Gerontion: Poem by T.S Eliot - Summary & Analysis

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          Thou hast nor youth nor age

          But as it were an after dinner sleep

          Dreaming of both.

Here I am, an old man in a dry month,

Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.

I was neither at the hot gates

Nor fought in the warm rain

Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,

Bitten by flies, fought.

My house is a decayed house,

And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,

Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,

Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.

The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;

Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.

The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,

Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.


                    I an old man,

A dull head among windy spaces.


Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign”:

The word within a word, unable to speak a word,

Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year

Came Christ the tiger


In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,

To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk

Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero

With caressing hands, at Limoges

Who walked all night in the next room;

By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;

By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room

Shifting the candles; Fraulein von Kulp

Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles

Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,

An old man in a draughty house

Under a windy knob.


After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now

History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors

And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,

Guides us by vanities. Think now

She gives when our attention is distracted

And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions

That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late

What’s not believed in, or if still believed,

In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon

Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with

Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think

Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices

Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues

Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.

These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.


The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last

We have not reached conclusion, when I

Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last

I have not made this show purposelessly

And it is not by any concitation

Of the backward devils

I would meet you upon this honestly.

I that was near your heart was removed therefrom

To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.

I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it

Since what is kept must be adulterated?

I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:

How should I use it for your closer contact?


These with a thousand small deliberations

Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,

Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,

With pungent sauces, multiply variety

In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do,

Suspend its operations, will the weevil

Delay? De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled

Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear

In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits

Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,

White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims,

And an old man driven by the Trades

To a a sleepy corner.


                    Tenants of the house,

Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.


      Title, Gerontion was included in a volume of poem published by Eliot 1920. It marks the development of Eliot's poetic genius and style. It stands midway between the first volume entitled Prufrock and other Observations 1917 and The Waste Land 1922.

The old man is thinking of his past and the present as also his physical surroundings. There is no movement towards any set purpose or goal.


      Gerontion's Career: In the beginning, Gerontion describes his own career and environment. He is an old man, almost blind. A boy is reading a book to him. It is the dry season of the year. He is anxiously waiting for rain. The dryness stands for his spiritual barrenness and also of the civilization to which he belongs. Rain stands for divine grace. At this age, Gerontion looks back to his past. He realizes futility and barrenness of his own life. He has no achievement to his credit; he could have won glory if he fought in any war. He has also not taken part in any colonial expedition and brought no honor or wealth to himself or to his country. He is quite disillusioned about himself and the so-called achievement of the modern civilization. Man in this mechanical civilization is like the cog in the wheel. He looks at his dirty rented house. His landlord is a jew who sits opposite to him on a sill. The Jew was born in Antwerp and sowed his wild oats in Brussels and London. The mind is also ill and sleepy. She cooks his meals. Outside the house, the goat coughs at night. His house is encircled by stone, mass, iron-piece and human excreta. He realizes that he is like a dull head lost in the vastness of the universe.

      Causes of decay of civilization: Gerontion now reflects on the corruption around and the causes thereof. The most important reason for this miserable plight is the loss of faith. People under the influence of science have adopted a rational outlook towards Christianity. They are unaware of the need of developing their spiritual potential, the need of disciplining the mind of heart, before they can understand the message of Christ and its relevance today. They demand proof for whatever is mentioned in the Bible. The modern man wants proof and reason for his faith. He does not believe in miracle. Similarly, the Jews ask Christ for a sign i.e. miracle. Gerontion feels that the birth of Christ is itself a miracle and we refuse to believe in it. Like the Jew, our loss of faith in Christ is a reason for the darkness of our soul and the degeneration of civilization.

      Christ, The Tiger: The image of the baby Christ brings to Gerontion's mind the other image of Christ - Christ the Tiger mentioned by Blake. Christ came as the Saviour to destroy evil. Weeds grow even in the best of fields, so as corruption is grown in the fruitful land of Christianity. Similarly, people with the materialistic outlook do not find anything significant in Christian worship or art. Formerly the rituals of man, the eating of bread and drinking of wine were regarded as symbolic of man's participation in the crucification of Christ. This belief made the early Christian society a closely-knit unit. Now-a-days church-going has become a formality and people whisper scandal just as they would do in a club.

