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THE POEM IS DIVIDED INTO FIVE SECTIONS. EACH SECTION HAS ITS OWN TITLE.
The Burial of the Dead
The phrase "The Burial of the Dead" calls to mind several different associations. It recalls the various fertility myths of ancient civilizations in Egypt, Greece and Western Asia, such as myths of Osiris, Adonis, Tammuz and Attis. The "burial of the dead" can also possibly refer to the agricultural practice of planting the dried or dead seed just before spring, so that the seed may germinate and sprout in summer. The title also recalls the Christian burial service in the Church of Englandís The Book of Common Prayer and hence suggests death. The full title of the funeral service in this Anglican prayer book is The Order for the Burial of the Dead. It ends with the Priest and mourners throwing a handful of dust into the grave a symbolic reminder of the Biblical injunction, "Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return." Later in Line 30, we hear an echo of this rite in Tiresiasí utterance: "I will show you fear in a handful of dust."
The title "Burial of the dead" relates to the poems underlying mythological structure. It recalls the burial of the various fertility gods of different ancient cultures referred to by Jessie Weston and James Frazer in their anthropological works. These include the god Osiris in Egypt, Adonis in Greece and Cyprus, Tammuz and Altis in West Asia. Each year the peoples of these regions celebrated the annual cycle of natureís decay (in autumn and winter) by ritually burying or dismembering a god who they felt personified the fertility of vegetable life. They believed this god died annually and rose again from the dead, as James Frazer describes in The Golden Bough.
The ancient Egyptians revered the pharaoh, Osiris, as fertility God. He was brutally murdered by his brother Set, but his sister- wife; Isis gathered the bits of his mangled corpse and buried it. Each spring, the ancient Egyptians held that Osiris rose again to life through the kindly action of Osirisí son, Horus, the sun, and renewed natural life on earth after the long winter months. So did the ancient Cypriots and Greeks honored Adonis, the handsome son of Cinyras, King of Cyprus. Loved by Aphrodite, whom he rejected, Adonis was killed by a wild boar while hunting. From his blood sprang the rose. His untimely death led to the fertility cult of Adonis spreading from Cyprus to Greece in the 5th century BC. His followers believed this God-like youth died every year in winter and returned to life each spring, thus letting new crops grow.