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Selected Poems

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Chosen by Eliot himself, the poems in this volume represent the poet’s most important work before Four Quartets. Included here is some of the most celebrated verse in modern literature-”The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “Gerontion,” “The Waste Land,” “The Hollow Men,” and “Ash Wednesday”-as well as many other fine selections from Eliot’s early work.

128 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1936

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About the author

T.S. Eliot

842 books4,812 followers
Thomas Stearns Eliot was a poet, dramatist and literary critic. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948 "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry." He wrote the poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday, and Four Quartets; the plays Murder in the Cathedral and The Cocktail Party; and the essay Tradition and the Individual Talent. Eliot was born an American, moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 (at the age of 25), and became a British subject in 1927 at the age of 39.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.S._Eliot

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 335 reviews
Profile Image for Dolors.
527 reviews2,211 followers
December 26, 2015
That a poet who rejected modernity because it separated men from God wrote in a contemporary, ground-breaking style that defied classic understanding is not only ironic, but also a prodigy. Eliot’s creative output is a case of study on its own because the words that compose his verses transcend literal sense through structural frame and allocation. It’s not until one feels the irresistible pull to recite Eliot’s poems out loud that the perplexing repetition, the echo of recurrent expressions, placed and misplaced, lost and recovered, in stillness and movement, form a whole unit of sound that possesses an incantatory, almost karmic effect that Seamus Heaney describes as “soundscape", that Eliot's verses acquire indomitable meaning.
Take these stanzas in Ash-Wednesday as examples:

“Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place”


“If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard.
The Word without a word, the Word within”

The wordplay goes deeper than presenting an ambiguous, fragmentary aspect that obscures its possible interpretation, it speaks of an extraordinary feverish state that moves from spiritual barrenness towards resignation, passing through loss and angst that converge in the last section of the poem with a flicker of hope achieved through exhaustion.

The protagonists of the early poems, Mr. Alfred Prufrock, with his unfulfilled yearning and carnal desire, and Mr. Sweeney, the opposite of the former with his directness in addressing basic and more lascivious appetites; get easily entangled with the voice of the poet creating a dramatic pulse that blends with the confessional tone of an inner monologue delivered in rhyme. Still, the numerous literary references to Dante, Shakespeare, the French symbolists and of course, the Bible, enable endless connotations to the poems; satire, parody, paean or ode; all coexist in the polysemic verses that are united by the common musicality of Eliot’s delivery.

Even though I admired the architectural device of the philosophical meditation on death and self-denial confronted through the prism of Eastern vs. Western aestheticism that permeates “The Waste Land” or the hypnotic moralizing of the Choruses from “The Rock”, my heart leapt, my soul soared with “Marina” and the most comforting bleakness tinted my spirit with black emptiness of “The Hollow Men”. The first is an allegoric tribute to The Bard and his tendency to present truth as craziness, using the most vivid imagery related to the sea; and the second is a fugue to the inherent isolation that consumes man’s soul when confronted with its artificial, superficial needs.

In the end, like the yews that offer ominous shade to Eliot’s poetic landscape, words represent the secret depths of the human ethos, but they will always elude stationary definitions. Their worth is merely symbolical, ethereal, straddling reality and appearance, eternal life and mortality. Them words linger and become more solid when they reverberate in the dark cavities of our consciousness.

“I made this, I have forgotten
And remember.
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.”

Included in this selection:

• Prufrock and other observations
• Poems 1920, a selection.
• The Waste Land
• The Hollow Men
• Ash-Wednesday
• Choruses from “The Rock”
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,427 reviews2,505 followers
January 26, 2023
A woman drew her long black hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled, and beat their wings
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall

~ The Waste Land, V.377-81

Reading The Hyacinth Girl: T.S. Eliot's Hidden Muse sent me back to Eliot's poetry with a desire to read it through the frame of 'confessional' poetry rather than the 'impersonal' verse he himself publicly proclaimed. And yes, it works, opening up another dimension to this sometimes difficult poetry shot through with literary, historical, cultural and religious allusions that work to suggest and articulate comparisons and simultaneity.

This selection, made by Eliot himself, comprises some of his most iconic work: The Waste Land, the Prufrock and Sweeney poems with their opposing representations of masculinity-in-the-world, The Hollow Men with its epigraph from Conrad's Heart of Darkness and the conspicuously Christian Ash Wednesday.

