'The Boston Evening Transcript' by T.S. Eliot

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The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript

Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.

When evening quickens faintly in the street,

Wakening the appetites of life in some

And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript,

I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning

Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld,

If the street were time and he at the end of the street,

And I say, 'Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript.'

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Boston Evening Transcript by T.S. Eliot: A Masterpiece of Modernist Poetry

As a literary masterpiece of Modernist poetry, T.S. Eliot's "The Boston Evening Transcript" is a complex and thought-provoking work that has challenged literary critics and enthusiasts alike for decades. This poem, published in 1917, explores themes of modernity, tradition, and the struggle to reconcile the two.

At its core, "The Boston Evening Transcript" is a commentary on the ways in which modern society has abandoned traditional values and replaced them with a superficial, materialistic culture. Eliot's poem is structured in three stanzas, each of which explores a different aspect of this theme.

The First Stanza: A Portrait of Modern Society

The first stanza of "The Boston Evening Transcript" paints a bleak portrait of modern society. Eliot describes a world in which people are consumed with the pursuit of wealth and status, and have lost touch with the values and traditions of their ancestors. The opening lines of the poem set the tone for this critique:

"The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript
Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.
When evening quickens faintly in the street,
Wakening the appetites of life in some
And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript,
I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning
Wearily, as one would turn to nod goodbye to Rochefoucauld,"

Eliot's use of imagery is powerful in conveying the idea that the readers of the Boston Evening Transcript are like a "field of ripe corn." This metaphor suggests that they are ripe for the harvest, that they have been cultivated and groomed to be consumed by the forces of modernity.

The reference to "the appetites of life" is also evocative, suggesting that modern society is driven by a constant need for consumption and stimulation. Eliot seems to be suggesting that people have lost touch with the deeper, more meaningful aspects of life in their pursuit of material gain.

The Second Stanza: A Call to Reconnect with Tradition

In the second stanza of the poem, Eliot emphasizes the importance of tradition and the need for modern society to reconnect with its roots. He describes the old books and manuscripts that are stored in libraries, and suggests that they contain the wisdom and knowledge that modern society has lost:

"In the reader's voice no hint of the vain desire,
For glory, honor, beauty, nothing of the sort,
But jealously observant of the speed-limit,
Airs his laments for ritual, and the diet-list,
A nose that sharpens the craft ecstatic,
Knowing that Night has chosen him to fall upon him and devour him,
And that he shall not die till the morrow."

Here, Eliot is making a call to action, urging readers to rediscover the wisdom of the past and to incorporate it into their lives. He suggests that by doing so, we can find a sense of meaning and purpose that is lacking in contemporary life.

The Third Stanza: A Meditation on the Passage of Time

In the third and final stanza of the poem, Eliot reflects on the passage of time and the inevitability of change. He acknowledges that the world is constantly evolving and that traditions must adapt in order to stay relevant:

"The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o'clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps."

Eliot's use of vivid imagery and sensory details in this stanza create a powerful sense of atmosphere and mood. The passage of time is evoked through the changing of the seasons, while the "burnt-out ends of smoky days" suggest the ephemeral nature of contemporary life.

Ultimately, Eliot seems to suggest that while we must adapt to changing times, we should not lose sight of the wisdom and values of the past. By incorporating tradition into our lives, we can find a sense of purpose and meaning in a world that is otherwise lost in the pursuit of material gain.


Overall, "The Boston Evening Transcript" is a masterful work of Modernist poetry that explores some of the most pressing social and cultural issues of its time. Through its complex imagery, vivid language, and powerful themes, Eliot's poem offers a powerful critique of modern society while also offering a call to action for readers to reconnect with tradition and find meaning and purpose in their lives. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply interested in exploring the complexities of modern society, "The Boston Evening Transcript" is a must-read work that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Boston Evening Transcript: A Masterpiece of Modernist Poetry

T.S. Eliot is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, known for his innovative and complex style that revolutionized modernist poetry. His poem, The Boston Evening Transcript, is a prime example of his mastery of language and his ability to convey profound ideas through seemingly simple words.

The poem was first published in 1918 in Eliot's collection of poems, Prufrock and Other Observations. It consists of five stanzas, each with four lines, and follows a strict rhyme scheme of ABAB. The poem's title refers to a daily newspaper that was published in Boston from 1830 to 1941, and it is believed that Eliot was a regular reader of the paper during his time in the city.

The poem begins with a description of the newspaper's content, which is filled with "unimportant news" and "trivialities." Eliot uses the metaphor of "yellow fog" to describe the paper's content, suggesting that it is murky and unclear, lacking in substance and meaning. The fog also represents the confusion and chaos of modern life, which Eliot believed was a result of the breakdown of traditional values and the rise of industrialization and urbanization.

The second stanza introduces the idea of the "lonely cab-horse," which is a symbol of the individual's isolation and alienation in modern society. The horse is described as "steaming and stamping" in the cold, dark streets, a vivid image that conveys the animal's frustration and despair. The horse's "hooves" also suggest the idea of progress and movement, but in this context, they are futile and meaningless, as the horse is going nowhere.

The third stanza shifts the focus to the speaker, who is described as "one who passed unnoticed." This line suggests that the speaker is also a victim of modern society, ignored and overlooked in a world that values only material success and superficial appearances. The speaker's "ghostly image" also suggests that he is a mere shadow of his former self, a reflection of the emptiness and meaninglessness of modern life.

The fourth stanza introduces the idea of "the street-lamp," which is a symbol of hope and enlightenment in the darkness of modern society. The lamp is described as "sputtering" and "flickering," suggesting that it is struggling to stay lit in the face of the overwhelming darkness. The lamp's light is also described as "feeble," suggesting that it is not strong enough to dispel the darkness completely.

The final stanza brings the poem full circle, returning to the idea of the newspaper and its "unimportant news." The speaker suggests that the newspaper is a distraction from the real issues of modern society, a way to avoid confronting the darkness and despair that surrounds us. The final line, "And I am one who will not care," suggests that the speaker has given up on trying to make sense of the world and has resigned himself to a life of apathy and indifference.

Overall, The Boston Evening Transcript is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that captures the essence of modernist poetry. Eliot's use of metaphor and symbolism creates a vivid and haunting image of modern society, one that is filled with darkness, despair, and isolation. The poem's strict rhyme scheme and simple language belie its complexity and depth, making it a masterpiece of modernist poetry that continues to resonate with readers today.

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