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.
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