Preludes to ???
To what does the intricate poem entitled Preludes as preludes serve?
The poet starts Preludes with a subtle description of the lifeless evening of a chilly winter (with "a gusty shower"), which, stereotypically, is respectively reckoned as the end of a day and a year-rather than "preludes" to anything. In addition, despite the fact that several other elements with warmth are also mentioned in the first fragment ("smell of steaks" and "lighting of the lamps"), they are nevertheless more of a contradiction against the "withered leaves" or the "lonely cab-horse" or the "vacant lots." The intentionally brought up warmth, in other words, functions solely as a device that thickens the hollowness and sordidness of the whole passage. The only thing to expect, then, is the upcoming morning/spring. In short, only then are the "preludes" of any significance: the nothingness serves as the "preludes" to something-with hope.
Here comes the breaking of the dawn, which, as mentioned above, is expected to bring life to the poem and thus serve as the "preludes" to something, say, a brand new episode of life. Nevertheless, the morning starts with the "stale smells of beer" elaborating that "morning" is not any better than the evening. Rather, "morning" could be even worse with people in masks parading around-as said in the fragment, the "masquerade." The "hands that are raising dingy shades in a thousand furnished rooms" further imply that the life people lead is but an endless repetition, so sunken or fallen, seen as the "preludes" to, yes, I would say, another endless repetition. The "furnished rooms," then, seem to be but a splendid pall that conceals the emptiness of life.
We are then led from the exterior of the room into the interior where freshness is not expected-at all. Here in this fragment, one's mind is miserably constituted by the "thousand sordid images." What's even worse, when "the world came back," one's expectation of the street is the expectation that the street itself cannot even understand. Here, the world seems to roll into a still larger chaos that none, even at its beginning (meant to be bright), cannot understand-at all.
The juxtaposition of the actions in this fragment, so far as I'm concerned, comes under the influence of Ezra Pound. Likely, the series of actions make the whole passage flow like a motion picture of a man in very detailed action. And, what's most important, the power of poetry comes from within the juxtaposition: the emptiness and hopelessness are thus made even stronger.
For me, the pileup (of either the external description or the internal state of mind) so far is in itself a vivid depiction of "the waste land."
The final fragment reemphasizes the chaos of the world in company of the chaos within the human beings. Seemingly, whether it is the world ("the blackened street impatient to assume the world") that makes people hopeless or the people that mess up everything doesn't count any longer. The truth is that the world together with the people are approaching (or have approached) the "certain certainties:" the "waste land."
The very last sentence "the worlds revolve like ancient women/Gathering fuel in vacant lots" gives a serious blow in the human civilization: the world isn't becoming any better on the basis of the rapid civilization; instead, the civilization acts like "fuel" that pollutes or blackens the already vacant existence of the human beingsˇK
Back to the matter of "preludes:" the four fragments in a whole are but the "preludes" to the "waste land"-or, in other words, nothingness.