Nature, Weather, Seasons, and the Waste Land

Humans, from any time period, present or past, and for any time period in the perceivable future, depend upon what Weston calls “the regular and ordered sequence of the processes of Nature.” (24) While adaptability provides some protection, for the most part any change in these processes, sudden and drastic, will likely cause mass devastation. This fundamental stressor to the human animal manifests in both the Grail Quest stories and in the story of Rishyacringa. Drought in particular is a problem in these stories. Drought is a failure of the seasons, the regular ordering of weather, to properly prepare the earth for its purpose (at least its purpose for humans) to grow food. This lack of water turns the land to waste (note that too much water is also a problem.) The term waste here refers to the uselessness of the earth. Soil, without water, cannot perform its purpose, therefore it is useless, it is wasted.

Eliot is also concerned with the order of nature and the land. The first stanza in Burial of the Dead starts “April is the cruellest month.” (1) The poem starts in spring time. However instead of being a false spring that will bring to life-water like in the Grail  and Rishyacringa stories, Eliot’s springtime has rain. In fact this rain is “stirring / Dull roots” (3-4) getting the ground ready to produce life. Eliot’s waste land is quite different than the waste lands of the kingdoms in those ancient stories. Eliot’s waste land is not useless. It is most likely perfectly capable of growing food. Instead of being turned to waste by nature the land in Eliot’s poem has been tarnished by us humans. We have wasted it by shelling it, and filling it will dead bodies. The land is not unfruitful, crops could grow. However we won’t plant any because the ground is sullied, unholy. Nature didn’t turn this land to waste, instead humans wasted the land.

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