T. S. Eliot’s Poetic Devices

T.S. Eliot was one of the great early 20th Century poets. He wrote many poems throughout his career including “The Waste Land”(1922), “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”(1917), and “Ash Wednesday”(1930). Throughout his poems, he uses the same poetic devices to express emotion and give an added depth to his poetry and act like a trademark in his works. One of the devices used throughout is his personification of nature.

The second device he often uses is allusions to Greek mythology, Greek plays, and the Christian bible. Finally, the last device he often uses is imagery of death. Throughout the poems mentioned above this is especially apparent as it makes them all seem identifiable to his style.

T. S. Eliot often personifies nature in his poetry to intensify its importance in his poetry. The first example comes from the poem “The Waste Land” where it says “The jungle crouched, humped in silence” Since a jungle cannot crouch it shows how Eliot uses personification in nature because he is using it to describe the jungle to give the feeling he is trying to evoke in his reader. An example from “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock” of how Eliot personifies nature throughout his work is “The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes.”

This is personification because fog has no back and therefore cannot rub it against a windowpane. In this case, he is using the yellow fog to show how the world he is describing is dirty and sullen because fog is not normally yellow. By giving nature a more human quality, it makes the world he describes feel life like.

The last example of Eliot personifying nature comes from the poem “Ash Wednesday” where it reads “Yew trees pray for those who offend her.” Since praying is a human quality he is using it to personify nature to make it seem like it is religious. So overall, it is clear that Eliot uses personification in his poetry as shown through the examples above.

Not only is personification repeated in his poetry but also so is the imagery of death, which gives his poems a sad or dark tone. In his poem “The Waste Land”, it reads “A current under sea picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell He passes the stages of his age and youth.” Since the character is essentially trapped in time the image of bones gives it a dark feeling.

The bones that are described are part of death because when a body decays, all that is left is bones and so he is trapped in time while dying. The second example of death in Eliot’s poems comes from “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock” where it says, “I know the voices dying with a dying fall.” This quote demonstrates death because the character knows people are dying. This shows that death is apparent in this poem because the author uses it to describe the world the character lives in. The final example of death in Eliot’s poems comes from “Ash Wednesday” where it reads “The empty forms between Ivory Gates.”

The Ivory gates are associated with heaven and when someone dies, they will go to the gates in order to be judged by St. Peter. Death is apparent because the imagery of the Ivory Gates deals with the afterlife and what happens to the soul when someone dies. Overall, Eliot uses imagery of death throughout his work as shown through the examples given making this one of his ‘trademark’ poetic devices in his work.

The next poetic device that Eliot uses throughout his work is the allusions to mythology, religion, and other literature. The first example comes from the poem “The Waste Land” where it reads “In fattening the prolonged candle-flames, flung their smoke into the laquearia.” The allusion is to laquearia, which means:

A “panelled ceiling,” and Eliot’s note quotes the passage in the Aeneid that was his source for the word. The passage may be translated: “Blazing torches hang from the gold-panelled ceiling [laquearibus aureis], and torches conquer the night with flames.” Virgil is describing the banquet given by Dido, queen of Carthage, for Aeneas, with whom she fell in love.”

Since Carthage played a large role in mythology and human history, it is an allusion showing that this poetic device was used in this particular poem. The second example comes from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” It reads, “Have known the evenings, mornings, and afternoons.” This quote is an allusion the play Oedipus Rex where the sphinx asks Oedipus to answer a riddle and the riddle is what walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening.

The answer is man because the time of day is in reference to life morning being when a baby is learning how to walk but is forced to crawl, afternoon being the middle of life, and the evening is near the end of life when humans are forced to use a cane to assist them in walking. This is an allusion because it references the old Greek play Oedipus Rex that is based on Greek mythology. The final example comes from the poem “Ash Wednesday” where Eliot refers to the bible, “To the posterity of the desert.”

The desert played an important part in Christianity, as it is part of the Old Testament where the Jewish people wandered the desert for forty days and forty nights in order to start a new civilization. Therefore, Eliot is alluding to the tests Moses had to endure with the people in order to survive. These examples show how Eliot used allusions to religion, mythology, and other literature.

Eliot uses certain poetic devices throughout his poetry sort of like an artist would leave his mark in his work. Some devices he uses are the personification of nature throughout his work, the imagery of death used to describe the world or characters, and finally the last poetic device he uses is the allusions to mythology, religion, and other poetry. T.S. Eliot was one of the greatest modern poets for his use of poetic devices.