Versification of The Waste Land.

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       Music of ideas : Eliot has keen sense of music and his rhythm is adjusted to the mood or feeling reflected in the poem. I.A. Richards calls this aspect of versification as "music of ideas" By this, he means that the lines which contain the impression and ideas of Tiresias, the protagonist, are majestic, solemn and slow, while containing the dialogues of waste landers are colloquial, light and swift. There is a shift from past to the present, from serious to light, from heavy to flippant and this change is reflected in the versification. For example, the meditations of Tiresias which are grave and slow, stand in sharp contrast to the conversation of German princess which is light and informal.


      Often the change of rhythm reflects the contrast between the internal and the external. For example, the pomp and splendour of the ladies drawing room is a code in the majestic and soft moving lines of the poem. These are followed by the conversation of the lady with the love over and the emptiness ot the life is conveyed in the colloquial and nervous outbursts. As the poet says in The Waste Land:


"My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad, Stay with me

Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak."


      Flexibility of versification : Eliot has made a skilful use of short and long lines. According to needs of context, conventional iambic metre has been modified by the sudden jump of thought; the rhythm-scheme is not regular. Words and phrases are repeated to carry mental blankness and emptiness of life. This breaking-up of words, represents symbolically the disintegration of modern civilization. Use of alliteration and onomatopoeia heightens the musical effect of the poem.


      Variety of music : (i) The poem contains the different kinds of music. Apart from the music of the nightingale and the hermit-thrush, there is the pathetic song of the daughters of the Thames. There is music of church clock mixed up with the gay tune of the mandoline played in the pub. Then there is the music of waters which is different from the music of the grass singing in the wind. The world of music of the barren rocks have a solemn note.

(ii) Eliot is alike to the music of the streets and roads of London. He makes a reference to The Tempest where Ferdinand hears the music of water. The music of the clouds is different from the sea waves.


      Eliot jumps from the Italian shore to the Queen Victoria Street in London. There is the shift in time and in setting as we are in twentieth century London and in a public bar where the fishermen clap and sing at noon. The rhythm of the first line is in contrast to that of the fifth and sixth lines. Later on, the poet refers to the old church with its beautiful paintings in white and gold. In this connection, a critic writes: "This musical passagae demonstrates how closely the rhythm and the music of poetry are linked with the sense, and how numerous are the interlocking elements which are moulded into unity by the metrical power of poet." The rhyme 'hold and gold' give a unity to the music of the stanza. Another example of a musical mood is that of crazy suffering refugee who in her agony whisphered music on her hair as if he was playing on the strings of a fiddle.


University Questions also can be answered..

1. Write a note on Eliot's style and diction as evident from The Waste Land.

2. "Eliot is a great metrical artist." Analyse the statement with reference to The Waste Land.

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