      Even Christian art has suffered at the hands of modern man. They do not go in the significance of the Christian painting, but rather into their formal and technical assessment. For example, Mr. Silvero while examining the beautiful works of art in the shrine at Limoges, found nothing remarkable. Similarly, others understand nothing of Christian paintings. Their minds lack faith. Therefore they do not understand the mysteries of the Christian church. Spiritualism has degenerated into the ritual of calling spirits as in the case of Madame de Tornquist. Their activities indicate that pseudo-faiths have taken the place of true Christian faiths and cultures. Even the Renaissance which brought humanism and rationalism diverted people's attention from religion to art. Such things cannot bring spiritual comfort. Gerontion, too, has lost in the metaphysical. He, therefore, like his contemporaries finds himself lost. Eliot here seems to make a strong plea for a true understanding of, and belief in the Christian church.

      History - a prostitute: Why was the modern civilization failed? Can history help in giving an answer to this question? Can it give knowledge? The world knowledge in the Biblical sense means sex knowledge. Therefore, history is considered as prostitute as a cunning but charming Cleopatra. History deceives man and thereby prevents his mind. History has many intricate and confusing side-tracks, cross-currents and problems. It is a record of human ambition, vanity and crime. As such it may misguide man. Courage may lead man to gain ambition and fear may bring with itself a sense of humiliation. The experience of the First World War shows the great crime committed by politicians and army generals. The knowledge of history is like the Tree of Knowledge which was responsible for the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. History cannot give any guidance for spiritual salvation. It distorts human values and places a premium on treachery, double-dealing and violence.

      Rationalism - no remedy: Rationalism of modern civilization cannot save civilization from decay. Rationalism and intellectualism are responsible for the loss of faith. Gerontion feels sorry for the decline in his faith:

"I that was near your hear was removed there from,

To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition."

      As A.G. George remarks: "When intellectual scrutiny brings, the terror itself vanishes, and the debasement of faith is complete". Gerontion feels sorry for the loss of faith in Christianity. But he feels that the doctrines have been adulterated and cannot therefore provide consolation and relief.

      Sex stimulants: Some critics feel that Gerontion laments the loss of his passion for his mistress. In view of his old age, he cannot have close contact with her. But such artificial methods and remedies like creams, perfumes, medicines, herbs etc. cannot excite his sexual passion. The sex cannot prevent the natural process of aging and decay.

Critical Analysis

      Title: The title is derived from the Greek word "Geron" which means a little old man. It is said that this title was suggested by Newman’s "The Dream of Gerontion." Gerontion is symbol of a modem man who is in a state of disintegration, and decay, recalling the memories and desires of his career.

      Epigraph: The epigraph has been taken from Shakespeare's play entitled Measure for Measure. The Duke tells Claudius, who is suffering under a sentence of death that life is meaningless and futile. Eliot seems to suggest that the life of Gerontion and his contemporaries is useless because it is full of conflict, insecurity, corruption and spiritual decay.

      Certainty of Death: One thing is quite certain - that every human being will die. So all efforts to prevent decay and dissolution are bound to fail. Man is helpless like a lonely ship, caught in a sea-storm or a sea girl blown hither and thither by a snow-storm. Man's ultimate destiny is death. His broken atom will be mixed up with the earth. Human life is, therefore, meaningless and futile. The poem ends on a pessimistic note.

      The two worlds: "Prufrock" belongs to the contemporary aristocratic world. His society shows the perfection of urban civilization with its sophisticated, luxury, artificiality, hypocrisy, loneliness, make-belief and the gay-record of social parties. It is a world disgusted with itself, bored to death, and finding some relief in love, and gaiety. The words of Prufrock come straight from the drawing-room and the fashionable clubs. This modern civilization preserves its formal manners and mechanical bits of conversation. Actually, this society is rotten, and hollow at its core. It has no emotional or spiritual reservoir of strength.

      Gerontion, on the other hand, is the story of an old man living in the low society. His house is rented, dingy, and foul smelling. He calls it a decayed house watched by the land-lord, a Jew. The maid keeps the kitchen but she is ill and bored. Outside, the goats cough at night. The language of Prufrock is plain and straightforward. It is quite different from padding, repetition, and decoration of the language used in The Love Song.

