The Fire Sermon: by T. S. Eliot - Summary & Analysis

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       The title Fire Sermon is borrowed from the sermon of Lord Buddha wherein he said that the world is on fire, "burning with the fire of hatred, with the fire of infatuation, with birth, old age, and death, sorrow lamentation and misery, grief and despair". All these are on fire. The pith (essence) of this section is that lust burns up life. One can conquer lust by suffering and pain, by passing through the fire. This is opposed to the modern idea that sex should be enjoyed without any regulation. Oscar Wilde puts it thus: "The only way of resisting temptation is yielding to it."

The title is borrowed from the sermon of Lord Buddha wherein he said that the world is on fire, "burning with the fire of hatred, with the fire of infatuation, with birth, old age and death, sorrow lamentation and misery, grief and despair". All these are on fire.
The Fire Sermon


      Sex orgies: Tiresias describes the scene on the river Thames in the autumn season. The river is now deserted. There are only vestiges of summer parties, when rich businessmen held picnics on the river banks. The pollution of the river stands for spiritual degeneration of the modern man and his civilization. As the protagonist stands on the river bank, he hears the merry sounds of London crowds and the sounds of motor horns, calling girls to their lovers. London is an unreal city full of sexual perversion. The man of business and commerce Mr. Eugenides has come to London. He is interested in enjoying sex relationship in the hotel.

      In the evening, when the typist girl comes home from the office, she waits for her lover. He comes after dinner and enjoys with the girl. The girl is indifferent but feels relieved after the sex act. It is the kind of animal-like sex which modern young men and women have.

      As Tiresias moves through the streets of London, he hears music coming from a tavern. Here the fishermen and sailors are having a good time.

      Sex on the river: Along with oil and tar there is sex on the river Thames. In earlier days Elizabeth and her lover had pleasure excursions on the river. Now the daughters of Thames give stories of their seduction. the three girls-first from Richmond, the second from Moorgate and the third from Margate sands tell their stories of rape. Such people have nothing to complain as this is a common occurrence on the river and its banks.


      Scene at the river bank (Line. 173-186): The holiness of the Thames river has come to an end. The last leaves of the autumn season fall on the bank and sink into the water. The wind blows over the brown-colored land unheard. The nymphs who used to play on the river bank, have gone away. The poet addresses the sweet Thames and requests her to flow softly, till he finishes his song. At the time, the river does not carry empty bottles and sandwich papers and silk handkerchiefs and cardboard boxes and cigarette ends or any other remnant of the picnics held on summer nights. The young girls have disappeared as also their friends and lovers who are the wandering successors of executives of city firms who will not come again to the river I sat down by the waters of the dirty river-Leman and wept. Sweet Thames, run softly till I finish my song. Sweet Thames, run gently; I shall not speak either loud or long. At my back the cold wind which blows, brings to my ear the sound of the bones and the coarse laughter from people nearby. (Tiresias hears the shouts of Londoners and their fitful laughter).

      Vulgarisation of business (Line. 187-206): A rat moved softly through the grass dragging its dirty belly on the bank, while I, Tiresias, was fishing in the stagnant water of the canal, on a winter evening behind the gas house. I was reflecting upon the fate of the King mentioned in The Tempest and on the king who was my father. I began think of the white body which was lying naked on the low damp ground and the bones of skeleton thrown in a little low garret, which was disturbed by the foot of the rat from year to year. Now I hear from time to time sound of horns and motors at my back, which is the signal from Sweeney to Mrs. Porter for meeting in the spring. The light of the moon shows brightly on Mrs. Porter and her daughter. They wash their feet in soda water in place of natural water. At this time, I hear the song of Verlaine which mentions the purity and holiness of children's choir singing of the Holy Grail. I also hear the song of Philomela turned into a nightingale. Her pathetic story is presented as a case of barbarous rape.

      Vulgarisation of industry and commerce (Line. 207-214): London is a commercial city under the brown fog of a winter noon. Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant, comes unshaven with a pocket full of dried grapes. He also carries business and shipping documents. He asked me (Tiresias) in French slang to lunch at the Cannon Street hotel to be followed by a weekend of enjoyment at the Metropole hotel.

