by T. S. Eliot
Mistah Kurtz-he dead.
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 5
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar 10
Shape without form shade without colour,
Paralyzed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes to death's other Kingdom
Remember us--if at all-- not as lost 15
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's dream kingdom 20
These do not appear:
There the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There is a tree swinging

And voices are 25
In the wind's singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star
Let me be no nearer
In death's dream kingdom 30
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves 35
No nearer--

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom.


This is the dead land
this is cactus land 40
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 45
In death's other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss 50
Form prayers to broken stone


The eyes are not here
There are no eye here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley 55
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. 60

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death's twilight kingdom 65
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear 70
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act 75
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion 80
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm 85
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow 90
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For thine is the

This is the way the way the world ends 95
This is the way the way the world ends
This is the way the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

THE HOLLOW MEN: On the situation and the atmosphere, cf. Dante's account
(lnferno, III) of Hell's entrance where dwell in "the starless air," in" air forever dark," and "without hope of death," those "who never were alive"--"the wretched souls of those who lived without infamy and without praise" because they were not positive enough spiritually to be either good or evil.

Epigraphs: Mistah Kurtz he dead: In Conrad's Heart of Darkness, this is the phrase used by the black cabin boy announcing Mr. Kurtz's death. Mr. Kurtz, a European trader, had gone into "the heart of darkness" the mysterious primitive life of the African jungle with high intentions, but was soon barbarized by it: "The wilderness ... found him out early. ... I think it whisper to him things about himself which he did not know--and the whisper ... proved irresistibly fascinating. It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core." Despite his hollowness, however, as Marlowe the narrator of the story insists, Mr. Kurtz had been "a remarkable man." His dying whisper, "The horror! The horror" showed at least "some sort of belief: it had candour, it had conviction, it had a vibrating note of revolt ..., it had the appalling face of a glimpsed truth." A Penny for the Old Guy: The cry of English children on Guy Fawkes day, as they go about with straw effigies of the seventeenth-century traitor Guy Fawkes--later to be hung and burned--and ask for pennies with which to buy fireworks. But it is we who are the real hollow men, the poem hints- -not the lost violent souls like Fawkes (or even Kurtz).

13-14. Those... Kingdom: i.e., those who stood for something positive, either evil or good, and so can really die, as the hollow men cannot. 19. Eyes: In the Purgatorio, xxx and xxxi, Beatrice's eyes are a symbol of spiritual reality--on which account Dante both longs and dreads to behold them. Among the hollow men, in Limbo, there is no such challenge. All phenomena are naturalistic.

28. Star: a symbol embracing both the world of naturalistic flux (cf. l. 54) and the world of eternal spirit (cf. l. 63) 33-35. crossed ... behaves: i.e., effigies, scarecrows, tossing in the wind.

37. that ... meeting: i.e., with the searching eyes of spiritual reality.

60. the ... river: The river Acheron in Dante's Inferno, on the far side of which is Hell. 64. multifoliate rose: Cf. Dante's Celestial Rose made of light, Paradiso, XXX 116--"how vast is the spread of this rose in its outermost leaves." The rose is traditionally Christ's emblem (and the Virgin's).

68. Eliot's variant (cf. the cactus land, 39ff.) of the nursery rhyme,"Here we go round the mulberry bush."

74-75. Cf Julius Caesar, II i 63 ff.: "Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is Like a phantasma or a hideous dream."

76. Falls .. Shadow: Cf. Ernest Dowson's Cynara:"Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine There fell thy shadow, Cynara!"

98. bang: relevant to the fireworks of Guy Fawkes day: the violence that Fawkes planned (blowing up the House of Parliament); and the positiveness of soul, even if evil, that the hollow men long for.