Eyes I dare not meet in dreams In death's dream kingdom These do not appear: There, the eyes are Sunlight on a broken column There, is a tree swinging And voices are In the wind's singing More distant and more solemn Than a fading star.
We're starting to get it: the Hollow Men do not want to look anyone in the eyes. They are timid and frightened.
They worry that the eyes of souls from Heaven ("death's dream kingdom") will enter into their dreams and try to make eye contact.
The speaker talks about a place out "there" where the eyes shine like "sunlight on a broken column" and distant voices are carried by the wind, which also makes a tree sway.
"There" could be either in their dreams or in "death's dream kingdom."
(The poem's imagery is vague and inconclusive, so don't worry if you can't piece together every last thing.)
We think of the eyes as revealing truth, and the Hollow Men are afraid to have the truth of their condition revealed.
They are too ashamed to confront the reality of what they have become. They live in a fragmented world of "broken" and "fading" objects.
Let me be no nearer In death's dream kingdom Let me also wear Such deliberate disguises Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves In a field Behaving as the wind behaves No nearer—
Not that final meeting In the twilight kingdom
Too bad you can't convey a pirate voice in writing, otherwise we'd paraphrase their attitude as, "Stay back, ye heavenly vermin!"
The Hollow Men do not want to go anywhere near "death's dream kingdom," for fear of those truth-revealing eyes.
The big hint is "crossed staves," which means two wooden poles. They explain their appearance as an effort not to get recognized by those probing eyes.
Just like scarecrows that "behave as the wind behaves" – twisting and turning without direction.
The mediocre souls in Canto 3 of Dante's Inferno also run around with no purpose, another sign that Eliot was inspired by that text.
At the end of the section, the souls vow not to have a "final meeting" at "twilight." This meeting could refer to the Last Judgment in Christian theology and "twilight" could refer to the end of the world.
The Hollow Men are afraid of the judgment they'll receive when their character is finally examined by the "eyes." They can only delay justice, not escape it.
(If you wanted to, you could also compare images of light and darkness between this poem and Heart of Darkness.)