Sweet Thames, run softly, cause I speak not loud or long
Intertextuality and double meanings, the decay of modernity, the wonders of love and the sanctity, the confusion and the double standards of sexuality, of cahstity and of the idea of marriage. The third section of The Waste Land is an intense section, and honestly, it has it all. The Fisher King reappears, Eliot keeps alluding to classical literature and to Shakespeare’s The Tempest like he did in the previous sections, and he intertwines the present and the past, the then and the now to show the interconnectedness of, well, humanity.
I think possibly one of my favourite things about this part is the stilted post-love scene, the one where “the typist home at tea time” turns away and looks at herself in the mirror for only a moment.
She turns and looks a moment in the glass,III. The Fire Sermon, lines 249-256
Hardly aware of her departed lover;
Her brain allows one half formed thought to pass:
Now that’s done and I’m glad it’s over.
When lovely woman stoops to folly and
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
And puts a record on the gramophone.
I love how every second line of this stanza is written in iambic pentameter, whilst the other lines are almost iambic but not quite there. It feels like the stanza is trying to be a sonett, trying desperately to tell a love story of the ages, but reality just falls that little bit flat and for this typist, a love story like that was just never in the cards (Madame Sosostris’s or anyone else’s). However, she smoothes her hair and puts her favourite tunes on, and in one way or the other, she is fine anyway.
These musings are in no way a good analysis of this wonderful part of the poem, but that’s not really the point either. I just wanted to ramble for a moment as this section is one that both intrigues, confuses and fascinates me, and I hope you find something in it that can make you go “hmmmm,” too.