Waste Land

by Madison Cawein

a poem

published in Poetry, A Magazine of Verse
by Chicago: Harriet Monroe, January, 1913

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Waste Land

Madison Cawein

November 7, 2022

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Read the text of “Waste Land”

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thus, we begin...

Briar and fennel and chincapin, And rue and ragweed everywhere; The field seemed sick as a soul with sin, Or dead of an old despair, Born of an ancient care. The cricket’s cry and the locust’s whirr, And the note of a bird’s distress, With the rasping sound of the grasshopper, Clung to the loneliness Like burrs to a trailing dress. So sad the field, so waste the ground, So curst with an old despair, A woodchuck’s burrow, a blind mole’s mound, And a chipmunk’s stony lair, Seemed more than it could bear. So lonely, too, so more than sad, So droning-lone with bees — I wondered what more could Nature add To the sum of its miseries . . . And then—I saw the trees. Skeletons gaunt that gnarled the place, Twisted and torn they rose — The tortured bones of a perished race Of monsters no mortal knows, They startled the mind’s repose. And a man stood there, as still as moss, A lichen form that stared; With an old blind hound that, at a loss, Forever around him fared With a snarling fang half bared. I looked at the man; I saw him plain; Like a dead weed, gray and wan, Or a breath of dust. I looked again — And man and dog were gone, Like wisps of the graying dawn. . . . Were they a part of the grim death there— Ragweed, fennel, and rue? Or forms of the mind, an old despair, That there into semblance grew Out of the grief I knew?

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Archive Files & Links

  • Archive.org Document

  • University of Rochester Document

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