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The Hollow Man

Introduction: Marina Lenti from the Web Italy interviewed Steve Hogarth about this song in August 1999. h said: "A statement about what I sometimes fear I might become. The corrupting effect of being a 'star' I suppose... I'm very self-analytical and I try to examine my own behaviour a lot. And, you know, I can't still try to decide whether I like myself or not! (Laughs)... 

"In The Hollow Man, I'm also talking about the abuse of the kind of power that fame gives you, in terms of human touch. You must be very careful with people, when you're in my position. You can take things from people, when you're famous. They'll do things for you they won't normally do for other people. And very casually you can take things without thinking. That's what I meant when I said, 'I looked down upon myself and watch my movements, a blind eye sees the fragile vandalized' . That sense of throwing stones through stained glass windows. Taking beautiful, fragile things destroying them carelessly. Which is again an image I've already touched down in The Space with 'the man in the tram crashing your car in Amsterdam'."

'Hollow Men'
Stephen Judge wrote: "The Hollow Men is a poem by T.S. Eliot. I think it refers to a certain emptiness within. 'They shine on the outside', but there is nothing beneath it." Here it is, followed by a biography of T.S. Eliot, and an analysis of the poem.

The Hollow Men 

A penny for the Old Guy


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us--if at all--not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind's singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death's dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer--

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom


This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death's other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
and avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death's twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
and the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
T.S. Eliot 

The 1996 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia says: "An Anglo-American poet, critic, dramatist, and editor, Thomas Stearns Eliot was a major innovator in modern English poetry, famous above all for his revolutionary poem The Waste Land (1922). His seminal critical essays, such as those published in The Sacred Wood (1920), helped to usher in literary modernism by stressing tradition, continuity, and objective discipline over indulgent romanticism and subjective egoism. In rejecting the poetic values of the English romantics and Victorians, Eliot, along with William Butler Yeats and Ezra Pound, set new poetic standards equal to those established by James Joyce and Marcel Proust in fiction. In 1948 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

"Eliot, born in St. Louis, Mo., Sept. 26, 1888, was descended from a distinguished New England family. Between 1906 and 1914 he attended Harvard, studying widely in literature and philosophy. As a graduate student in philosophy, Eliot went abroad to study principally at the Sorbonne and Oxford. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, he decided to take up permanent residence in England and became a British subject in 1927. In 1915 he married Vivien Haigh-Wood, whose mental instability led to her confinement in institutions from 1930 until her death in 1947. The emotional difficulties produced by the marriage evidently prompted some intense passages in Eliot's poetry. Living in London, he worked as a teacher and bank clerk and helped edit the imagist magazine The Egoist (1917-19). In London he also met his countryman Ezra Pound, who read Eliot's poems and responded enthusiastically. From 1920 to 1939, Eliot edited The Criterion, and in 1925 joined the publishers Faber and Gwyer as an editor; he later became a director of the firm, later renamed Faber and Faber. In 1927 he joined the Church of England. Eliot was awarded the British Order of Merit in 1948 and the American Medal of Freedom in 1964. He died in London on Jan. 4, 1965.

"As a young poet Eliot found inspiration in French Symbolist poetry, particularly the ironic, self-deprecating verse of Jules Laforgue, and in the flexible, colloquial blank verse of the 17th-century metaphysical poets and Jacobean dramatists. Both influences are apparent in his first important poems, 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' (1909-11) and 'Portrait of a Lady' (1915), both published in Prufrock and Other Observations (1917). Equally influential were his readings of Dante, Shakespeare, ancient literature, modern philosophy, and Eastern mysticism, all of which influenced other early poems such as 'Mr. Apollinax' (1916), 'Sweeney among the Nightingales' (1918), and 'Gerontion' (1920), a poem that anticipates the power of 'The Waste Land'. With the help and encouragement of Ezra Pound, Eliot's poetry began to appear in English and American magazines. Pound regarded Eliot as a truly modern poet who had developed an extraordinarily original idiom that fused tradition and superior learning with the contemporary and colloquial.

"Eliot was not a prolific poet, but his small output soon gained respectful attention from readers of modern poetry on both sides of the Atlantic. During the pos war years his prevailing sense of despair and sour irony, and his conviction that contemporary civilization falls short of past grandeur, struck a responsive chord in many readers.

