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 700 Free Audio Books and 800 Free eBooks.

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Comments (24)
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  • Shelley says:

    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 says:

    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

  • 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 says:

    Excellent resource. Thanks for posting!

  • Bob Lane says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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 says:

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

  • Tom says:

    @ Bob Lane, I envy your memory.

  • The master reads his masterpieces …

  • Peggy Matteliano says:

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

  • Tim Shey says:

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

  • Renny Klein says:

    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

  • Connie says:

    I did not even know recordings of T.S. Eliot existed. This is a treasure indeed.

  • Helene Orsanic says:

    The poetic beauty, the genre, the intelligene and creativity is food for the soul. He captures the essence of the human condition.

  • Chris Cook says:

    thank you so much for providing this,it is such a joy and pleasure to listen to these great treasures.

  • Bernard Wenker says:

    Can anyone identify all the readers of the poem?

  • Helen Valine says:

    Truly a pleasure to listen to this poem! Can’t help recalling Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Illich.” ” Was it worth it….”?
    Many thanks for including this poem.

  • Babar says:

    I treasure this experience. Thank you from Bangladesh.

  • MiCanuck says:

    Ye Gods, this is a ponderous reading; beyond dreary. There’s no human voice to wake me. It’s like Prufrock is attending his own funeral. But, when I’ve read the poem, the words leap off the page. Prufrock isn’t supposed to be DEAD YET! He’s trapped in silent turmoil. Eliot just sounds like he took too many valium. All dirge, all the time, with a nauseating monotone.

  • Simon Peters says:

    Peggy, I think you are wrong about that. It is Eliot.

  • Mike says:

    Is the second male voice Ted Hughes reading?

  • Joy says:

    Wonderful food for the brain during Coronavirus lockdown. Thank you

  • C Van says:

    Every year I stumble by this video and listen to the portion of Waste Land offered here. Amazing experience during this covid-19 2nd wave in Ontario, Canada

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