Where does the good go

The hollow men (by guest blogger Astin)

I first encountered this poem in high school.

I believe I had been asked specifically to analyze “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by my drunken, wholly incapable grade 12 English teacher. Why? Because she sure as hell couldn’t do it. So while reading some T.S. Eliot, I found this…. or maybe I found it earlier. Either way, I analyzed this ALONG with Prufrock, because I liked it so much.

Still do. Still my favourite poem.

So when Dawn went and asked if I wanted to do one of these, I leapt at the opportunity by not replying until she threatened me with Voodoo. Seriously. (#truestory -Ed.)

I’d read Heart of Darkness, which was incredibly dull, so maybe the opening line grabbed me.

I can’t remember all my brilliant teenage analyses, but I’m sure I tied it to Greek concepts of Hades, Christian beliefs, false idols, and death, death, death. Did I mention I went to Catholic school?

Reading it now, I still love it. It’s dripping with symbolism, brilliantly constructed phrases, deconstruction, accusations, pathos, horror, suffering, and possibly one of the most famous endings in all of literature. Its inspiration can still be seen everywhere today.

The Hollow Men
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
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.

Astin is the current world champion of poker blogger tournamenting. He lives in Toronto with his catdog and usually blogs here.

7 Responses to “The hollow men (by guest blogger Astin)”

  1. Pearatty Says:

    Astin, you are a genius! The aforementioned beloved Ms. Kyl taught this poem together with J. Alfred Prufrock as having the same themes. Well done.

  2. Dawn summers Says:

    I love the Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock! And if this is the same english teacher who declared the play within Hamlet was just a plot device with no import, then, no, she probably couldn’t analyze Prufrock.

    Oh…um…but this poem isn’t the Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock…so I should probably say something about hollow men. i was  going to make a joke about it being better than the movie. But that was hollow man, and i didn’t see it.

    The hollow men is depressing. Also, I keep imagining it being read by Samuel L. Jackson, so it sounds real angry and the end goes “Whimper? Fuck that motherfucker, I’m going out with a bang! And I’m taking your ass with me!”

  3. Dawn Summers Says:


    You’re only calling Astin a genius because he’s canadian! Canaphile!

  4. Mary Says:

    Great choice Astin! Eliot is one of my top five poets. I almost chose him instead of Ginsberg for my Poetry Wednesday guest post.

  5. Astin Says:

    Yup! Same teacher. Our whole class got a 10% grade bump from the administration at the end of the semester, and she was dumped into the library, never to teach again.

    There’s some formatting issues up there… good thing I didn’t go with E.E. Cummings.

  6. tito Says:

    You can trust me, The Hollow Men is much, much better than Hollow Man. Which is in turn much, much better than Hollow Man 2.

    The horror.

  7. Dawn Summers Says:

    Yay! Astin’s hit 7 comments! 7 being the minimum number of comments for a successful post. :)

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