      Mechanical sex relations of a working girl (Line. 215-256): In the evening, when it is time for offices to close, the girl-typist rises from the seat and gets to leave the office. She is like a taxi, throbbing and waiting. I, Tiresias, though blind, hovering between two lives, and old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see in the evening, how people go homeward, the sailor coming home from the sea and typist returning to her room at tea time. She clears her breakfast table (which she has not cleared in hurry in the morning), lights her stove and prepares her meal out of the tins of foodstuffs. Out on the window are spread her undergarments touched by the sun's last rays. On the divan which she uses as her bed at night are heaped stockings, slippers, and embroidered bodices and brassieres. I, Tiresias, an old man with shrunken breasts, surveyed the scene and forecast what was to follow. I too, had once awaited for the expected guest. A young man with a pimpled face arrives at this place. He is a house agent's clerk who is adventurous but rather self-confident. His assurance and firmness appear like a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire. The young man knows that he has come at the right time. The typist girl has finished her dinner. She is bored and tired. The boy starts making love to the girl and his advances are not rejected, though not desirable. Getting greatly excited and passionate, the boy decides to perform the sex act. His excited hands meet with no defense from the girl. The boy feels happy because the girl is indifferent and his vanity is also not injured. (I, Tiresias, have suffered all this on the same divan or bed. I have sat by Thebes below the wall and walked amongst the lowest of the dead.) The young man gives one final kiss and finds his way through the unlit stairs out of the house. The typist girl turns her head and looks for a moment in the mirror. She is hardly aware of the departure of the lover. Her brain is busy in one half-formed thought. Now that the thing is done; she is glad that it is over. When a lovely woman stoops to folly (this is a line from Goldsmith's The Vicar Wakefield), she must realize the consequences. The typist girl walks in the room again all alone. She smoothens her hair with her hands and mechanically puts a record on the gramophone.

      Varieties of entertainments (Line. 257-265): This music crept by me upon the waters-(a line from Shakespeare's The Tempest) and along the busy Strand upto Queen Victoria street. Oh London city! I can sometimes hear a different type of music (different from the gramophone record) the pleasant tune of a mandoline beside a public bar near Lower Thames street, disturbed by the clatter of forks and the conversation of fishermen relaxing themselves in the pub at noon. Nearby stands the church of Magnous Martyr which has beautiful paintings in white and gold on its walls.

      The song of Thames (Line. 266-278): The water of the river is covered with oil and tar. The barges move with the turning tide; the red sails swing on the heavy span (mast or pole), towards the sheltered side. The arges wash drifting logs of wood down towards Green-wich, pass the isle of Dogs as the music of Wagner's Opera comes from the river bank. 

      Elizabeth's cruise on the Thames (Line. 279-291): Queen Elizabeth and her lover the Earl of Leicester row a pleasure boat on the Thames river. The stern of the boat had the shape of a shining shell of red and gold color. The brisk waves produced ripples on both the banks of the river. The Southwest wind carried the boat down-stream. The sounds of the bell could be heard from the white towers situated on the river bank. The music from Wagner's Opera comes from the houses situated on the river bank.

      Sex exploitation in low society (Line. 292-311): The girls who live on the banks of the river Thames, relate their sex experiences. The first daughter of the river Thames was born at Highbury which is full of trams and dusty trees. She visited Richmond and Kent which are picnic spots on the bank of the river. At Richmond, she was criminally assaulted by a man while she was lying on her back on the floor of a small boat.

      The second daughter of the Thames was ravished at Moor-gate. After the act, the man felt repentant and wept. He promised to reform himself. The girl has no regrets. This is a part of her life.

      The third daughter of the Thames was ravished on the Margate sands. She does not remember anything. She compares herself to the broken fingernails of the dirty hands which are useless. Her parents are poor and expect nothing. A tune from wagner's Opera can be heard on the river bank. The section ends with five lines from St. Augustine's Confessions where he refers to his visit to Carthage. The city was burning with lust. In his grace, God saved him. The idea is that prayer and God's grace can alone save the modern man from the fire of lust and evils of modern civilization.