What struck me forcibly on this reading is the incantatory rhythm of Eliot's words and the echoes and repetitions of key images: brown fog, rocks and deserts and dry places, rivers and rain, and the more urban visions of windows, bridges and scattered voices, all broken up into fragments with spaces the reader has to cross for herself.

Something I learned from The Hyacinth Girl is that Eliot's first and troubled wife, Vivienne, had a hand in his poetry, notably the cockney voices in part 2 of the Waste Land: A Game of Chess. And that the almost manic voice in that same section ('My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad. Stay with me. | Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak. | What are you thinking of? What thinking? What? | I never know what you are thinking. Think') was probably based on Vivienne and one of her 'episodes', juxtaposed by the chilling words-in-silence of her companion: 'I think we are in rats' alley | Where the dead men lost their bones'. The breakdown of a complicated and likely incompatible marriage is layered against the barrenness of a broken civilisation (this was published in 1922) inflected by the multiple anxieties of modernity.

One of the distinctive qualities of Eliot's writing is his spiritual and religious faith, something that Modernism as a movement had largely lost or rejected. But a corollary of that is his recourse to a madonna/whore dichotomy when it comes to thinking about women, and a sense of sinfulness that made him choose celibacy even in marriage and which filters into his tainted view of sex. There's something freer about his early work even taking account of Prufrock's thwarted desires and sexual anxieties, and Sweeney's terrifying and just-submerged violence (the prostitute in Sweeney Erect who takes one look at him holding a razor for shaving and shrieks and falls into an epileptic fit 'curves backward, clutching at her sides').

This selection doesn't include Eliot's great 'Four Quartets' but is a fine and accessible introduction or repeat visit to an iconic body of poetry.
Profile Image for Pavle.
414 reviews142 followers
March 6, 2017
Virdžinija Vulf u stihu – na to me podseća Eliot. Stilski savršen, snažan, ponekad malo isuviše zahtevan; po mom mišljenju ostaje najpotpuniji ako se osoba mane tumačenja, već prepusti toku misli i slikama u prolazu. Nekim zbirkama sam se malo više bavio (The Wasteland, Prufrock and Other Observations čija je naslovna definitivno jedna od boljih), nekima malo manje, ali više mi je ostao osećaj nego neki poseban citat: mračne ulice pune dima i slabih, zagasitih svetiljki i ljudi poput njih, lepi ljudi, lepe ulice, putevi, čak i u svojoj ružnoći.

Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,603 reviews2,576 followers
September 5, 2017
I first read Eliot in college for a survey class appropriately titled The Modern Wasteland. Even though that was nearly 15 years ago, I still remember “Prufrock” and “The Wasteland” itself. We must have also read “Ash-Wednesday,” because some of its lines were familiar to me (“Teach us to care and not to care / Teach us to sit still”). On this reading it was that and “Choruses from ‘The Rock’” that had the strongest impact. I was struck afresh by how Eliot incorporates Christian language and imagery in his often slightly nightmarish visions of modern life, and by how good he is at the level of the individual line – so many phrases have been borrowed for titles of other books. Most of the poems from the 1917, 1920 and 1925 collections just washed over me, but there are some lines from “Ash-Wednesday” and “Choruses from ‘The Rock’” that I’ve marked out to read again (and again and again).
Profile Image for Madeline.
775 reviews47k followers
May 4, 2008
"Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long"

"Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still"

"And indee there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of toast and tea."

I'll be honest: I understand about 5% of everything Eliot writes. When I read his poems, I first don't understand it, read it again, think I understand it, read some more, and then forget what it was I thought I understood.

But I still love nearly everything I read by him, so I don't feel too bad about this.

Profile Image for leni swagger.
184 reviews
January 14, 2023
You’re either a “Love Song” person or a “Waste Land” person, there is no in between!! And I definitely prefer “Love Song” (Sorry to my English teacher who’s probably reading this 😬)

“Love Song” is by far one of the most brilliant and timeless poems I have ever read.
If I were to post my favourite quotes from the poem, I’d have to show every line. It’s beautifully written that every time I read it I have to read it out loud. A bit of an embarrassing story to share, I used to get ready to Tom Hiddleston reading this poem for about a month, truly humiliating but so worth it.

