Let's talk about Eliot's masterpiece, The Waste Land. This is a poem I return to year after year. I recently bought a critical edition of Eliot's poetry, and have been tracking down every reference in the poem (Dante's Inferno, Milton's Paradise Lost, Shakespeare's Tempest and Antony and Cleopatra, the Old Testament (Ezekiel and Ecclesiastes), and various pieces of popular culture referenced by Eliot). It's a poem that defies interpretation, but every single portion seems powerful – Eliot is obviously someone who makes free verse seem like a controlled medium.

One question I have is: can we separate Eliot's depictions of squalor and cultural decay from the anti-semitism he expressed in poems like Gerontion and Sweeney among the Nightingales? In other words, can we interpret the first and second stanzas of Part III without recalling the Jew "squatting" on the windowsill of a tenement flat in Gerontion? This has been troubling me lately, because Eliot never renounced but only subdued his anti-semitism later in life.

Source: reddit post


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