      Lines 173-186. The river's tent.......from ear to ear. The Thames river was at one time a holy and joyful place. The river's sacredness has been shattered by modern civilization. The trees on the river bank shed the leaves in the autumn season which either sink into water or flow into the river. No one listens to the music of the wind as it blows over the vegetation on the bank. The fairies who used to play on the river banks have now disappeared. The reference is to Spenser's allusion to sweet Thames in one of his poems. At one time the river carried no empty bottles, no sandwich papers, no silk handkerchiefs, no cardboard paper, no cigarette ends, or other proof of picnics during summer nights. This indicates that now-a-days the river offers ample evidence on the remnants of picnic parties. The fairies of old have vanished. Now the river is visited not by fairies but their friends. The modern executives and directors of companies there for short periods for enjoyment and will not come again. The poet sits on the river bank and looks at the water of the river and cannot help weeping. What a great change now! The sweet Thames and its old associations are no more. Instead there is the pollution of the river and the contamination of its surrounding. The poet refers to the waters of Leman. The reference is to lake Leman where Bonnivard, the patriot was imprisoned. The other reference is to the fire of lust as the word "Leman" means a mistress or a prostitute. The poet laments the change of surroundings and old values. Instead of the gentle music of the water of the sweet Thames, he hears the sounds of the laughter of young men and women enjoying life which sounds to him like the rattling of bones. The laughter of the modern sensualist is a jarring and unpleasant as the jingling and clashing of the bones.

      The Fire Sermon: The title has a reference to Buddha's famous sermon which is popularly known as the fire sermon. According to Buddha "the whole world is one fire of hatred, fire of infatuation, world's old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief and despair" St. Augustine, the Christian monk has made a similar confession of his youthful temptation. He said: "To Carthage, then, I came where a Cauldron of unholy loves sang all about my ears." both pieces refer excessive sex craving is continence, without discipline; sexual appetite will ruin both men and women.

L. 173. The river: This refers to the Thames, tent: tabernacle or holy place.

L.174. Clutch: grip.

L. 175. the brown land: It refers to the brown grass of the river bank in autumn. Thenylnphs: fairies (mentioned by Spenser) who visited the sweet Thames. It has a reference to young maidens plucking flowers on the river bank.

L. 176. Sweet Thames: It has reference to Spenser's Prothalamion.

L. 177. empty bottles: This refers to the bottles of drink which have thrown into the water, after the picnic, sandwich papers: papers in which sandwiches are packed and after the picnics, papers are thrown into the river.

L. 178. Silk handkerchiefs.....ends: These are the remnants of the picnic.

L. 179. testimony: proof or evidence. Summer nights: Excursions held on nights; in summer. The nymphs: the word stands for modern girls.

L. 180. Friends: lovers. The loitering heirs of city directors: Young men of wealthy parents who are directors of firms.

L. 181. Left no Addressess: Young men's association with girls has been temporary.

L. 182. Waters of Leman: This phrase means lust. The meaning of word Leman is mistress or prostitute.

L. 185-186. But at my.....ear to ear: Tiresias hears the noise of Londoners like a rattle of bones and their course laughter. This is an indication of merry-making, spiritual barrenness of the crowd of London.

L. 187-214. A rat crept softly.....weekend at the Metropole. The poet now refers to another scene: fishing near the river. The poet tries to fish in the canal behind the gas house, where a rat creeps near him. Instead of finding a fish, he comes across an ugly rat. This reminds him of the story of Ferdinand where the King was exiled by his brother who usurped his throne. The real king may be compared to a fish while the usurping king may be compared to a rat.

      Today the scene of the river bank is very depressing. White naked bodies can be seen on the buildings of the bank. They are disturbed by the rats to be found on the bank. Today the roads along the bank are full of motor cars; the hooting of the horns is a signal for Mrs. Porter to meet her lover Sweeney. The face of Mrs. Porter shines under the moonlight. She is accompanied by her daughter. They wash their feet not in the river water but in soda water. The sound of the church music brings dirty thoughts to the man.

