Guest poem submitted by Cristina Gazzieri:
(Poem #858) The Waste Land (Part V)
V. What the Thunder Said Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves Waited for rain, while the black clouds Gathered far distant, over Himavant. The jungle crouched, humped, in silence. Then spoke the thunder D A _Datta_: what have we given? My friend, blood shaking my heart The awful daring of a moment's surrender Which an age of prudence can never retract By this, and this only, we have existed Which is not to be found in our obituaries Or in memories draped by the beneficient spider Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor In our empty rooms D A _Dayadhvam_: I have heard the key Turn in the door once and turn once only We think of the key, each in his prison Only at nightfall, aethereal rumors Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus D A _Damyata_: the boat responded Gaily, to the hand expert with the sail and oar The sea was calm, your heart would have responded Gaily, when invited, beating obedient To controlling hands I sat upon a shore Fishing, with the arid plain behind me Shall I at least set my lands in order? London Bridge is falling down, falling down falling down _Poi s'ascose nel foco che li affina Quando fiam ut chelidon_ - O swallow swallow _Le Prince d'aquitaine à la tour abolie_ These statements I have shored against my ruins Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe. Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata. Shantih shantih shantih
From "What the Thunder Said", the fifth and final section of "The Waste Land", 1922. Words and phrases surrounded by _underscores_ are supposed to be in italics. These are the last, conclusive, lines of the "Waste Land", which is a text which often frightens the reader for the obscurity and complexity of its references. Yet, I think that, with just a few clues, the text can be fully enjoyed by any lover of poetry. The "Waste Land" is the story of a journey or "Quest" that the man of the early 20th century makes through the sterility and spiritual aridity of his modern world, until he arrives, in this final lines, at the Ganges, the sacred river, where, eventually, he finds some answers to his existential questions. "Ganga", the river Ganges is sunken. Water, a symbol of life and fertility is scarce in the modern world, yet, here he hears the words of the thunder tThe voice of God according to many ancient religions). The thunder speaks Sanskrit, because Eliot goes back to the cradle of Western civilisation to the roots and the most vital source of Western culture. The Thunder-God repeats to man the three imperatives of the Upanishad, a Hindu sacred book: DATTA = give DAYADHVAM = co-operate, accept the others DAMYATA = control So the spiritual quest of the modern wanderer, the modern knight comes to these ancient, elementary, basic precepts of life on which to rebuild a crumbled civilisation. Yet, the poem does not finish on these three imperatives. Eliot now introduces the image of the fisher, (which is reminiscent of many legends and myths: the Fisher King, King Arthur, Christ, and which represents Man in his best specifications); this man wants to reorganise his life, his kingdom, his future, saving something from the collapse of the ideals that he has witnessed. Of course, he saves poetry, (Dante, Latin literature, French poetry, Elizabethan drama) which contains those elements of the growth of the human soul that must not be lost. Probably, in this context, the last words, "Shantih shantih shantih" (which mean "peace" in Hindi, and which conclude the Upanishad), are, at the same time, a message, a farewell and an element of quotation from a consciously "poetic" text Eliot eminently loved. I have certainly oversimplified things, but basically, starting from these ideas, I think a reader can go deep further into the interpretation of the text and find a rich texture of references and suggestions. Cristina. Links: Poem #354, "The Waste Land (Part IV)"