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Taking Theosophical ideas

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The Thunder Speaks Sanskrit

In the concluding section of “The Waste Land

Published in 1922 T S Eliot like H P Blavatsky

says that man must go back to the Ancient Wisdom

which predates modern formal religions.

Posted 16/12/06

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Thomas Stearns Eliot

1888 – 1965



Extract from "What the Thunder Said", the fifth and final section of "The Waste Land" by T S Eliot, Published 1922.


V. What the Thunder Said


Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves

Waited for rain, while the black clouds

Gathered far distant, over Himavant.

The jungle crouched, humped, in silence.

Then spoke the thunder


Datta: what have we given?

My friend, blood shaking my heart

The awful daring of a moment's surrender

Which an age of prudence can never retract

By this, and this only, we have existed

Which is not to be found in our obituaries

Or in memories draped by the beneficient spider

Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor

In our empty rooms


Dayadhvam: I have heard the key

Turn in the door once and turn once only

We think of the key, each in his prison

Only at nightfall, aethereal rumors

Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus


Damyata: the boat responded

Gaily, to the hand expert with the sail and oar

The sea was calm, your heart would have responded

Gaily, when invited, beating obedient

To controlling hands


                                 I sat upon a shore

Fishing, with the arid plain behind me

Shall I at least set my lands in order?

London Bridge is falling down, falling down falling down

Poi s'ascose nel foco che li affina

Quando fiam ut chelidon - O swallow swallow

Le Prince d'aquitaine à la tour abolie

These statements I have shored against my ruins

Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.


             Shantih shantih shantih






These are the concluding lines of "The Waste Land",


" The Waste Land" is the story of a journey or quest that the man of the early 20th century makes through the sterility and spiritual desolation of his modern world, until he arrives, in these final lines, at the Ganges, the sacred river, where, eventually, he finds some answers to his existential questions.


 "Ganga", the river Ganges is sunken. Water, a symbol of life and fertility is scarce in the modern world, yet, here man hears the words of the thunder which was seen as the voice of God by many ancient religious traditions.


The thunder speaks Sanskrit, because Eliot goes back to the cradle of Western civilization to

the roots and the most vital source of Western culture. T S Eliot like H P Blavatsky is saying that man must go back to the Ancient Wisdom which predates modern formal religions.


The Thunder-God repeats to man the three imperatives of the Upanishad, a Hindu sacred book:


DATTA  give

DAYADHVAM  co-operate, accept the others

DAMYATA  control


So the spiritual quest of the modern wanderer, the modern knight comes to these ancient, elementary, basic precepts of life on which to rebuild a

crumbled civilisation.


Yet, the poem does not finish on these three imperatives. Eliot now introduces the image of the fisher, which is reminiscent of many legends

and myths: the Fisher King, King  Arthur, Christ, and which represents Manin his best specifications.


This man wants to reorganise his life, his

kingdom, his future, saving something from the collapse of the ideals thathe has witnessed. Of course, he saves poetry, (Dante, Latin literature,

French poetry, Elizabethan drama) which contains those elements of thegrowth of the human soul that must not be lost. Probably, in this context,

the last words, "Shantih shantih shantih", which mean "peace" in Hindi and is sometimes translated as “The Peace which passeth understanding” These word  which conclude the Upanishad, are both a message, a farewell and an integral part of the multi-sourced Eliot style.


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