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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  1. Shelley says . . . | July 23, 2012 / 4:06 pm

    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.

    Thanks.

  2. Dave says . . . | July 23, 2012 / 8:38 pm

    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

  3. TS Eliot Society (UK) says . . . | July 24, 2012 / 7:16 am

    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.

  4. Josh Jones says . . . | July 24, 2012 / 7:46 am

    Excellent resource. Thanks for posting!

  5. Bob Lane says . . . | July 24, 2012 / 9:11 am

    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.

  6. TS Eliot Society (UK) says . . . | July 24, 2012 / 9:49 am

    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.

  7. ThePoetJoseph says . . . | August 15, 2012 / 3:24 pm

    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

  8. Tom says . . . | June 29, 2013 / 2:02 pm

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

  9. Tom says . . . | June 29, 2013 / 2:38 pm

    @ Bob Lane, I envy your memory.

  10. Hugh McFadden says . . . | September 27, 2013 / 8:30 am

    The master reads his masterpieces …

  11. Peggy Matteliano says . . . | December 8, 2013 / 6:10 pm

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

  12. Tim Shey says . . . | February 4, 2014 / 1:17 pm

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

  13. Renny Klein says . . . | March 29, 2014 / 9:25 am

    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

  14. Dan Colman says . . . | March 29, 2014 / 10:20 am

    Hi Renny,

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

    Best regards,
    Dan (editor)

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