And if my English teacher is still reading my bizarre review: Could we pretty please analyse “Portrait of a Lady” in class? (I’d also ask for “Love Song” but I think I’d faint if you pulled out this poem out of your baby blue folder😵‍💫)
Profile Image for Ena Rusnjak Markovic.
64 reviews30 followers
February 25, 2017
Best read out-loud for yourself, and remember misogyny and antisemitism does not mean poetry void of beauty and truth. The grimy beauty of Eliot's masterful versification compresses and plants dense metaphysical ideas next to one another which find their expression in a pure and controlled diction. I'm afraid I was often left writhing in some kind of paroxysm of pleasure. This is difficult poetry with an encyclopedic sprawl of references but very rewarding if you're invested. My favourites comprise the first half of this particular collection.

"I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling;
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing."

Profile Image for Temz.
275 reviews244 followers
February 19, 2016
Ако значението на една творба винаги е свързано с възприемателя (по Ричардс), то в субективното пространство на моето читателско битие Елиът е един от поетите, които са оказали най-голямо влияние в развитието на литературния ми вкус през годините. Безкрайната тъга в поезията му, съчетана с безмилостния реализъм на внушението, превърта светове и хвърля читателя към едно безкрайно чезнене. А чезненето е най-мощното оръжие срещу злото там, където тишината лекува.
Profile Image for Alice.
265 reviews46 followers
June 23, 2020
T. S. Eliot's poetry is what made me fall in love with poetry in the first place. It is out of this world - I don't know how I could articulate a review about something so close to my heart. I'll tell you a story, instead.

When I picked out this book out of my parents' shelves, I could speak and roughly understand English, but my vocabulary was nowhere near developed enough to understand all of the words in the poetry. I still felt compelled to read the poems - the sounds made sense, in a way. I loved that I could only understand snippets, and the poem was wholly mine, with its strange sense of tragedy and doom - no demand for a logical understanding of the world. My obsession was 'The Hollow Men'.

Now, I can confidently say I have the vocabulary to analytically approach this book - but I won't. I can't shake the feeling that poetry, especially T S Eliot's, is a way to go beyond words with words.
Profile Image for Ian Wall.
80 reviews1 follower
June 29, 2022
Wonderful collection of poetry from a great poet. Here are classics: 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock', 'The Waste Land', 'Ash-Wednesday', and others. Wonderful.
Profile Image for Cvi *.
161 reviews53 followers
November 23, 2017
Има време да се чете и време да се мисли. Минути за себе си и минути да бъдеш. При Елиът всичко е едно безкрайно преплитане на живот, мисли, минало, настояще, пътуване и бъдене, и тук, и там.

Отлагах книгата с месеци, прочитах по малко, като дете ядящо тайно шоколадови бонбони, криех се от себе си, да не ми хареса много и изведнъж да свръши. Елиът се чете бавно, преглъща се трудно, но носи една непозната топлина, на думи, които тежат на онези места, избразнени от ежедневнието.

"Да го кажа ли пак? За да постигнеш дотам,
дотам, където си, за да се махнеш оттам, където не си,
трябва да изминеш път, по който няма екстаз.
За да стигнеш дотам, където не знаеш къде,
трябва да изминеш път, който е пътят на невежеството.
За да притежават това, което не притежаваш,
трябва да минеш по пътя на лишението.
За да достигнеш това, което не си,
трябва да минеш по пътя, на който не си.
И което не знаеш, е единственото нещо, което знаеш,
и което притежаваш, е което не притежаваш,
и там където си, е там, където не си. "

"Любовта е най-близо до себе си,
когато Тук и Сега предстанат да имат значение."
Profile Image for Sarah.
702 reviews128 followers
November 14, 2019
I’ll admit that I found this a challenging read - I’m a good 25 years out of practice in critical poetry reading. To be honest, I’ll probably give this a higher rating after further reading and mulling over the contents. I found that I experienced brief periods of illumination, when I felt I was getting to grips with the material - for example the echoes of the modern digital age in the “Choruses from the Rock” - but then found myself plunged back into the mire of confusion. Throughout, I had the sense that I was missing something extraordinary. While I consider myself to have had a reasonably good “liberal education” - I have a working knowledge of Greek myth, the old and New Testament and the works of Shakespeare - I think I’d be lucky if I picked up more than 10% of Eliot’s references. Nevertheless, a quality read, and I do intend to attempt some of these works again in due course.
Profile Image for Bethany.
610 reviews55 followers
January 31, 2011
Dear T. S. Eliot,
I had never read your poetry before. But from the first stanza of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" you captivated me and I was spellbound by your words.
I find now you hold a place in my heart as one of my favourite poets.
I only regret that this selection of your poems is so short, being less than 100 pages. Also, I did not understand the poems in French very well. Translations would have been appreciated since my personal translations were rather shoddy, not to mention choppy. (Though my attempts did make me laugh.)
Other than that, I have no complaints.