      Stream of consciousness in "Gerontion": The action of the poem is set not in any place, but in the mind of the old man himself. The old man is thinking of his past and the present as also his physical surroundings. There is no movement towards any set purpose or goal. There is hardly any progress in the development of thought. The poem ends in the same way as it begins. The words "dry session" in the last line echo the words of the first line "dry month." Gerontion is an inner monologue. The thoughts of the protagonist recollected in tranquility, reflect the essential barrenness of the modern civilization. Modern life is vain and futile like the days passed by the old man. He is quite disillusioned about himself and about the purpose of the modern world. He regards himself "dull head" "among windy spaces."

      Importance of "Gerontion": Gerontion was carefully planned. It affirms the views of Eliot about modern life and civilization. In fact, it has the same theme as The Waste Land - Gerontion was originally intended to form an epilogue to The Waste Land. However, on the advice of Ezra Pond, it was published separately in "1920-volume."

      After math of the First World War: The end of the First World War did not lead to any great political or social results. Many thought that the war was the result of utter human stupidity and the colossal waste of natural resources. It shows that there was something entirely wrong with the modern civilization. Thinkers offered three explanations for the decay and futility of modern civilization. Firstly, European civilization had lost its rich religious heritage; secondly, it was dominated by commerce and money values; thirdly it was marked by sexual perversion, squalor and rottenness. Gerontion reflects on the above three issues and comes to the conclusion that only faith and moral values can save the modern civilization. The decayed house of Gerontion is the symbol of decadence of modern civilization.

      The treatment of the poem: The theme of the poem is the post-war decay and degeneration. The treatment of the theme is highly philosophical. Eliot deals with the causes of decay and corruption which, according to him, are loss of Christian faith and moral values, the wrong assumption of history, the distortion of values, the evils of rationalism, the drying of spiritual resources, the futility of artificial stimulants like wine and sex and inevitability of decay and death. The image of Christ - the Tiger in place of the "babe in the manger" - is very effective. It is the stern warning to our political and social leaders that Christ - the Tiger will destroy the sinner. This myth heightens the contrast between the vital past and the barren present.

      Newman's "Gerontion": The poem may be compared with Cardinal Newman's The Dream of Gerontion. In that piece, the hero is a man of faith who looks to the end with joy. He accepts suffering because it would purge him of impurities. His sufferings and miseries become bearable on account of his faith in God. Therefore, he faces death with calm and serenity. Eliot's Gerontion lacks faith. He is a victim of modern civilization, its scientific knowledge and commercial spirit. His sufferings lead no where; they do not mean the salvation of soul. His old age is symbolic of the decay of the modern civilization. Stephen Spender writes in his book Destructive Element, "Gerontion is an old man, empty of desire and whose activities are over, save for the 'thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season'. He corresponds to Tiresias in The Waste Land. His age, in the life of a single man, is an old as Western Civilization in the life of Civilizations (between 70 and 80), so he is particularly well qualified to be a sympathetic observer."

      Impersonality of the Hero: Gerontion is a representative figure of the modern civilization. He has no character of his own. F.R. Leavise remarks "Gerontion has rally a dramatic detachment. In this respect it represents a great advance upon anything printed earlier in Poems 1909-1925. Prufrock and Portrait of a Lady are concerned with the directly personal embarrassments, disillusions and distresses of a sophisticated young man. It is not a superficial difference that Gerontion has for persona an old man embodying a situation remote from that of the poet. From a position far above his immediate concerns as a particular individual, projecting himself as it were, into a comprehensive and representative human consciousness, the poet contemplates human life and asks what it all comes to.... Gerontion has the impersonality of great poetry.

      The impersonality of the hero is so pervasive that it almost becomes an abstraction. He becomes a symbol of human consciousness, turning its attention on basic problems of the contemporary world and linking them with the happenings of the past. At the same time, his setting and environment is quite concrete and he has a place as a spokesman for the modern civilization.

Line-by-Line Explanation

      L. 1-16. (Gerontion, an old man of the modem world gives his impressions about his life and modern civilization)

I am here, an old man expecting rain in a dry month; I listen to the words of the boy who reads to me. I was neither a participant in the battle at the "hot gates," nor fought in the hot regions where it rained heavily nor stood in the salty marsh-land. I did not fight with a sword or was bitten by flies. My house is old and decayed. The land-lord is a Jew who sits on the window ledge. The Jew was born in some restaurant in Antwerp. He wasted his time in Brussels and was dressed up in London. The goat coughs at night in the field. I am surrounded by rocks, moss, plants, iron railings and human filth. There is a woman who looks after the kitchen, makes tea for me, she has a bad cold in the evening and cleans the gutter. I live in such dirty surroundings; I have a dull head and feel the spiritual emptiness of life.

