Environment

TS Eliot’s The Waste Land points climate warning for our occasions | Local weather disaster

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Weather performs a key position in TS Eliot’s modernist classic The Waste Land. Its centenary is being celebrated now, although it was published in October 1922, due to the poem’s well-known opening line: “April is the cruellest month …”

April is notoriously changeable and may convey something from heat sunshine to plant-killing frost. Eliot finds it merciless, although, as a result of it forces the world, which has slept peacefully via winter, again to life, “stirring uninteresting roots with spring rain”.

Rain is usually absent in the remainder of The Waste Land. The poem is dominated by images of drought. There are landscapes of mud, purple rock with out water, cracked mouths, dry bones, beating solar and “dry sterile thunder with out rain”.

Eliot’s Waste Land is a desert. One of many poem’s central figures is the Fisher King, a personality borrowed from Arthurian legend, whose kingdom is stricken with drought as punishment for unspecified sins. Rain comes finally when the poem reaches the chapel housing the Holy Grail.

Eliot could have meant these photos of a desiccated land as a warning about how the arid mechanised age was destroying tradition. A century on, as ecological consciousness grows, we see a way more literal danger of turning our world right into a Waste Land by our personal actions.

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