      He would like to debauch the innocent children singing in the choir. This song is followed by the song of the nightingale. Her song which appeared sweet to people in ancient time now is considered as a call for sexual enjoyment. The poet calls London the unreal city because unbelievable things happen in this town. Rape, lust and cheating go on without any hindrance. The poet recalls a scene in London in the fog of a winter noon when he meets Mr. Eugenides, a merchant from Smyrna, who is ugly and unshaven. His pocket is full of samples of currants and business documents. He stays at Cannon Street hotel and spends the weekend at the Metropole hotel. Both the hotels were notorious for sex perversions including homosexual contacts. The merchant invites the poet to lunch. The merchant of today has his eyes on lust and money

L. 188. Slimy: muddy (the ugly rat represents the sordidness of contemporary life.)

L. 189. fishing: it stands for fertility or regeneration, dull: stagnant water.

L. 191-192. Musing upon.....before him: Tiresias reflects like Ferdinand in The Tempest who is grief-stricken at the loss of his father. Tiresias bemoans the loss of old ideals and values in the modern wasteland. This has also a reference to King Fisher in the old story who was grief-stricken at his own impotency.

L. 193. White bodies.....ground: This refers to the bodies of naked girls in compromising positions an the bank of the river.

L. 194. And bones.....dry garret: the bones are symbolic of the spiritual sterility and barrenness of modern life.

L. 195. Rattled by.....year to year: This may be compared to lines 115-116 in The Game of Chess.

L. 196. But at my.....time I hear: This has a reference to Parliament of Bees by John Bay.

L. 197. The sound of horns and motors: Instead of horns of hunters one now hears the horns of motor cars.

L. 198. Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring: The sounding of the horn is a signal for Sweeney to meet Mrs. Porter. This symbolizes the criminal passions of modern people.

L. 199-201. O the moon....soda water: There is an ironic contrast between Diana bathing herself in the river and Mrs. Porter and her daughter of modern times washing themselves with soda water to make their skins fairer and therefore more sexually attractive for their lovers.

L. 2O2. Et O coupole: The meaning of the French word is: "O these children's voices singing in the choir." According to the old story; Sir Parsifal while in search of holy grail reaches Chapel Perilous where he hears the chorus song of children. Instead of being inspired by the holy song his sexual passions are aroused as she sees children. This is symbolic of perversion of values and moral decay.

L. 203-206. Twit twit.... Teren: The song of the nightingale does not carry to the ears of the modern wastelanders, her tragedy and transformation through suffering. To them the song is an account of her rape. For them it is a common incident of life. There is nothing to worry about such a case of rape. (Please refer to lines 99 to 104 which tell the story of Philomel).

L. 207. Unreal City: This refers to London. See line 60.

L. 208. Under the brown....winter moon: Tiresias now reflects on the commercialization and sex perversion rampant in London.

L. 210. Unshaven: unclean, currants: dry grapes.

L. 211. C. i.f: carriage and insurance free. Document at sight: document of goods are to be exchanged for a bank draft payable at sight.

L. 212. Demotic: corrupt.

L. 213-214. To luncheon....the Metropole: These two hotels are known for sexual corruption.

      L. 215-256. At the violet hour....on the gramophone. Eliot now gives another instance of mechanical sex relationship. The girl typist who works in the office, rises from the desk in the evening. Her daily routine of drudgery is now over. She is like a human machine, like a throbbing taxi. Tiresias the protagonist gives us the picture of the typist. He has personal experience of such girls as he has led two lives, as a man and as a woman. The typist gets home prepares her tea. cleans dishes and then prepares the dinner. She collects the clothes drying on the cloth-line hanging outside the window and she arranges them. Tiresias visualizes the scene in the girl's room as she waits for her lover. He is a young clerk of a house-agent who has a look of confidence but he is actually nervous. He is compared to a Bradford millionaire with a silk head. He has no culture or inner confidence. He approaches the typist and knows that she is bored. He starts the game of love. He is not disappointed by the girl. She is indifferent to his love-game. After completing his sex-act, the clerk gives a farewell kiss and goes downstairs. The girl has gone through mechanical sex. She has no sense of regret. She gets up and looks at the mirror and arranges her hair. She is glad that the sex-act is over. Eliot refers to the seduced girl in. The Vicar of Wakefield who is full of shame and repentance. In the past, loss of chastity was considered worst than death for a girl. But in the modem age it is a mechanical routine. The girl after the sex-act looks towards the mirror mechanically and puts her record on the gramophone.

