T.S. Eliot Reads His Modernist Masterpieces “The Waste Land” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Did you know T.S. Eliot’s portentous and heavily allusive 1922 masterpiece “The Waste Land” was originally titled “He Do the Police in Different Voices,” a quote from Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend? Filled with references to Dante’s Divine Comedy, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and James Frazier’s The Golden Bough, this most famous of high modernist poems—scourge of millions of college freshman each year—was a very different animal before notorious modernist impresario Ezra Pound got his hands on it. Pound’s heavy reworking is responsible for the poem you hear above, read by Eliot himself. The first image in the video shows Pound’s marginal annotations.

In the video above listen to Eliot read his second-most famous work, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” with the text of the poem choreographed by Wordookie, an open-source version of Wordle.  “Prufrock,” first published in 1915, is as dense with literary allusions as “The Waste Land” (and thus as painful for the average undergraduate). And if Eliot’s reedy alto doesn’t deliver “Prufrock”‘s gravitas for you, listen to Anthony Hopkins read it here.

You can find these poems catalogued in our collection of 450 Free Audio Books and 325 Free eBooks.

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by | Permalink | Comments (14) |

  • http://dustbowlpoetry.wordpress.com Shelley

    I never knew Tolstoy’s voice was recorded!

    These small outposts of culture are a welcome shelter from the current horrors of unregulated semi-automatic gunfire.


  • Dave

    I remember playing the Prufrock recording for my 12th grade class and it absolutely destroyed any momentum we had going in class. Such a great poem, such a drab reading. Alas

  • http://www.eliotsociety.org.uk TS Eliot Society (UK)

    Anyone who is now encouraged to discover more about TS Eliot and his works is invited to visit the website of The TS Eliot Society UK, which contains a wealth of links and resources for enthusiasts and scholars.

  • Josh Jones

    Excellent resource. Thanks for posting!

  • http://www.boblane.com Bob Lane

    Brings back wonderful memories. I was an engineering student in Texas many years ago when, because we were studying Eliot in freshman composition and because Eliot was reading at SMU, I went to hear him. The reading was in a quonset hut on campus and as Eliot read “The Hollow Men” it started to rain. Eliot’s voice plus the rain on the steel roof combineed to produce an extra-ordinary experience.

    Within a fortnight I had converted from engineering to math and later to English.
    As it turned out that was Eliot’s last trip to the USA.

  • http://www.eliotsociety.org.uk TS Eliot Society (UK)

    Just a further comment – this recording is NOT the complete poem, but only the first section, entitled The Burial of The Dead.

    The Waste Land is a much longer poem, in five sections.

  • http://joethepoet.yolasite.com ThePoetJoseph

    I like when he says
    I am no prophet and here is no great matter
    I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker
    And I have seen the Eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker

  • Tom

    Rare is the poet whose readings of their poetry are as good as the poems that came from their penses.

  • Tom

    @ Bob Lane, I envy your memory.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1452437544 Hugh McFadden

    The master reads his masterpieces …

  • Peggy Matteliano

    I think this is Ezra Pound reading Eliot’s waste Land, not Eliot reading.

  • Tim Shey

    I thought Eliot’s “Four Quartets” was his masterpiece.

  • Renny Klein

    Discovered you today. As I listen to TSE I can almost cry with joy. How can I thank you? Your contribution to home bound seniors is a gift that cannot be measured. Blessings.
    Renny Klein

  • http://www.openculture.com Dan Colman

    Hi Renny,

    So glad we could be of service to you. There’s much more here you can enjoy.

    Best regards,
    Dan (editor)