"The appearance of 'The Waste Land' in 1922 aroused both notoriety and genuine admiration. It was notorious because it appeared bafflingly obscure, and at the same time slangy and iconoclastic, a gesture of defiance toward traditional literary ideals; it seemed a poetic expression of the Jazz Age. More discerning readers responded to the deeper aspects of the poem: its juxtaposition of disparate, clashing images; its superimposition of past and present, ancient myths being re-enacted in a modern urban setting, Dante and Shakespeare counter-pointed against blues and ragtime. Eliot quoted or alluded to a wide range of literary sources, incorporating them into the texture of the poem by a marked personal rhythm. However difficult particular passages may be, Eliot's verse is emphatically memorable. 'The Waste Land' was the product of several years' gestation and, like most of Eliot's poetry, is composed of fragments that were carefully arranged and juxtaposed, rather like the collage technique of 20th-century painting. In a 1971 published facsimile of the original manuscript, it became evident how much the final form of the poem owed to the extensive revisions made, at Eliot's request, by Pound.

"Two years before 'The Waste Land' appeared, Eliot's collection of essays on poetry and criticism, The Sacred Wood, was published (1920). His best-known essay, 'Tradition and the Individual Talent', advanced the key points of all his later criticism: the importance of literary history and tradition, and the belief that poetry lies not in an unbridled expression of emotion but in an escape from emotion. In 'Hamlet and His Problems', he called Shakespeare's play an 'artistic failure' because of Hamlet's inexpressible emotional attachment to Gertrude, and coined the term objective correlative, meaning an image or metaphor that arouses emotional response in the reader. Other essays on Dryden, Donne, and the metaphysical poets generated new interest in these writers.

"Following his conversion to Anglo-Catholicism, Eliot's poetry took on new spiritual dimensions. The six-part poem 'Ash Wednesday' (1930) sensitively traces a pattern of spiritual progress. Based on Dante's Purgatorio, it draws on a narrower range of associations than 'The Waste Land'. The emphasis is on the struggle toward belief rather than the triumphant assertion of it. Eliot's last major poetic sequence, 'Four Quartets' (1943), which was written in four sections from 1935 to 1942 and which he believed to be his finest achievement, is religious in a very broad sense. It deals with ideas of incarnation, the intersection of time and eternity, and the discovery of spiritual insight in sudden and unexpected moments of revelation. More personal than the previous poems, it is exquisitely lyrical and musical in structure.

"With his best-known play, Murder in the Cathedral (1935; film, 1952), based on the murder of Thomas Becket, Eliot hoped to revive poetic drama. Commissioned for the 1935 Canterbury Festival, it is an effective combination of theatre, liturgy, and verse. His other plays - The Family Reunion (1939), The Cocktail Party (1949), The Confidential Clerk (1953), and The Elder Statesman (1959) - are contemporary secular dramas that, like the poems, draw on a variety of literary sources. Eliot commented at length on the subject of drama in 'Rhetoric and Dramatic Poetry' (1919) and 'Dialogue on Dramatic Poetry' (1928).

"Although Eliot is widely regarded as a great poet and equally great critic, some readers have been put off by his austere personality. But the best of his poems and essays have a remarkable capacity for renewing themselves and revealing a man who was not only an imaginative artist but also a keen cultural commentator who made readers re-evaluate their notions of literature."

A critical examination of 'The Hollow Men' by Melissa Sodeman follows: "Eliot's 'The Hollow Men' returns to the desiccated setting of 'Gerontion' and 'The Waste Land', which in this poem is referred to as the 'lost kingdom' of the hollow men. This poem represents a bridge between two of Eliot's poetic methods, between the poetic dependent upon allusion to the literary tradition and the juxtapositional relations between fragments and one in which the use of allusion is less aggressive, which alludes not to the past but to that which is unknowable and unspeakable, the infinite Word.

In its theme of death in life ('We are the hollow men/ We are the stuffed men') 'The Hollow Men' resembles Eliot's earlier poetry, but unlike those poems does not depend upon an allusional structure. The allusions in 'The Hollow Men' do not demand explication as do those of The Waste Land; their use is subtler, as if they have been incorporated into Eliot's verse rather than form the verse itself. In place of a strictly allusional structure is a turning toward what Linda Leavell identifies as the 'ritual method' Eliot uses in Ash-Wednesday (Leavell, 145).

The desperation of the hollow men leads them to turn partially toward ritual, to an attempt to communicate with that which is beyond, with the unknowable Word. For these empty men this is an impossible task and their prayers fail: 'For Thine is/ Life is/ For Thine is the'. Still, the attempt at incorporating ritual into his poetic method in 'The Hollow Men' marks this poem's significance as a link between the allusive structure of 'The Waste Land' and the ritual-based form of 'Ash-Wednesday'."

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Songs with a link have explanations. Now Wash Your Hands is a separate link to Alone Again.

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