L. 215. Violet hour: Evening time.

L. 216. Turn upward from the desk: to leave the office at the closing hour. Human engine: typist-girl.

L. 217. Like a taxi throbbing waiting: The typist girl is compared to a taxi whose machine is on but is waiting for a customer to get in.

L. 218.1 Tiresias....two lives: One who has an experience of life both as male and female. According to tradition. Tiresias led two lives, one as a male and the other as a female. Tiresias puts himself into the

L. 219. Old man....can see: Tiresias is an old man, whose chest has shrunk and looks like wrinkled female breasts.

L. 220. At the violet....that strives: Evening time when a working girl returns home.

L. 221. Homeward, and...from sea: This has the reference to Jenson's play entitled Requiem. This line is in the prose order as home is the sailor, home from sea".

L. 222. The typist... lights: After her return to her home, the typist girl washes the breakfast plates, which she had left unattended in a hurry to reach the office in time in the morning.

L. 223. Her tins: Takes out the food from the tins in order to prepare her dinner.

L. 224. Out of the....spread: This refers to the clothes spread on the window for drying during the day.

L. 225. Her drying.....last rays: The clothes have dried up by the evening time.

L. 226. Divan: The divan is used as a bed at night.

L. 227. Camisoles: Embroidered under-bodices. Stays: brassiers.

L. 227. Stockings, slippers, camisoles and stays: On the divan are spread the lady's clothes like stocking, slips, camisoles and stays.

L. 228. I Tiresias....wrinkled dugs: Tiresias is an old man with a shrunken chest. He compares his chest to the wrinkled breasts of a woman. (See line 219).

L. 229. Perceived the...the rest: Tiresias surveyed the scene in the typist's room and anticipated what was to follow.

L. 230. I too....guest: Tiresias has also waited like the girl for an expected guest. Tiresias led the life of a female at one time.

L. 231. Carbuncular: Pimpled. The young lover has pimples on his face.

L. 232. A small....bold stare: A man in a low position but who has a lot of self-confidence.

L. 233. One of the....assurance sits: This refers to the clerk who is a person of low status but talks with a great assurance.

L. 234. As a silk....millionaire: The low young clerk is compared to a Bradford millionaire with a silk hat. The Bradford merchants suddenly grown rich used to buy fine silk hats in order to show their fine taste and cultural background. Actually, they had no culture in their blood. The young clerk who had a lot of self-confidence, was like a wealthy person with a silk hat, but without good breeding and good family background.

L. 235. Propitious: congenial or favorable.

L. 236. The meal is ended: The girl has finished her dinner.

L. 237. Caresses: embraces. Knowing the psychology of the girl the lover makes amorous advances, feeling that the girl would respond to them.

L. 238. unreproved: acceptable; unrejected. Undesired: this refers to the feeling of the girl. The girl is not really anxious for an amorous advance but she does not mind someone making love to her because she wants relaxation.

L. 239. Flushed: passionate, excited. This refers to the young man. Decided: the young man resolved to have sex with the girl. Assaults at once: suddenly he starts the sex act.

L. 240. Exploring hands encounter no defense: The lover does not expect any resistance on the part of the girl. She is indifferent to what happens to her.

L. 241. His vanity....response: The young lover does not care if the girl does not respond actively to his amorous play.

L. 243. And makes.....indifference: The young lover is quite happy with the indifference of the girl because she does not reject his advances.

L. 243-246. Tiresias is a kind of all-knowing universal person who belongs to the past as well as to the present. He may be compared with "Narad muni" of the Indian tradition. He is a prophet who told King Oedipus of Thebes, that his land had been made desolate by his own action. He visited the underworld, Hades and other regions. Hence, Tiresias comments on the strength of his own experiences among the poor in Thebes. He could understand and explain feelings of the poor people involved in occasional sexual meetings. In the context of the modern world, mating or sex contact has become a mechanical and routine experience.

