My understanding is that The Waste Land (1922) is a landmark in poetry and a very influential collection. Eliot assembled it in a Swiss sanitarium while recuperating from a nervous breakdown; among other things his marriage was deeply unhappy and beset by his wife’s many sicknesses. Eliot writes like a jazz musician plays, coming at the reader from many lyrical angles and from a wealth of cultural, philosophical, and religious references. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge jazz fan, and I had the same thing feeling reading this as I do listening to jazz. I desperately wanted to like it, but was unable to fully appreciate it. There are some flashes of brilliance and this is undoubtedly writing that will elicit a wide variety of responses. From “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, my favorite from the collection:…Do I dareDisturb the universe?In a minute there is timeFor decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.For I have known them all already, known them all: -Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;I know the voices dying with a dying fallBeneath the music from a farther room.…Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,I am no prophet – and here’s no great matter;I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,And in short, I was afraid.…It is impossible to say just what I mean!But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:Would it have been worth whileIf one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,And turning toward the window, should say:“That is not it at all,That is not what I meant, at all.”…I grow old … I grow old …I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.…From Preludes:…I am moved by fancies that are curledAround these images, and cling:The notion of some infinitely gentleInfinitely suffering thing.…From The Waste Land (III. The Fire Sermon)…The time is now propitious, as he guesses,The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,Endeavours to engage her in caressesWhich still are unreproved, if undesired.Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;Exploring hands encounter no defence;His vanity requires no response,And makes a welcome of indifference.…From The Hollow Men:…This is the way the world endsThis is the way the world endsThis is the way the world endsNot with a bang but with a whimper.