This is the last of the TS Eliot Waste Land series, based on the final stanza of the poem, lines 426 to 433:
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam uti chelidon – O swallow swallow
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih shantih shantih
The stanza opens with four random quotations: a nursery rhyme about destruction and resurrection; a line from Dante’s Purgatorio, Canto XXVI in Italian, about purifying fire; a reference from a Latin poem about yearning for flight, creativity; and a line from Nerval’s El Desdichado, about a prince in an abandoned tower. In isolation, they seem like the ramblings of a madman, but the source references mirror the main themes and four parts of the Waste Land: destruction and resurrection, purification – razing something to the ground – by fire, lost creativity or flight, and abandonment or alienation. The line that seemed significant, to me, was the one that followed the quotes: These fragments I have shored against my ruins.
Whether Eliot references the quotes themselves or the knowledge gained from learning, these “fragments” of quotations or snippets of truth gained from them are what keeps the narrator going. Then there is a reference to Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy (in which someone feigns madness), a reiteration of the three DA utterances, and lastly, the repetition of “Shantih”. ‘The Peace which passeth understanding’ is how the Shantih repetition is usually translated. I take that to mean: We think we know, so we are at peace – however tenuous that peace is.
My visual illustration of the final stanza is a contrast of mostly serene sky-blue above a wave of cracking texture and dark corruption. There’s a sense of water crashing and red magma rising to the surface from within the fissures and cracks.
Ultimately, the tenuous conclusions that one draws following a breakdown – the fragments that one shores against one’s ruins – may give one a temporary peace. Nonetheless, this self-constructed reality is fragile and uncertain because it may not match the rest of the world’s reality.
Mixed media (pigment, Sculpie, concrete, marble and clay dust, paste, various glazes) on canvas, 24″ x 48″
Located at: Private Collection
Third Prize Winner in the FCA’s annual abstract show.