What The Thunder Said || Summary and Analysis

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       Introduction : The moral of the section is contained in the message proclaimed by thunder for the liberation of society from spiritual barrenness. There is a need of effort for the realisation of the spiritual goal. The first example is of the mythical journey of the knight to Chapel Perilous in the time of Fisher King who was successful in removing the curse from his land. The second is the Biblical journey of Christ's disciples to Emmaus when they were accompanied by Christ in disguise and who disclosed his identity to confirm the truth of his resurrection. In contrast to the two journeys mentioned above, we have the march of uprooted humanity driven by war and by communist revolution to no particular destination and to no peace in the end.

the mythical journey of the knight to Chapel Perilous in the time of Fisher King who was successful in removing the curse from his land. The second is the Biblical journey of Christ's disciples to Emmaus when they were accompanied by Christ in disguise and who disclosed his identity to confirm the truth of his resurrection.
What the Thunder Said

Summary :-

      Christ's crucification : The poet describes the scenes of Christ's arrest, trial and crucification. Though he was crucified, he is living forever through his religion. The modern man has killed Christ by his indifference and neglect. We live in bodies, not in the soul. We are dying by inches due to our spiritual decline.

      The arduous journey : The poet refers to journey and the hardships faced by Sir Parsifal and his followers in search of the Holy Grail. They suffer a good deal as they go up. Ghosts and demons trouble them on the way. They suffer from the pangs of thirst. Such difficulties have to be faced by those who are keen on spiritual quest.

      Hooded Christ : The poet refers to the journey of two disciples of Christ who proceeded to Emmaus to verify the fact of Christ's re-birth. One of the disciples finds a hooded figure walking along with him. This hooded person is actually Christ, who helps his followers in their spiritual quest. Unfortunately, the modern man is not inspired by such a noble and spiritual goal.

      Uprooted Humanity : The poet gives a vivid description of the ravages caused by he First World War. Masses of human beings moved in endless caravans over different parts of Europe. Civilisation was coming to an end. Death and desolation could be seen everywhere. Eastern Europe is represented as a mad-woman fiddling on her hair. Though the routine of church continues and hymns are being sung faith is no more. This is the picture of the modern wasteland. It is in direct contrast with the successful journey of the knight who reached the Chapel Perilous. The dawn, the light and the rain indicate a kind of spiritual re-birth.

      Da, 'Da', 'Da'. Eliot refers to an event in ancient Indian history when India passed through a great crisis. Drought and famine compelled people to pray to God for divine help. God spoke to them in thunder. The words Da Da Da contain the secret of man's spiritual re-birth. The first Da means Datta i.e., to give. We must dedicate ourselves to a worthwhile cause. Martyrs and saints have shown the way of spiritual achievement. Secondly, Da means Dayadhvam i.e., to sympathise. We must sympathise with our fellowmen. We must give up our ego and isolation and work for the good of community. This alone can bring a spiritual satisfaction. Thirdly, Da means Damyata i.e., self-control. Dicipline of the mind is necessary for spiritual achievement. Control over man's desire is the only way to peace and spiritual achievement.


      Scene of Crucification (line. 322-330) : After the mob carrying torch-light to apprehend Christ and his followers saw the perspired faces of their victims, after the dead silence in the garden, as soon as the mob departed, after the great sufferings of Christ in the trial room and in the prison, after the shouting and the crying of the mob, which suspected release of Christ, had ended, there was a great upheaval in the prison and in the palace of the governor. The noise of thunder could be heard over the distant mountains indicating the birth of Christ. Christ who was once alive was crucified and gone. We who are living are almost dead. We are dying by inches.

      Journey of the Knight (line. 331-345) : "Here begins the story of the journey of the knight and his companions in search of the Holy Grail towards the Chapel Perilous". The knight complains that there is no water on the mountains. niy rocks are staring at him. The sandy road up the bills go zig zig as it climbs the mountains. The mountains without water are difficult and uninviting. (He refers to the difficulties of himself and his followers as they go up tne mountains in great distress). If there was some water, they could atleast quench their thirst and feel refreshed. As one goes climbing the rocks, One cannot stop midway or think. The only thing to do is to go up. Their perspiration dries up on account of the wind blowing over the sand. What they feel most is the acute shortage of water. The knight compares the gapping rocks to the mouths of skulls showing worn-out teeth. In such a situation, one cannot sit or rest. There is no peace or quiet in the mountains. The sound that one can hear is that of thunder. But it is not welcome because the thunder brings no rain. There is no loneliness in mountains. They are having visions of ghosts which peep from the dilapidated houses on the hills and mock and shout at them.

      Drought of the soul (line. 346-358) : If there were water along and a little less of climbing or if there were water along with climbing or some water coming from a spring situated in the rocks, if they could ever hear the sound of water instead of song of the cicada or the sound of the dry grass dancing in the wind, or they could hear the sound of hermit-thrush singing in the pine-trees because her song resembles the sound of water dripping drop by drop, it could be tolerated. But unfortunately, there is no water to be found anywhere in the mountains.

