The Hollow Men

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.

T.S. Eliot

1. Mistah Kurtz: a character in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness."

2. A...Old Guy: a cry of English children on the streets on Guy Fawkes Day, November 5, when they carry straw effigies of Guy Fawkes and beg for money for fireworks to celebrate the day. Fawkes was a traitor who attempted with conspirators to blow up both houses of Parliament in 1605; the "gunpowder plot" failed.

3. Those...Kingdom: Those who have represented something positive and direct are blessed in Paradise. The reference is to Dante's "Paradiso". 

4. Eyes: eyes of those in eternity who had faith and confidence and were a force that acted and were not paralyzed.

5. crossed stave: refers to scarecrows

6. tumid river: swollen river. The River Acheron in Hell in Dante's "Inferno". The damned must cross this river to get to the land of the dead.

7. Multifoliate rose: in dante's "Divine Comedy" paradise is described as a rose of many leaves.

8. prickly pear: cactus

9. Between...act: a reference to "Julius Caesar" "Between the acting of a dreadful thing/And the first motion, all the interim is/Like a phantasma or a hideous dream."

10. For...Kingdom: the beginning of the closing words of the Lord's Prayer.


  1. Love T.S. Eliot, and the poem is perfect for the subject. Picture is wonderful, too. Best regards to you, Ruby

  2. Oh thanks for printing this poem. It is one of the very few that I studied. I was surprised to discover that I remembered every part of it.
    More strangely was the fact that two phrases of the poem reside in my head
    "penny for the old guy"
    and the end

    "This is the way the world ends... not with a bang but a whimper"

    Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors

  3. Thank you.
    I have loved T.S. Eliot since I first read The Love Song Of Alfred J. Prufrock