      L. 17-32. In this age, 'signs' are regarded as wonders. The Jews had asked for a sign at the birth of Christ. The sign was given. Christ appeared in this world; the "word" was made flesh. First Christ was a small infant, the embodiment of God but unable to speak the word and surrounded by dark forces. In due course of time Christ became a young man and ultimately a great force like a Tiger. In the month of May; dogwood and chestnut, flowering Judas replace the old Christian rituals (In the place of a good society nourished by the Christian sacrament which can become a source of life and vigor, Gerontion has a close look at the rootless modern people entirely cut off from the vitality of a living faith). Mr. Silvero, a great artist examines the images in the Limoges Shrine. He is aware only of their surface-structure and not their significance. His loving hands which touch these objects of art do not show a heart full of love. Similarly, Flakagawa, another artist who examines the paintings of Titian overlooks the tradition which inspired such works of art. Madame De Tornquist has perverted the Christian faith into the calling of spirits, with the help of candles. Fraulein Aon Kulp, a young modern woman has come to the hall of worship, but she is standing at the door to run away when she can. Modern men are like vacant shuttles disturbing the wind. In their loneliness, they are overcome by formality, doubt and frustration. They lack faith and devotion. Gerontion has no faith in spiritual matters. He is an old man living in a wind-swept house, which has a vibrating knob.

      L. 33-47. After gaining modem knowledge or experience, there is no room left for faith or divine grace. Take for example the conclusions of history. History has recorded many cunning devices and make-shifts and distorted issues. It has deceived us with the ambitions of politicians who are guided by their personal interest. Man wants knowledge of his own self. But History offers him such confused and flexible events that his mind is unsatisfied. Man's craving for self-knowledge remains unsatisfied. History gives too late what cannot be believed in, or if believed can be regarded as memory or second-hand experience. If a sentimental interpretation is put on historical events, it distorts hard realities. Neither fear nor courage can save us from the vices of modern civilization. Unnatural vices are caused by heroism; our crimes sometimes lead to good and virtuous results. The tears of war are like tears of Adam (remorse) after he had taken the fruit of the Forbidden Tree.

      L. 48-60. In this picture of modern civilization, we have a vision of Christ the Tiger who represents spiritual regeneration. Christ the Tiger will punish us for our sins. We have not been able to reach any conclusion. I live and decay in a rented house. Just consider that I have not revealed my thoughts purposelessly and they are not inspired by the desire of devils inside me. I would like to be frank and honest with you. I (Gerontion) who was at one time very close to your heart have now moved far distant. I now look upon your beauty as a thing of terror. I regard the Church as a place of punishment. I have lost my passion (or faith); why should I have kept it when it is so much polluted. My physical powers namely the sense of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch have deteriorated and as such I cannot have any physical contact with you.

      L. 61-75. These thoughts along with a thousand small ideas passed through my mind. They prolong the satisfaction of passion,' which has cooled down. They excite the feeling of sex, with the help of medicines and artificial devices like the reflections of naked bodies in a number of mirrors. But how long will the spider's weave last? How can you prevent the destruction of the devouring insect? Will the modern man like the spider suspend weaving the web of financial gains. Will De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel be whirled into space, after their death, and blown into bits as they go beyond the constellation of the "shuddering Bear" The pathetic lot of the modern individual who will perish along with his guilty fellow-men appears like the plight of the sea-Gulf, helplessly blown in the wind and finally thrown downwards to destruction - "While feathers in the snow" - claimed by the Gulf. The trade winds swell into a destructive tempest and drive the old man to a shelter in dark corner. Ultimately he too will decay and be destroyed. These are the thoughts of Gerontion arising out of a barren brain in a sterile season.


L. 1 & 2. "Here I am....waiting for rain."; These two lines have been taken from the life of Edward Fitzgerald. N.C. Benson mentions that Gerald was "sitting in dry month, old and blind being read to by a boy, longing for rain."

L. 1. Dry Month: Spiritual dryness of modern Europe.

L. 2. Rain: Divine grace or spiritual health and regeneration.

L. 3. Hot gates: Name of a Greek city - "Thermopylae." Therm means heat. Pylae means gate therefore hot gates.

Thermopylae was the place where several battles took place.