      Resurrection of Christ (line. 359-365) : Here is a reference to two disciples of Christ who undertook the journey to Emmaus, to verify the Story of Christ's resurrection. The pilgrim asks his companion: "Who is the third person walking beside you? When I take a count I find that we are only two-you and I. But when I look in front at the white road, I find that there is another person walking along with you. He is covered in a brown gown and his face cannot be seen. I cannot say whether this third person is a man or a woman. Who is hat person walking on the other side of you"? (It is said that Christ duly hooded walked with his two followers to convince them that he was still alive).

      Devastation caused by the Russian Revolution (line. 366-376) : What is the sound coming from the air in the distance which Sound like the cries of uprooted mothers? (Here is a reference either to First World War or the Russian Revolution, which was responsible for the devastation of Europe and the uprooting of millions of refugees). Who are those unrecognisable people collecting on the endless plains falling in ditches and pot-holes in cracked earth? There is the unlimited horizon to be seen all around this vast collection of people. What is that city over the mountains which cracks and burst and re-forms itself after the air attack? The towers are falling in the air. Is it Jerusalem, Athens, Alexandria, Vienna or London? (Any one of the cities could be an example of the destruction of civilisation and of spiritual decay).

      Absence of Faith (line. 377-384) : A refugee woman tightened her long black hair and began to play on her hair as if they were the strings of the fiddle. Her music is sad. (This refers to the millions of refugees uprooted by the Russian Revolution in eastern Europe and their miserable plight. The poet continues the story of knight in search of the Holy Grail). Bats having faces of human babies, whistled and beat their wings and crawled head downward towards a blackened wall. The knight has visions of towers standing upside down, ringing their bells, striking the chimes at regular hours. They heard the Christian song being sung from empty vessels and dry wells. This refers to the regular and formal Christian services held in churches without any faith or devotion. There is a loss of faith which is one of the causes of the barrenness of the present day civilisation.

      The success of the Knight (line. 385-394) : In this old gap among the mountains, in the dim moon-light, the grass is singing as it waves over the graves which are situated near the church. (The knight has been successful in his mission and has reached the Chapel Perilous). The Chapel is empty; it is full of wind. It has no windows but the doors move in and out in the wind. (This implies that the church of faith has no followers. It is empty). The dry bones to be found in the graves, are harmless, The knight found a cock standing on the top of a free crowing aloud announcing the sun rise amidst a lash of lighting. There is humid wind which brings rain.

      The message of Thunder (line. 395-422) : The river Ganga had little water and the small leaves, (on the bank) waited for the rain while the dark clouds gathered the distant Himalaya mountains. The jungle animals herded together and waited in silence, on account of lack of food and water. Then the Thunder spoke Da. This word means Datta or give, but what have we given? Oh my friend, I am extremely excited. Have we dared to give ourselves to Some great ideas? Have we made any commitment which prudence can never retract? We have existed by this sort of commitment. The self-surrender or commitment to a noble cause is not published in newspapers after one's death. Nor does it find a mention in the inscriptions on tomb-stones, which are covered by the spider's web in due course, nor is it found in the wills and testaments, the seals of which are broken by the lean solicitor in our empty rooms.

      The Thunder uttered Da again. It meant Dayadhvam which means sympathise. I have head the key turn in the door once and turns once only. (This is a reference to the closing of the prison in Purgatory of Dante. After the door has been looked the key is thrown away). Each one of us who is in the prison think of key and in thinking of how to get out the prison we confirm our prison. Only at night fall through heavenly inspiration, a man losses his self centredness and becomes for a moment a broken Coriolanus. One gets feeling of brotherhood for one's fellow-men for a brief moment.

      Again, the thunder spoke Da. It signifies Damyata which means control. The boat lent itself easily to the hands of expert sailors and moved smoothly. The sea was calm. Your heart would have responded easily if invited in obedience to the controlling hands. (This refers to the inner discipline which makes life a smooth sailing.

      Conclusion (line. 423-430) : The poet now gives his own ideas, how the world and modern civilization can be saved from spiritual barrenness and death.) I sat upon the shore (thinking of regeneration) with the dry plains behind my back. Shall I at least set my house in order (Shall the poet try for his own salvation ?) London Bridge is falling. The urban civilization is decaying. Suffering in the way of self purification. Pain is necessary for reconstruction of the individual. Detachment of the soul is necessary for salvation. These thoughts, borrowed from three sources, have been collected by the poet to save himself from ruin. Perhaps these very ideas will fit you, too. Perhaps the poet's cry is that of the mad Hieronymo. The three remedies are Datta; Dayadhvam and Damyata. Peace, peace, peace, will come.

      Finally, the poet gives his own personal impression. It is impossible to change and reform the whole world. Where do we begin then? The poet thinks that he must start with himself. He must try for self-purification. Reconstruction of man's spirit is possible only through detachment and selflessness. His prescription of the three remedies (Da, Da, Da) may seem as the cry of a madman, but this is the only way of gaining spiritual peace and bliss. The poet believes that man's salvation is possible if each individual looks after his own self-purification. He ends the poem on a note of hope.

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