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LBianchin - April is the cruellest month. Analysis
[author: Luca Bianchin - postdate: 2008-01-02]

"The Burial of the dead" is the first section of "The Wasteland" which poses the problem of fertility searched through sterility.


As a matter of fact the poem starts referring to April, the month in which nature blooms again after the long winter, when time creates a trouble in apathy that affects modern life. But April is also the pretext to quote Chaucer: "The Canterbury Tales" the lines of which started saying that April is the "sweetest month". On the contrary Eliot deviates from the standard semantic meaning, and he underlines the disruption that Modern Age brought, considering traditional judgements no longer valid.


Analyzing the layout you can single out the first seven lines from the context of the first paragraph: as a matter of fact they are shorter than the others and full of enjambments: the last words at lines 1,2,3,5,6 are in the gerund form and create a link between the lines that unifies the meaning, giving a definite description of the context. Moreover the context is defined by the semantic fields: in the first four lines the poet conveys a spring landscape (with lilacs, roots, spring rain), than a winter one (with covering, forgetful snow, dried) and all this is tied by the impersonality of point of view.

Right from the start the poet makes reference to the life of seasons and the fact becomes paradigmatic for the life of  man in the following lines (Eliot uses nature and anthropological codes as a response to the philosophical quests of the modern age).


Starting from line 8 the poet introduces a subject: a plural form in the first person (us, we) that has the function to introduce a social speech. Speaking about society he considers as many factors as possible: he started with references to real places (Stanbergersee, Hofgarten) in order to convey realism, but in doing this the poet paid the price to his age referring to Germanay.

He also wrote a sentence in German, that refers to the political events of the period in which he wrote: the revolution in Russia, and the consequent independence of Lithuania due to Germany.

But the line also reflects an individual need to search for identity and at the same time it brings a disruption in the pattern created. As a matter of fact its Meaning is rather vague and doesn't seem to have any direct connection to the landscape, at lines 10 and 11 nature had become a city panorama.


The natural cycle has now become quiet in the "summer", it seems to stop as  people do in a coffee when they talk.

Nature is described as if it were absolute beauty, some elements are: the spring rain that makes lilacs grow, that feeds "little life", as if life were a new-born child, the snow that allows forgetting feelings. Nature is represented as a sweet (as for Chaucher) shower of rain followed by the sunlight: it provides vegetal life with its best food (sun and rain), just in the best time of the year.


Summer becomes paradigmatic of the answer Eliot  initially givesto the panorama of sterility represented by the Modern Age: he wanted to escape from the winter that affected society (last line of the paragraph  to such an exotic place where April is not a cruel month (so where life has not died), where you "feel free", and where there is no place for sadness. But this is only the answer of a child. As a matter of fact with we" sat at the coffee" the speaking voice goes back to his childhood memories.
The perspective provided in the speech is the aristocratic one (the coffee, archduke, my cousin, the repetition of the name Marie like the name of a lot of queens during the former century) maybe because aristocracy at Eliot's time was only a matter of remembering, loosing its role in society because of Modernity. The aristocracy sums up the role of a naïf point of view compared to a point of view of a child.


Using such an open "The Wasteland" is defined as the place in which the previous description can no longer be valid, and where you don't wait for spring  for new hopes, as it has happened up to Romanticism. On the contrary, Eliot,  is aware that in the Modern age April is only the month which carries desires you can't satisfy; and that Modern people live their existences without a full consciousness of its meaning.


At the beginning, Eliot uses the vegetal cycle of seasons maybe because he wants to introduce the anthropological discourse that takes its origins in the rites of fertility of the land.

After that it  is useful to concentrate the attention on man; but you have always to remember that man depends on natural times. This could be referred to a global mystical vision of the world rather than a simple and pastoral one, considering T.S.Eliot's worries wiith the religious matter.