I wonder if they actually correspond with the 5 cities in Echo Bazaar…
I’m no expert on world history, but from what I can find in the wikipedia articles, Jerusalem dates back to the 4th millennium BC and Babylon was founded in 3rd millennium BC.
Now I may be wrong, but I seem to remember a sidebar saying that the First City was young at the time when Babylon fell. So there may not be a direct overlap.

However, it is always interesting to see where they got their inspiration, and the fact that the names of the dreams are all from the same poem is a particularly tasty little morsel.

I’ll try to find time to read the whole thing over christmas, to see if there are other juicy tidbits.

Very interesting, though only as a source of inspiration, I think. Jerusalem, Athens & Vienna are quite unlikely to be former cities. As the Second City definitely was in Egypt, Alexandria is a possible candidate, though. You may wish to follow this more closely here: (Beware the Spoilers!)

Ah, yes, I assumed they weren’t the five stolen cities (I’ve been following those mysteries myself). It is a fun coincidence, though—there are some wonderful images in The Waste Land (especially the last chapter) that really brought Fallen London to mind. Here are a few other such passages:

"[color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]A current under sea[/color]
[color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]Picked his bones in whispers." (315-316)[/color][color=#000020]
[/color][color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]"And bats with baby faces in the violet light[/color]
[color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]Whistled, and beat their wings…" (379-380)[/color]
[color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]
[color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]"And upside down in air were towers[/color]
[color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours[/color]
[color=rgb(0, 0, 32)]And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells." (382-384)[/color]

It is a glorious thing. I do love its “heap of broken images”.
There’s a nice hypertext version of the poem which deals with its various references here:

For a second I thought this post wa going to be about the third Dark Tower book.

A brilliant observation! More study is required. off to read the poem thoroughly

The Fisher-King is another Eliot reference from The Waste Land! Although the legend of the Fisher-King predates Eliot, he does appear as one of the characters in the poem.

English major backstory: The Fisher-King is an archetypal character who has been wounded in some unspecified-groinal accident which, supernaturally, never heals, and therefore he can neither fully sit nor fully stand. He has been banished to never walk on land again and is condemned to water-travel (The Wandering Jew is another such supernatural archetype who shares this trait) on a fishing boat, where he semi-reclines, fishing, until the end of time. While he is absent from his land, it falls into waste, and no living thing can grow there.

In Fallen London, the Fisher-Kings are a gang of urchins who only walk on rooftops, never setting foot on street level. They fish for valuables from people on the street below, slowly turning their pickpocket zones into impoverished areas. And you are inducted into the gang if you have a wound that never seems to heal.

I didn’t notice the titles of the sections, though! Good eye.

My undergrad was in English and Philosophy. I love the Modern poets (Eliot, Cummings, Pound, Stevens, late Yeats) and I LOVED the Waste Land. My first tattoo was of the last four words of the poem (Datta Dayahdvam Damyata Shantih). I get chills when I come across the Eliot references in EBZ.

I wrote my thesis on The Waste Land - I love that EBZ throws in so many Eliot references. What can I say, I’m a modernist poetry junkie and The Waste Land is my absolute favorite.

The King that appears in some pf the dream storylets is defintitely the Fisher King - a big part of the Fisher King theme is how the King is ‘impotent’ literally and figuratively; he finds himself unable to take action, much like the King in the storylet will neither attack nor make preparations for a seige.

And of course one of the What the Thunder Said storylets; "Who is the third that walks always beside you?