The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot appeared simultaneously in The Criterion (London) and in The Dial (New York) in October 1922. Its composition dates back to 1921, when Eliot was in Lousanne spending a period of tranquillity to recuperate his health.
Before coming back to London, the poet went to Paris and showed the manuscript to E. Pound with whom he had a continuous correspondence. Pound reduced the whole manuscript and the first Mrs. Eliot, Vivien, gave her contribution. Pound did not really touch the structure of the opera, he reduced a thousand lines to 443, diminished the dependence of the work on a basic iambic pentameter and the rhythm, but his changes are basically on the details. On the whole (nell’insieme), The Waste Land, is an obscure poem, a “heap of broken images” (un mucchio di immagini infrante) without a narrative order, it is a world which one must enter without trying to extract any meaning. It is a work of wide (ampia) erudition, presented in fragments that echo cinema-cutting techniques (tecnica del montaggio cinematografico) and has an apparatus of notes to help the reader through the learning it contains. The many cross-references are probably also due to (dovute a ) Eliot’s American roots (radici) with the cosmopolitan range (gamma) of different cultures the New World offered. The effect is intended to be musical and suggestive, conveying (da) the idea of the fragmentation of a land, Europe, in a period between the two World Wars and many revolutions. Man is condemned to loneliness (solitudine) and solitude, to a life without real affections. Communication is not possible now and Man has lost the control of words, words that do not correspond any longer to their meaning. The confusion of Man is the crucial point of the Age of Anxiety. T. S. Eliot’s purpose is to re-order the city and to make the Western civilisations re-birth on Christian Spiritual basis. The poet does not accept the process of transformation of the modern society and does not believe in the rules of a rational behaviour to overcome the contrasts of history. Eliot searches (ricerca) fragments to “shore his ruins” (arginare le rovine) and the fragments are the quotations taken from the ancient literary tradition of a civilisation that are shipwrecking (naufragando) at present.
These fragments assume a symbolic and abstract meaning out of their social and historical connotation. They represent a mean (un mezzo) to re-create society as present and future can be saved by the knowledge of the past wisdom(saggezza) : the search of the Saint grail; the purification through pain in Philomel’s myth, the purification through fire as in the eastern religions. With these instruments Eliot opposes Man’s decay expressed by “London Bridge is falling down”.