The Waste Land, the most influential book of the 20th century, by the Nobel Laureate T. S. Eliot gave a new start to the English poetry. It is a 433-line imagist poem.
The poem reveals the spiritual drought of the modern age. T. S Eliot admits that the Waste land was influenced by Miss Jessie L. Weston’s book about the Grail Legend, “From Ritual to Romance”.
Eliot laments that the modern age lacks spiritual faith:
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn.
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many
The poemhas been criticised as it is very obscure due to literary allusions, use of myths and imagist style. Edmund Wilson aptly comments that Eliot has used “quotations from, allusions to, or imitations of at least 35 different writers...as well as several popular songs and introduced in six foreign languages, including Sanskrit.”
William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) and Hart Crane (1899-1932) disagreed with Eliot's poetic technique and negativism in The Waste Land, which according to Williams was 'a great catastrophe', 'an atom bomb' that destroyed the roots of English poetry. The following oft-quoted lines reveal a new imagist technique of writing poetry. It has been called 'the music of ideas':
There is shadow under this red rock
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.