"April Is The Cruelest Month"

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Context: In the notes which Eliot supplied for this extremely elaborate and complex poem, he pointed out that "a good deal of the incidental symbolism" came from Jessie A. Weston's book From Ritual to Romance, which deals with the origins of the Grail legend. In one of the many commentaries on the poem, the explanation of the cryptic opening lines is that April, the month of spring and of the Resurrection, is "cruel" because it brings us, not a new life, but merely "memory and desire." It is also cruel because the people, whose empty conversation at a fashionable resort begins in line 12, do not want the new life that is offered to them; they want only a continuation of their "waste land." The poem begins:

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April is the cruellest month, breedingLilacs out of the dead land, mixingMemory and desire, stirringDull roots with spring rain.Winter kept us warm, coveringEarth in forgetful snow, feedingA little life with dried tubers.

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