L. 247. Bestows one final patronizing kiss: The lover gives a parting kiss to the girl when he is about to leave.

L. 248. And grapes....stairs unlit: The lover leaves her home. He walks carefully as there are no lights on the steps.

L. 249. The glass: The mirror.

L. 250. Hardly aware of her departed lover: The typist girl does not really know that her lover has gone away. Her mind is vacant.

L. 251. Her brain pass: She can hardly think, she is conscious of one thing.

L. 252. Well now....over: She has a feeling of resignation for what has happened. She did not want sex. But now that it is done; she is glad that it is over. She does not feel guilty for her share in this act.

L. 253. when lovely woman stoops to folly and: This line is taken from the sad song sung by Oliva, the seduced girl in The Vicar of Wakefield by Goldsmith. Oliva was raped and she felt terribly guilty and repentant. She wanted to die.

L. 254. Paces about her room again, alone: In contrast to Oliva, the modem typist does not mind the loss of her chastity because it is not connected with morality. In modern life, sex is a part of the mechanical routine of life. The typist girl walks in her room indifferently.

L. 255. She smoothes....hand: The typist girl feels that her hair has been disarranged. So she keeps them in form by pressing her hands against them.

L. 256. And puts....gramophone: This is the usual recreation of the typist girl, she likes music played all the time in her home.

      L. 257-265. This music crept......white and gold: This gramophone music is heard by the protagonist and he walks up to the public bar in the Lower Thames street, where he hears another kind of music. It is the music of the workers in the fish market who are relaxing in the cheap hotel. They listen to the music of Mandoline which is interrupted by their spoons at noon-time. This bar is situated near an old church which has beautiful paintings in gold, hanging on its alone.

L. 257. This music....the waters: This is a line taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest. Just as Ferdinand was led by the song of Ariel, in the same way, Tiresias was led by the music of gramophone to another street in London.

L. 258. And along....Victoria Street: Stand is a road in London leading to the eastern part of the city where the poor live.

L. 259-263. O City city.....the walls: Tiresias as he reaches a public bar in lower Thames street, hears the sad tune of a mandoline, disturbed by the clashing of spoons and the conversation of the fisher-men sitting in the pub at noon. This kind of music is quite different from the gramophone music played by the typist-girl.

L. 261. Whining: sad tune. Mandolin: a string instrument.

L. 262. Clatter: sound produced by striking of spoons and forks. Chatter: gossip. Within: inside the pub.

L. 263. Lounge: take rest.

L. 264. Magnus martyr: This is the name of the church in the same street. There was a proposal for the demolition of this church. For Eliot, this was an example of spiritual degeneration.

L. 265. Inexplicable: That which cannot be described or explained. This refers to the beautiful paintings on the walls of the church. Ionian: Greek.

L. 265. The beautiful wall painting in white and gold of Ionian (Greek) style cannot be adequately explained.

L. 266-311. The river sweats.....burning: The poet now gives a picture of the river Thames. The daughters of the Thames lament the loss of their chastity and the pollution of water. The song of the first girl is about the pollution of the river. Thames caused by trades and commerce. The river water is full of oil and tar. As the boats carry goods, they pour their oil on the surface of the river. The river is dotted with a number of boats. Some barges move further, carried by the pressure of the wind on their sails. As the boasts move, they wash the logs and shift them from one bank to another. These boats remind one of the scenes of the past, when England was ruled by Queen Elizabeth. The queen and her lover - the Earl of Leicester are enjoying a pleasure trip on the river. This is a scene of love in high society. In this scene the woman is the superior, because she is a queen, whereas love-making at a lower level shows the superiority of brute male force. This royal love-making is as futile and meaningless as the rape of poor daughters of the Thames. The poet describes the majestic movements of the royal barge glittering in red and gold as it moves briskly on the water. It passes the towers situated on the river-bank.

