The Waste Land Summary
The Fire Sermon
The title of this section is taken from a sermon given by Buddha in which he persuades (समझाना) his followers to give up Earthly passions and seek spiritual regeneration (उत्थान, पुनर्जन्म).
This section starts with a description of the Thames against the winter landscape (परिदृश्य). It presents the picture of a dreary autumn scene on the Thames. In this section, Eliot presents the reality of the modern age. He tells the sterility (बाँझपन) of the modern age. Sex has taken the place of love and real emotions are replaced by physical intimacy.
In this section, T. S. Eliot presents the idealized vision from ‘Prothalamion’ by Edmund Spenser- young ladies in immaculate (बेदाग़, निर्मल) dresses and their bride-grooms and the ladies picking flowers to make garlands for a bride. But the age of romantic loveliness now has passed away. The nymphs (परियां) are departed. The lovers of Spenser’s time have gone and new chance-lovers, who haunt the banks of the river in the summer season. The modern fashionable ladies come to the bank of the river to enjoy and to have a good time in the company of young sons and heirs of the rich.
The protagonist (नायक) is fishing on the bank of the River Thames and musing (चिंतन करना) on his brother and father’s death. Some lines of this section refer to Marvell’s famous love-lyrics, ‘To His Coy Mistress’. The fishing referred to the fertility (उपजाऊपन) ritual (समारोह). The protagonist compares his conditions to Ferdinand in ‘The Tempest’, sitting on a bank, and weeping again over the king. The poet presents an example from the Mahayana and tells that Lord Buddha is mentioned as the fisherman who draws fish from the ocean. The poet intentionally (इरादतन) gives allusion here. The Lord Buddha’s Fire Sermon is combined with a reference to Augustine at the end of the section.
The main part of this section is the typist and Tiresias\’ sexual relation. The passage of their relationship is of 43 lines. It is the most important portion of the poem. In this section, the speaker introduces himself as Tiresias, a figure from classical mythology (पौराणिक कथा) that is blind but can ‘see’ into the future.
Tiresias is ‘throbbing (जीते हए, धड़कते हुए) between two lives because Eliot portrays him in this poem as a hermaphrodite (उभयलिंगी), a person who is male and female at the same time. He is representative of both sexes. He was old with wrinkled (सिकुड़े हए, झुर्रीदार) female breasts. Tiresias is the poet’s anti-self who sees all impersonally. He has been regarded as an authority on the pleasure of sexual intercourse from both points of view. Tiresias watches a young female typist and a clerk Carbuncular having sex so that what Tiresias sees is the substance (सारांश) of the poem.
Tiresias was blind in his youth because he saw Pallas Athene bathing naked. He passed a double life- a man and a woman. He had seen the snake mating.
In this section, the poet describes the experience of Tiresias, which he has visualized between the typist and a clerk\’s sexual intercourse. The woman is glad it’s over and paces around her room, playing a record on the gramophone. Eliot is diagnosing his London and his world with a disease of the senses, through which sex has replaced love and meaningless physical contact has replaced real emotional connection.
Death by Water
This section is the shortest section of The Waste Land. In this section, the poet T. S. Eliot describes a vulgar (गन्दा) trader who always thought only of his profit and loss and sensual pleasures (वासना-सुख, लैंगिक-सुख). It describes Phlebas the Phoenician sailor, who has died by drowning in the water of Leman. His life teaches us that we should follow the temptations (प्रलोभन) of wealth and the pleasures of the senses, at last, the result, our life will be only whirling wheel followed by the vortex (भंवर) of death.
In this section, the poet tells that life is a series of birth, youth, old age, and death. The poet says that after death the series reverses old age, youth, childhood, birth, and then into the womb. In this way, a person forgets all the things and starts a new fresh life, with formatted memory.
The poet presents an ancient ritual of consigning (भेजना) the effigy (पुतला) of the god of fertility to the sea and welcoming is as reborn at the end of the journey.