L. 4. Fought: Fighting between the native peopleland the foreign adventures and settlers.

L. 4. Warm rain: Refers to the adventures of Europe's settlers who went to warm countries for selfish and commercial interests.

L. 5. Salt marsh: Boggy and saltish land when European settlers went for exploitation of the natural wealth of such countries.

L. 5. Heaving: Fighting with excitement.

L. 6. Bitten by flies: Refers to the unhealthy surroundings in the colonies where the European settlers have to undergo severe hardships, "fly-bites."

L. 7. Decayed house: (i) The weak and decaying body of Gerontion, (ii) the house in which Gerontion lives, (iii) the spiritual decay of modem civilization.

L. 8. Jews: The miserly owner of building. Squats: sits. Still: shelf, projection.

L. 9. Spawned: Born. Estaminet: brothel or restaurant. Antwerp: name of a city in Europe.

L. 10. Blistered: Pimpled. This refers to physical and spiritual decay. Patched and peeled: this refers to the superficial culture, window-dressing of Western civilization.

L. 11. The goat: A symbol of sound health and potency, symbol of sex. Coughs at night: diseased, unhealthy, lost its vigor.

L. 12. Rock: Stands for spiritual dryness. Moss: Sand for corruption and filth.

Stonecroft: A dirty plant. Merds: Human excreta.

All these signs indicate dirtiness and rottenness of modem civilization.

L. 14. Poking: Cleaning. Peevish: obstinate. Sneezes: indicates that the cook is not keeping good health.

L. 13 & 14. The women keeps.....peevish gutter: The female cook is also unhealthy and suffering from a bad cold. She keeps busy in cleaning the drain pipes.

L. 16. Gerontion is taxing his brain to find out if there is anything worthwhile in modern civilization. He feels strongly the spiritual barrenness of modern civilization.

L. 16. Dull head: Being old, Gerontion's thoughts are idle. Windy spaces: plains, over which the wind blows and where nothing grows.

L. 17. Sign: Proofs. People want proof of divine power. Without faith such signs are only substitutes for miracle. We would see a sign: cry of Pharisees asking Christ to perform a miracle in order to prove his divinity. Under the conditions of modern life, people want a rational and scientific proof for everything.

L. 18. The word within a word: This refers to Christ. Christ gave man the message of God. Unable to speak a word: refers to Christ as an infant.

L. 19. Swaddled: Clothed. Christ bore the burden of this dark and corrupt world. Jevescence: Spring. The period of revival of life in Nature.

L. 20. Christ the Tiger: William Blake has referred to Christ as the Tiger, the destroyer of evil.

L. 21. Depraved: Unhealthy, corrupt. May: refers to the period of Renaissance. Dogwood and chestnut: two flowers symbolic of sensuality. Flowering judas: a flower symbolizing treachery. Judas was a traitor who betrayed Christ.

L. 22. To be eaten: This refers to the Christian ritual, in which bread which represents the body of Christ is eaten by Christians. To be divided: to be distributed among the congregation. To be drunk this refers to the wine which represents the blood of Christ, being drunk by the devotees in memory of the crucification of Christ.

L. 23. Among whispers: It refers to corruption and underhand dealings. This indicates that Christian ceremonies are held mechanically and without any faith in it. As such, Christian rituals are useless.

L.24. Caressing hands: Loving hands. This refers to Mr. Silvero a man of artistic taste, who visits a holy shrine like Limoges in France. He has no love or faith in the images. He touches them superficially without realizing their moral and spiritual significance. In the modern age, the artist cannot appreciate the spiritual significance of a work of religious art.

L. 26. By Nakagawa, bowing among the Titians: Silvero walks and thinks of the statues and images he has seen. Without faith his appreciation of the statues can only be half-hearted and superficial.

L. 27. By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room: This Japanese artist shows appreciation of only a great painter namely Titian. He does not understand the tradition and the significance of the art of Titian, and his great paintings.

L. 28 & 29. Shifting the candles....on the door. She is fond of calling spirits of dead persons with the help of candles. Such spiritual adventure shows lack of real faith in Christianity. This lady instead of raising herself spiritually, kept busy in calling up spirits which is opposed to the Christian faith.