Much love from your newest admirer,

Profile Image for S..
24 reviews
May 9, 2013
"Do I dare
Disturb the universe?"

Reading his poetry is such a unique experiance, it is like I know what the next line is going to be before reading it. The ideas and images follow one another so effortlessly, it is so immensely captivating, touching and inspiring.
I had a small piece of paper next to me while reading it, which is now covered in quotes.
Profile Image for Courtney.
677 reviews41 followers
December 27, 2018
If you're googling the authors name and "anti-semitism" after a couple of pages you're probably not in for a good time.

That just pretty much coloured the rest of my reading this book so it's a hard no really.
October 2, 2017
I have came across T.S Eliot's work before, in the format of the poem "The Wasteland" I rather enjoyed this, and I have always been eager ever since to read more of his works.

I love the sheer complexity of Eliot's poetry, and the level of thought and construction that has gone into the writing, is simply amazing. I liked this collection, but I didn't love it. There were a few poems that particularly stood out for me, and there were some I didn't care for in the least.
There were some poems that focused strongly on religion, and this made it difficult for me to access or relate to them.
Overall, it is worth the time to read, even if it's a book just to dip into every now and again.
Profile Image for Maria.
204 reviews137 followers
December 25, 2021
"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;"
Profile Image for Sajid.
401 reviews60 followers
June 9, 2021
“We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats' feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar
    Shape without form, shade without colour,
    Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
    Those who have crossed
    With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
    Remember us-if at all-not as lost
    Violent souls, but only
    As the hollow men
    The stuffed men.”
Profile Image for Jacqueline.
291 reviews9 followers
March 17, 2016
Неслучайно Елиът е лауреат на Нобеловата награда за литература.

"Бих желал да съм яките клещи на рак,
които пробиват подовете на мълчаливи морета.
И ще си струва ли накрая,
и ще си струва ли наистина,
след залезите, дворовете и уличната влага,
след романите и чайовете, и шумящите поли
и колко още?… И дали?…
Не, невъзможно е да се изкаже това, което има да се каже!
Но някакъв магически фенер върху екрана ще покаже
схемите на моите нерви;
дали, дали накрая ще си струва
а ако тя, облегнала назад глава
или отметнала нагоре шала,
обърната срещу прозореца, ми каже:
„О, съвсем не е това,
съвсем не съм помисляла това.“
Ще ходя аз по плажа с бели панталони, бос,
ще чувам песните на морските сирени все със същия въпрос.
Не мисля, че ще пеят зарад мене.
И аз ги виждам как са яхнали вълните на морето,
те решат белокосите вълни, които връща вятърът надире,
по бялата и черната вода, когато вятърът засвири.
Ние ще бродим в залите, дълбоко под морето,
сирените ще ни окичат с водорасли, червени и кафяви,
додето ни събудят човешки гласове и се удавим."

("Любовната песен на Дж. Алфред Пруфрок"/ "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock")


"Сега, когато люлякът ухае,
тя има ваза с люляк в свойта стая
и докато говори, клонче брули.
„Ах, приятелю, не знаеш, не познаваш
живота, който сам държиш в ръцете си;
(огъва бавно своя люляк)
през твоите пръсти да изтича го оставяш,
а младостта е твърде лоша и безмилостна —
над туй, което не долавя, се надсмива тя!“
Засмивам се и аз, разбира се,
и чая си допивам.
„Но все пак с тези залези априлски — връщат ме назад
в погребания ми живот, Париж през пролетта —
така спокойна се усещам и намирам, че света
е в крайна сметка приказен и млад.“
Усмивката ми пада сред старинни вещи.
„Напоследък все си мисля — жалко —
(но от началото не може да се види края!)
защо не станахме приятели — не зная!“
Чувствам се като човек усмихнат, който се извръща
и изведнъж си вижда отражението в чаша.
Самообладанието ми се стапя; мрак е в къщата.
О, ето, тази музика „замира“ с вещина
сега, когато става дума за агония —
и бих ли имал право на ирония?"