      The scene now shifts to what happens on the river-bank to the daughters of the Thames in the modern world. The first girl who comes from Highbury tells the story of her sex experience. In her boat, she passed through Richmond and Kew. At Richmond, she was sexually assaulted by a reveler on the floor of the boat. The second girl gives a similar story of her sexual experience. She belongs to Moorgate. She was criminally assaulted by a young man. He felt repressed and promised that he would behave better. The girl felt ashamed but did not express her displeasure. She kept quiet. The third girl belongs to Moorgate sands. Eliot had been to this place. After the sexual assault, her mind was awakened. She could not remember anything. She is compared to broken fingernails of dirty hands. This shows the insignificance of the seduced girl's life. The unreal city of London, burning in the fire of lust is compared to Carthage. Carthage was called a cauldron of sensuality by St. Augustine. He prayed to God that he should be saved through His grace. As the title of this section suggests, "The Fire Sermon" refers to the universal flame of sex which is burning in this world. Buddha's fire sermon reminds one that the fire refers to the lust, hatred, and infatuation. The remedy suggested by Lord Buddha and St. Augustine for putting out this fire is self-control and moral discipline, which tames this strong desire. Eliot believes that the degeneration of the modem world is due to sex-perversion, and violation of the sanctity of sex and dignity of woman.

L. 266. Sweats: Perspires. Here it means something which floats on the water.

L. 267. Oil and tar: The water of the Thames is covered with layers of oil leaking from the boats and tar washed away from the sides of the ship. The idea is that the water of the river is polluted by ships and boats sailing on the river.

L. 268. Barges: boats. Drift: move or sail.

L. 272. Leeward: in the direction of the wind. Swing on: move. Spar: pieces of wood.

L. 273. Wash: splash with water.

L. 275. Greenwich: South bank of the river. Thames at Greenwich.

L. 276. Isle of Dogs: The river bank opposite Greenwich.

L. 277-278. Weialala.....leialala: These words are a 'refrain' of the poem.

L. 279. Elizabeth and Leicester: The scene of the boat moving on the Thames reminds the poet of the age of Queen Elizabeth. In that age, Queen Elizabeth used to go on a pleasure trip with her lover, the Earl of Leicester.

L. 280. Beating oars: rowing the boat.

L. 281. The stern: the front part of the boat.

L. 282. A gilded shell: A shining structure.

L. 284. Brisk: moving. Swell: waves.

L. 285. Rippled: produced waves.

L. 287. carried: moved.

L. 292. Trams and dusty trees: These are the symbols of civilized life in London suburbs.

L. 293. Highbury: name of the suburb in north London, where the girl was born. Richmond and Kew: Two picnic spots on the banks of the river Thames.

L. 294. Undid me: I was ravished (the first girl relates how her chastity was violated by the holiday-revellers at the picnic spot.) Raised my knees: got into the compromising position.

L. 295. Supine: lying on the back. Canoe: a small boat.

L. 296. Moorgate: a place in the eastern part of London.

L. 297. After the event: After her chastity was violated.

L. 298. He wept: The lover felt repentent, "A new start": he promised to turn a new leaf in life.

L. 299. What should I resent: Why should I repent for what had happened. (The poor girl regards rape as a common experience in life.)

L. 300. On Margate Sand: This is the sea-side picnic spot.

L. 301 & 302. I can....nothing: She does not remember what happened to her.

L. 303. The broken....dirty hands: She compares of her life to broken finger-nails which are considered useless.

L. 304. My people....who expect: The people of her community expect nothing from life. Such sexual violation and humiliation is a part of the life of the poor people.

L. 307. To Carthage then I came: It has reference to the confessions of St. Augustine. He described Carthage as the cauldron of unholy love. St. Augustine prayed for God's help to save him from the fire of lust, prevailing in Carthage.

L. 308. Burning....burning: It has the reference to Buddha's fire sermon where he said that the world is burning in the fire of lust and hatred.

L. 309-310. O Lord Thou.....pluckest: This has the reference to St. Augustine's prayer to God to take him away from the fire of lust. Ultimately St. Augustine was saved by the grace of God. (There is a difference between the attitude of Buddha and the attitude of St. Augustine. Augustine seeks God's grace for freedom from lust and is eventually saved. Buddha and his followers did not believe in God. They believed that individual moral discipline and self-control would enable them topper-come the fire of lust.

      Conclusion: Lust and rape are responsible for corruption and decay of modern society. This kind of degeneration prevails in all classes of society - the upper class, middle class and lower class. The poet prays to God to save the modern world from spiritual decay and death.

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