The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot - is a poem by T. S. Eliot,[A] widely regarded as one of the most important poems of the 20th century and a central work of modernist poetry. Published in 1922, the 434-line[B] poem first appeared in the United Kingdom in the October issue of Eliot's The Criterion and in the United States in the November issue of The Dial. It was published in book form in December 1922. Among its famous phrases are "April is the cruelest month", "I will show you fear in a handful of dust", "These fragments I have shored against my ruins" and the Sanskrit mantra "Datta, Dayadhvam, Damyata" and "Shantih shantih shantih".
Eliot's poem combines the legend of the Holy Grail and the Fisher King with vignettes of contemporary British society. Eliot employs many allusions to the Western canon: Ovid's Metamorphoses, Dante's Divine Comedy, Shakespeare, Milton, Buddhist scriptures, the Hindu Upanishads and even a contemporary popular song, "The Shakespearean Rag." The poem shifts between voices of satire and prophecy featuring abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location, and time and conjuring a vast and dissonant range of cultures and literatures.
Eliot probably worked on the text that became The Waste Land for several years preceding its first publication in 1922. In a May 1921 letter to New York lawyer and patron of modernism John Quinn, Eliot wrote that he had "a long poem in mind and partly on paper which I am wishful to finish".
Richard Aldington, in his memoirs, relates that "a year or so" before Eliot read him the manuscript draft of The Waste Land in London, Eliot visited him in the country. While walking through a graveyard, they discussed Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Aldington writes: "I was surprised to find that Eliot admired something so popular, and then went on to say that if a contemporary poet, conscious of his limitations as Gray evidently was, would concentrate all his gifts on one such poem he might achieve a similar success."
Eliot, having been diagnosed with some form of nervous disorder, had been recommended rest, and applied for three months' leave from the bank where he was employed; the reason stated on his staff card was "nervous breakdown". He and his first wife, Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot, travelled to the coastal resort of Margate, Kent, for a period of convalescence. While there, Eliot worked on the poem, and possibly showed an early version to Ezra Pound when the Eliots travelled to Paris in November 1921 and stayed with him. Eliot was en route to Lausanne, Switzerland, for treatment by Doctor Roger Vittoz, who had been recommended to him by Ottoline Morrell; Vivienne was to stay at a sanatorium just outside Paris. In Hotel Ste. Luce (where Hotel Elite has stood since 1938) in Lausanne, Eliot produced a 19-page version of the poem.