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A BRIEF INTRODUCTION
T.S. Eliotís The Waste Land is one of the most outstanding poems of the 20th century. It has been hailed as Eliotís masterpiece - the supreme triumph of the poetic art in modern times. Yet some critics have railed against it as an abstract, ambiguous and highly over-rated poem. This controversy does not, however, distract from the overall merits of the poem and the aura of "greatness" that still surrounds it.
It is a poem written in the epic mold of such classic works as Danteís Divine Comedy, especially the first part i.e. Hell/ Inferno. Eliotís poem, though, has a fragmentary quality about it. This is symbolic of the aridity and decadence of modern western civilization as well as the poetís own inner despair at the desolate prospect of the post-World War I era, its chaos and frustration.
This startling poem presents a veritable labyrinth of meanings and messages for our turbulent times. Eliotís use of complex symbols and intricate imagery adds richness and variety to the texture of the poem. It is replete with luxuriant allusions to myth, ritual, religion, history - both past and present. This makes the poem itself a virtual "waste land" or quagmire through which any aspiring reader must cautiously wade if s/he wishes to absorb the essence of its meaning or significance.
In brief, then, T. S. Eliotís The Waste Land is a truly remarkable poem that broke new ground in English poetry when it was first published and continues to engage our amazement.