The Waste Land
by T.S. Eliot
The Waste Land Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
Of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold. (263-265)
You wouldn't think that Eliot would be all that impressed with the "clatter and chatter" (262) of fishermen lounging in a pub. But the fact the he connects them to the interior of a church he really admires shows that he's actually quite fond of the old salts. Here, the nostalgia of "The Waste Land" is slathered on pretty thickly. In this passage, Eliot is suggesting that even the lower classes live with a certain dignity in a world that is given meaning by religion. But for Eliot, this is a world that barely still exists, if at all.
Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest
The burning of this passage might make you think of hellfire at first (and rightfully so), but it also might refer to the "Fire Sermon" from which this section of the poem takes its name. The Fire Sermon is not actually a Christian reference, but an allusion to the spiritual teacher Buddha, who taught people to resist their worldly appetites for sex, money, and power in order to live a life of peace. From this point onward, "The Waste Land" starts to look at non-Christian religions as potential places of rebirth for Western culture. Eliot especially seems to like the idea of asceticism, which means giving up all worldly pleasures in order to pursue a life of spiritual enlightenment. If today's Western culture is any indication, though, Eliot might have lost that battle.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih shantih shantih (433-434)
In the final lines of the poem, Eliot gives us six words, all from the Hindu spiritual texts, the Upanishads. The first three words mean "Giving," "compassion," and "self-control," while the last three are a repetition of Shantih, which means "The peace which passeth all understanding." This might actually be the closest the Eliot ever gets to hopefulness in this poem, which is saying a lot. Now that we modern folks have lost our cultural memory, Eliot wonders if maybe we might be able to look to other cultures for spiritual wisdom. No doubt about it, the final section of "The Waste Land" really gets behind the idea of overcoming your individual ego, giving up your quest for individual greatness, and living a life of peace and compassion.