“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”
The Waste Land is a seminal work of modernist poetry by T.S. Eliot. Written in 1922, this five-part poem is a portrait of its time, a work that expresses the disillusionment of the modernist era and the desperation that the generation of writers of that time was feeling.
This poem comes from the area just after the first world war, an era in which the world was in disarray. Many young men had lost their lives or livelihoods from the war, families were torn apart, and the survivors were aimless and disoriented at how to move on. This was the era of literary greats like Ezra Pound, F. Scott. Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and, of course, T. S. Eliot. The artists of this time turned to poetry and literature as a way of expressing the widespread spirt of wandering their generation had come to embody.
The Waste Land’s alternating narrators, character vignettes, references to eastern religions, and imagery of chaos and disillusionment all come together to create an impactful and insightful work of art. This poem exemplifies a generation of artists, and is a masterful work from a great artist at his peak.