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Exploring Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot’s revisions of “the waste land”

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  1. The title.
  2. The epigraph.
  3. Burial of the dead.
  4. A game of chess.
  5. The fire sermon.
  6. Death by water.
  7. What the thunder said.
  8. The degree of pound's influence.

How might T.S. Eliot's poem, which has come to define the modernist movement, be different if instead of bearing the title, ?The Waste Land?, it is called ?He Do the Police in Different Voices?? This paper will not seek out any definitive answers as to the meaning of the elusive, chaotic poem that is ?The Waste Land,? but rather it will seek slant rays of illumination on the poem by examining the editing changes effected by Ezra Pound, Vivien Eliot (Eliot's wife) or T.S. Eliot himself. The change in title most certainly improves the reception and final production of the poem, and it serves as an important example of the significance of revision in T.S. Eliot's writing process. Many such significant editing changes can be found in the comparison between the first drafts of the poem and the final production, and one can hope to clarify Eliot's intentions and directions for the poem, as well as Pound's influence on those drives.

[...] As should be the aim of any good editor, Pound seeks to strangle the cliché out of the work, and he fights to push Eliot beyond the easy allusions. It is especially important in the epigraph because besides the title, the Conrad passage could have come to define and limit the scope of Waste Land?. This is not the case with the new epigraph borrowed from Petronius: Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: ??????? ?? ??????; respondebat illa: ????????? ????? (Eliot, Epigraph). [...]


[...] Both Pound and Eliot recognize the failure of those seventy lines, and Eliot wrote what would become the actual first lines of the section on the back of the edited manuscript page that Pound crossed out. rivers tent is broken; the last fingers of leaf/Clutch and sink into the wet bank? (lines returns to that poetic borderlands, and both the verse and imagery is improved in comparison to the original first lines. The loose and uncontrolled seventy lines that were deleted are indicative of many of the lines that appear throughout the first draft of Fire Sermon?. [...]


[...] Another pattern that emerges is that when Pound points out that a line is problematic, and Eliot agrees, the revised results are often magnificent they emerge as lines and images that stand out even in a poem filled with beautiful, original lines crafted solely by Eliot. This fact can only speak to the value of collaboration and the value of having Ezra Pound as an editor. Another objective in Pound's revision concerns the dialogue that appears throughout the poem. For instance, Pound is critical of the following lines: nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me. [...]

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