("Портрет на една дама"/ "Portrait of a Lady")


Душата му върху небето,
което чезне зад града
или настойчиво потъпкана
във четири, пет, шест часа;
късите, зли пръсти, тъпчещи лулите,

вечерните вестници, очите
наясно с ясните неща
като съзнанието на мръсна уличка,
жадув��ща да покори света.

Около образите тук
събират се мечти, желания
и мисля си за някакви неуловимо нежни
неуловимо страдащи създания.

Изтрий устата си с ръка, засмей се;


Profile Image for Dominick.
Author 15 books27 followers
March 4, 2018
Mixed bag. Eliot at his best is very good indeed, and he is capable of a dry, satiric humour. On the other hand, there's a studied despair about a lot of these poems that seems superficial or a conscious pose rather than an unfiltered expression of honesty. These are very much head poems, not heart poems, which at their best makes them great, but it makes some of them, notably the later, more overtly Catholic ones, read more like disquisitions than poetry. And the occasional burst of anti-Semitism is disconcerting. "The rats are underneath the piles. / The Jew is underneath the lot." Yikes!
Profile Image for Ana.
805 reviews596 followers
October 6, 2016
I haven't read poetry in a long time, and I'm happy I started my journey through it again with T. S. Eliot. One of my favourite lines of my life is from one of his poems: "I will show you fear in a handful of dust". "Portrait of a Lady" has been very close to my heart for some years now. I enjoy his writings a lot because I can always sense loss and doom on the other side of their meaning, just as well as I can see some rays of hope. He is not one of the greats for nothing...
Profile Image for aya.
215 reviews19 followers
September 3, 2011
Understanding can come with growth and/or maturity, but how do we know when our dislike of something comes from lack of understanding rather than a simple matter of taste? Eliot lays himself bare, his insecurities and lowest parts offered. He is his audience, he is his reader--the root of the truth in his words. Genius and honesty combined is daunting, but there is beauty to carry you through.
Profile Image for Taylor Lee.
340 reviews18 followers
September 3, 2022
A man struggling against but working with, from, and out of the abyss the collapse of what he liked most and best left behind. So strangely haunting the words these poems make, as well as the poems the words so made make, haunting, yes, but beautiful. And perhaps most best to most cap it off is Beckett, who, writing on this writer, made the observation, T. Eliot spelled backward is toilet.
Profile Image for Benjamin.
677 reviews27 followers
January 6, 2020
Poetry by one of the premier poets of the 20th century. An immersive experience reading them all in one day.
Profile Image for Emiliya Bozhilova.
1,260 reviews185 followers
October 20, 2020
Не е моят тип поезия, не ме докосва, а дразни като неакордирано пиано, на което някой натиска случайни клавиши с един единствен неуверен пръст, мъчейки се да си спомни и налучка неясна мелодия. Мелодия, пълна с неравномерни късове мистицизъм, религия, отчаяние и отчужденост.

Но поезията винаги е лична, и няколко строфи все пак ми допадат:

”Понеже аз не се надявам да се върна тук
Понеже аз не се надявам
Понеже аз не се надявам да се върна
Поревнал дарбата на този или порива на друг
Аз повече не се стремя да се стремя и да постигам
(Защо е нужно старият орел криле да вдига?)
Защо да съжалявам
За свършеното царство на видимия свят?”

“Болката на всекидневния живот и наркотикът на съня
натикват малката душица под прозореца, върху стелажа
зад Encyclopedia Britanica.
От ръката на времето извира простата душа
плаха и себична, безформена и куца,
неспособна да поеме напред нито да спре
уплашена от топлата реалност, от отреденото добро, ...
сянка на своите сенки, призрак в собствената си тъга, ...
тя заживява след сетното причастие — в оная тишина.”

“Че вчерашните думи са на вчерашен език,
а утрешните още чакат новия си глас.”

“ще ти разкрия дара, който е запазен
за старостта, като корона на делата ти.
Първо — студът трептящ на чезнещото чувство
без чар, без други обещания, освен
горчивото безвкусие на плод от сенки,
когато почнат тяло и душа да се разделят.
Второ — съзнатата безсилност на гнева
пред глупостта човешка и мъчителният
смях пред това, което е престанало да радва.
Накрая — болката от преповтаряното
на всичко, що си вършил и си бил; срамът
от късно осъзнатите подбуди, от неща
зле свършени и във вреда на други хора,
неща, които взимал си за добродетелни.”
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