More than the background regarding the Fisher King as a symbol, and his recreation in The Waste Land, Weston’s information regarding the historical importance of the fish as a “life symbol” (119) illuminates the connection between arthurian legend and modernist poet Eliot. Weston discusses the fish symbol being used to represent life, and sometimes even fertility not only across religions, but cross-culturally as well, citing multiple tales In the chapter regarding the Fisher King, Weston quotes an unknown author saying, “‘the Fish was sacred to those deities who were supposed to lead men back from the shadows of death to life'” (120). This concept, I think, is key to understanding the link between The Waste Land and Weston’s writings. Here, we see the idea of something (or someone) being brought from a state of limbo, a state very much like death, back to life, one of the main themes of the Fisher King legend and the Waste Land involved. Eliot’s Waste Land is similarly in a state of limbo, where rats are more free than humans. A direct reference by Eliot to this chapter of Weston’s says, “I sat upon the shore / Fishing, with the arid plain behind me / Shall I at least set my lands in order?” (423-425). This quote has the elements of the the infertile land (“arid plain”) and the fishing that Weston discusses so enthusiastically. It also implies that, perhaps, there is a way to heal the damage that has been done to the land.
An interesting contrast is that, with the symbol of the fish and the Fisher King, it is implied that “all life comes from the water” (126). Here though, Eliot seems to disagree, or at least offer a contrasting view. As has already been discussed in class, Eliot frequently invokes references to drowning, beginning with Madame Sosostris’ prediction, to “fear death by water” (l.55), and continuing with the later image of how the “last fingers of leaf / Clutch and sink into the wet bank” (l.173-174). Contrasting the idea then, of a life-giving water, Eliot emphasizes the dangers of water. Why would Eliot have repeated this, when so much of the rest of the poem backs up Weston’s writing?
(Answer: a fsh (sorry I must admit I stole this from How I Met Your Mother))