L. 29. Who turned....Shuttles. This refers to the presence of Fraulein Von Kulp at one of the spiritual seances half-timid and half-willing to see the show. She keeps her hand on the door to run away in case of need.

L. 29 & 30. Vacant shuttles weave the wind: This refers to unproductive nature of modern civilization. There is utter spiritual barrenness.

Note. The examples of persons given above show the futile attempts of modern human-beings to understand the mystery of the universe. Without true faith and God's grace spiritual knowledge cannot be obtained. Gerontion, being an old man weaves his airy fancies and recalls insignificant memories. Eliot thinks that God's mystery can be revealed only to those who have faith and devotion.

L. 30. I have no ghosts: I have no faith in the supernatural or spiritual world. He does not believe in spiritual values.

L. 31. Draughty house: Wind-swept house through which currents of air pass.

L. 32. Windy knob: Refers to the opening mechanism of the door which is disturbed by gusts of wind. Gerontion is recalling his memories in his house, disturbed by strong currents of wind.

L. 33. Knowledge: Rational knowledge, scientific knowledge or knowledge of history. What forgiveness. Refers to the needed of faith in God or spiritual knowledge. Forgiveness refers to seeking of God's grace which is necessary for a Christian but which has no place in the modem scientific world.

L. 34. Cunning passages: Treacherously manipulated intrigues. Contrived: built-in, manipulated. Corridors: links.

L. 35. Issues: Results; Whispering ambitions: the ambitions of politicians which are not communicated to the public.

L. 36. Guides us by vanities: History is made by ambitions and passions of kings and politicians.

L. 37. She: history. When our attention is distracted: when the minds of men are unable to understand the direction and purpose of passing events. Distracted: confused.

L. 38. She gives: Results and implications of the knowledge of history.

Supple: Things which can be twisted; flexible.

Confusions: Lack of direction and purpose in historical events.

L. 39. Giving: Knowledge furnished by history. Famishes: starves, reduces. The craving: the desire for knowledge. The knowledge of history defeats its own purpose because instead of clarifying issues or events, it distorts and confuses them.

L. 39 & 40. Gives too late what's not believed in: History furnishes us with conclusions which cannot be accepted at such a late stage.

L. 40 & 41. If till believed, in memory only: The conclusions of history if accepted and not used they become past events which can be recalled to memory.

L. 41. Reconsidered passion: History has furnished a new interpretation of the sacrifice of Christ. Christ is not a living reality today

L. 41 & 42. Gives too soon into weak hands: Historians are unable to convince other about their conclusions, as such their ideas have no impact or influence on the people.

L. 43. Till the refusal propagates a fear: The refusal refers to the rejection of faith. Lack of faith results in fear.

L. 44. Neither fear....unnatural vices: Our fear and courage are unable to save us because they are directed to wrong ends.

L. 44 & 45. Neither fear....Virtues: Heroism on the war front leads to many rimes and sex perversities. A part from blood-shed war led to sex excesses.

L. 45. Virtues: Good results of war.

L. 46. Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes: Our crimes produced sometimes unexpected results like new inventions or birth of a new nation.

L. 47. These tears: Refers to the tears of Adam after he had eaten the forbidden fruit. Wrath-bearing tree: Tree of knowledge which brought upon him the anger of God. The knowledge of history is like the fruit of the Forbidden Tree that brings nothing but suffering and destruction.

L. 48. The tiger: Christ, Springs: Jumps. This refers to the vitality and strength of the Christian religion. The revival of Christianity will give the modern world courage and new blood. New Year: the second coming of Christ, or the resurrection of Christ mentioned in the Bible. Us: we the sinners and unbelievers. Devours: destroys. Here the reference is to the sin of the modern man who suffers for the lack of spiritual strength.

Think at last: This refers to the need of the modern world for spiritual food in a Godless civilization. Gerontion realizes the decline of religious spirit in modern Europe.

L. 49. We have not reached conclusion: Gerontion has not been able to finish his assessment of the sources of spiritual decay.

L. 50. Stiffen: grow cold or decay, rented house: Gerontion lives in a rented house. It also means the body; we have to pay compensation for life in this world in the form of faith.

