T.S. Eliot


This webpage presents the text of T.S. Eliot's poem "Ode" and, for comparison purposes, it also includes the text of his prose poem "Hysteria." The "Notes" section below contains more information about these poems.

The Poems


To you particularly, and to all the Volscians
Great hurt and mischief.

Subterrene laughter synchronous
With silence from the sacred wood
And bubbling of the uninspired
Mephitic river.
The accents of the now retired
Profession of the calamus.

When the bridegroom smoothed his hair
There was blood upon the bed.
Morning was already late.
Children singing in the orchard
(Io Hymen, Hymenaee)
Succuba eviscerate.

By arrangement with Perseus
The fooled resentment of the dragon
Sailing before the wind at dawn
Golden apocalypse. Indignant
At the cheap extinction of his taking-off.
Now lies he there
Tip to tip washed beneath Charles' Wagon.


As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved in her laughter and being part of it, until her teeth were only accidental stars with a talent for squad-drill. I was drawn in by short gasps, inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost finally in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by the ripple of unseen muscles. An elderly waiter with trembling hands was hurriedly spreading a pink and white checked cloth over the rusty green iron table, saying: 'If the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden, if the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden . . .' I decided that if the shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of the fragments of the afternoon might be collected, and I concentrated my attention with careful subtlety to this end.





Eliot's poem, "Ode," was published in early 1920 in his second volume of poetry, Ara Vos Prec (the title may also appear as Ara Vus Prec due to an error.) This book was printed in the U.K. by John Rodker. The poems were republished later the same month by Alfred A. Knopf in an American edition. The American title was Poems. However, the poems were in a different order and, more importantly, "Ode" was replaced with the prose poem "Hysteria." Eliot never again published "Ode." These two books were classified as work A4 by Donald Gallup in his bibliography of Eliot's works.

The title

The working title was: "Ode on Independence Day, July 4th 1918."

The epigraph

The epigraph comes from William Shakespeare's play Coriolanus (Act IV, Scene 5.)

My name is Caius Marcius, who hath done
To thee particularly, and to all the Volsces,
Great hurt and mischief; thereto witness may
My surname, Coriolanus: the painful service,
The extreme dangers, and the drops of blood
Shed for my thankless country, are requited
But with that surname; a good memory,
And witness of the malice and displeasure
Which thou shouldst bear me: only that name remains;



"Hysteria" was originally printed in Catholic Anthology 1914-1915, a book edited by Ezra Pound and printed in London in November 1915 by Elkin Mathews. This was not a publication for a religious institution; the word catholic here meant universal. Catholic Anthology is classified as work B1 by Donald Gallup in his bibliography of Eliot's works.


Gallup, Donald.   T.S. Eliot: A Bibliography, A Revised and Extended Edition.   New York: Harcourt, Brace & World (1969)   pp. 25-7, 105

United States copyright law accords public domain status to works published prior to 1923. Therefore it is my understanding that these poems are in the public domain in the U.S. but perhaps not in other countries (particularly in the U.K. and E.U.) Be careful about republication.

About this webpage:

Revision date (y/m/d h:m:s):
$Date: 2006/11/13 23:07:48 $
Rickard A. Parker    (raparker@theworld.com)


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