Join the odyssey through the voices that one hears while deciphering Eliot’s The Waste Land. Are you hearing the voices? What happens when you don’t quite hear the voices that Eliot wants you to hear? What happens when you do begin to hear the voices? What happens when you mistakenly hear the other voices?
There are substantive differences between reading a poem and recognizing its allusions, and having them pointed out to you in the endnotes (even if they are supplied by the poet themself, as Eliot does in The Waste Land).
No, I confess I did not hear any of these voices the first time, or indeed any of the times, I’d read The Waste Land. More grievously, I’d heard and still hear the wrong nightingale – not Ovid’s or Arnold’s but Keats’s (which is, to say the least, one of the most glaringly irrelevant low-lying nightingales on offer).
Is it just late, or am I beginning to hear voices? Perhaps most Cambridge English Tripos students at some point in their undergraduate careers are confronted with the prospect of pulling an all-nighter with the – ostensible, and foolhardy – aim of understanding Eliot’s 1922 The Waste Land.