L. 51. Show: Self-examination or self-assessment.

L. 52. Con citation: conspiracy or evil designs.

L. 53. Backward devils: Devils or evil spirits prompting him from inside.

L. 54.1 would....honestly: I would like to be very frank with you with regard to the causes of the loss of faith.

L. 55.1 that was....removed therefrom: was a true Christian at one time full of faith and devotion but I am far removed from Christianity.

L. 56. To lose beauty in terror: Men loved God as an embodiment of beauty. This love has changed into fear of God on account of man's fear of God' punishment for his sins.

Terror in Inquisition: Inquisition was the court of the Catholic Church which punished men for their religious crimes like heresy: Christians are turning away from their religion because they are afraid of the punishment of the Ecclesiastical Court.

L. 57. Passion: Refers to faith or devotion: feeling. The other meaning is that on account of old age, he has lost the physical vitality for sex.

L. 58. Adulterated: Faith is debased by the modern spirit of materialism and corruption. The other meaning is that he can enjoy sex only with the help of certain medicines or other means because he has grown old.

L. 59. I have lost taste and touch: I am physically dead.

L. 60. How should....l contact: Gerontion is unable to use his sense for his spiritual progress. In the midst of modern civilization, he is unable to have any communication with God. Closer contact: Some critics feel that this has a reference to his beloved on account of old age, he is sexually impotent and as such cannot have physical satisfaction with his beloved.

L. 61. These: Refers to the physical senses; Deliberations: devices or methods.

L. 62. Protract Prolong or increase. The profit: the satisfaction. Chilled delirium: passion which has cooled down.

L. 63. Excite the membrane: passion; to stimulate sexual appetite. Sense has cooled: physical vigor has declined.

L. 64. Pungent: delicious, Sauces devices, medicines.

L. 64 & 65. Multiply variety in a wilderness of mirrors: This has reference to Ben Jonson's play entitled The Alchemist where Sir Epicure Mammon planned a hall full of mirrors to reflect the naked bodies of his mistresses and thereby excited his sexual passion, (i) such devices are used by old men to stimulate their sexual appetite. (ii) these lines (61 to 65) may be intended to cover the modern man who has lost faith in God but wishes to revive the candle of faith by taking shelter under some fashionable philosophy or cult.

L. 65. Spider: Like the spider's web such efforts will not last long. Spiritual decay is bound to come inspite of the new philosophies of rationalism, communism and science.

L. 66. Suspend its operation: The spider will not discontinue weaving the web. Such experiences and devices can not delay the spiritual decline. The other meaning is that sexual decay cannot be prevented by artificial devices.

Weevil: An insect which eats away things. Spiritual decay is certain.

L. 67. De....Whirled: Names of real people whose bodies after death were broken into atoms and scattered in outer spaces.

L. 68-69. This has the reference to Chapman's play entitled "Bussy D' Ambois" in which the dying hero namely Bussy asks his fame to warn heaven of his coming; Shuddering Bear: The constellation of "The Great Bear."

L. 69. Fractured: broken. Gull: a sea bird.

L. 68-69. Beyond the circuit...the windy straits. Gerontion feels that universe will dissolve and the modern man will be shattered to pieces and his atoms will be scattered through outer space.

L. 69-70. Gull....Isle: Gerontion compares the meaningless routine or the activity of the modern man to the helplessness of the sea-bird who struggles against the storm in the straits of Belle. Isle which is an island in the North Atlantic.

L. 70. Horn: Cape Horn, currents in the North Atlantic.

L. 71. While feathers in the snow: These are the remains of the sea bird who dies after a fruitless struggle with the snow-storm. The Gulf claims the Gulf stream which is a current running under the Atlantic ocean.

L 72. An old man: Gerontion refers to himself. Driven by the Trade, compelled by the trade winds i.e. by the forces of modern civilization.

L 73. To a sleepy corner: To a fruitless end and turned to sleep.

L. 74. Tenants of the house: modern people have no permanent sheet anchor. They are like tenants, who move from place to place. They are routeless lot.

L. 75. Gerontion has revealed his barren thought to his fellow men.

      Conclusion: The poem is an embodiment of the popular discontent caused by the first world war and the wave of disillusionment which swept Europe. Modern civilization has reached a breaking point; the process of disintegration and dissolution has set in. It is therefore impossible to prevent the collapse of civilization. All plans to salvage it are like the spider's web which will snap at any moment. Eliot's strong belief is that civilization can be saved if it revives its Christian faith and follows the moral values of church.

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