Mistah Kurtz — he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy

I

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.

II

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

III

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.

IV

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.

V

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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of T.S. Eliot's poem The Hollow Men

57 Comments

  1. Asit says:

    Who are the ‘Hollow men’? Kindly analyze the figurative meaning of ‘The Hollow Men’? –

  2. Viviana says:

    The poem had such great meaning with hidden religious connotations, which one has to read very carefully and several times to grasp. He is and always be my favorite writer.

  3. John Thompson says:

    Although the poem was written in 1925 its a good reflection of what we are witnessing today in society. Political correctness is the standard not the real feelings. Hollow Man is such a person. They stand for nothing and go with the wind. No fabric in their character. I believe Mr Eliot was seeing many such persons and saw a great loss to our society and that greatness could not be achieved but such people. Great poem and gives much to think about with its ending”not with a bang but a whimper”. Is that what we want?

  4. Michael says:

    This poem conveys many deep thought about life and death that have been explored many times over, but no answer has been found.

  5. romeo marafiote says:

    A great deal of thinking needed here.

  6. WHUFC says:

    T.S Eliot was an English Poet. Though born in the US he renounced his citizenship to the United States: “My mind may be American but my heart is British”. Perhaps he never thought his heart was anything until he realized it was British… Thus a hollow man. Just a thought..

  7. romeo marafiote says:

    I believe that the author was presient in that he predicts that the USA will ultimetly fail as a major force in the world. The foregoing comment is based on
    the paths we are following world-wide (we cannot continue to wage wars in Europe/Asia/Afganistan and etc. succesfully.

  8. huma says:

    love this poem i want detailed explanation of this poem with related quoets

  9. Curious Thoughts says:

    I’m not sure how many even paid attention to it, but at the very begining, “Mistah Kurtz – he dead” is a direct reference to Mr. Kurtz from The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Likewise, “a penny for the Old Guy” is a reference to Guy Fawkes (for those of you not familiar with British history or the tradition of Guy Fawkes Day, google search it because I don’t feel like explaining it). Both of these men had “direct eyes”, that is, they knew what they wanted and how to get to their goal (however much they failed) and both went out with a “bang” (Kurtz: “The horror, the horror!” and Guy Fawkes was executed, I believe). I believe Eliot is commenting on reality in this poem. For most people, their voices are “dry” and never heard. Also, most people don’t die in a truly exceptional way, no matter what we’d like to believe. Usually, they die an insignificant death – like a “whimper”.
    If you don’t agree with my interpretation, well, that’s the beauty of Free Will. Either way, hopefully the historical and literary background information helped.

  10. CK says:

    Here’s an Australian theatre group’s interesting, psychedelic musical take on this hauntingly beautiful poem by Eliot.

    http://www.ponytone.com/2007/12/pageant-theatre-hollow-men-here-we-go.html

  11. Michael says:

    Not only was World War I NOT in the 1920’s (1914 to 1918), it was hardly unilaterally opposed like Vietnam was. Germany asked Mexico to join them to make war against us, and that pissed us off. Not many Americans opposed to pre-empting a direct and open threat from a foreign empire.

    Anyway, this poem is incredible. Its beauty lies in its words and its rhythm The utter hopelessness it conveys is chilling. I don’t think you really need to understand the history to appreciate it.

  12. Peter says:

    Did someone say WWI was the Vietnam of the twenties? You should probably check the dates of that war and the geography. And really while your at it do you know your address? Or where your wallet is? Or your first name for that matter?

  13. Liz says:

    I beg to differ. You’ve only read the poem but you never actually learned it. It’s a beautiful piece of literature which questions both humanity and the reader’s faith.
    Calling something “gay” just because you’re too dimwitted to understand it does not make you any smarter.
    Try actually reading the poem if you’d like. It’s not half bad once you understand it.

  14. sarah says:

    i didnt like this poem at all it was gay soorry

  15. Angela says:

    LOLLI,
    You’re right about there being know war in the poem itself “except the battle that rages within.” But if you look at the time period in which the poem was published, WWI had just ended and, if you’d read up on it in a history book, you’d find that americans had really mixed feelings about the war. We felt like there was no point to it and the whole thing was totally uncalled for. It was the Vietnam of the 20’s. And sense it was that big, a lot of poets and writers felt they needed to publish America’s feelings. So while there’s no actual war in the poem, Eliot’s most definitely refering to the feelings of the nation.

  16. Flash says:

    I think it is pertaining to bulldogs. Hollllyyy with ease. T.S. Eliot is non gay.

  17. TheHollowMen says:

    I love this poem.It is used well in HALO I love the ending.This is how the world ends.
    And Realy Good poem.love it.:)

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