Ruler Over All

Notes Toward the Restitution of Christian Culture
by Ken Myers

One hundred years ago, in September 1923, the Hogarth Press published the first English book edition of T.  S. Eliot’s 434-line poem, The Waste Land. The type was set by hand by Eliot’s friend Virginia Woolf, who with her husband Leonard had founded the small publishing venture. The previous autumn, The Waste Land had appeared in the inaugural issue of Eliot’s own journal, The Criterion, and then in the U.S. in the prestigious literary magazine, The Dial.

The Waste Land has been judged by many to be the most influential English-language poem of the twentieth century. Often analyzed as a depiction of the turmoil and fragmentation of Eliot’s own inner life, its continued power after a century is surely because of its account of public—not just private—dislocation. When the poem first appeared in 1922, the second volume of Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West had just been published. Spengler predicted the twenty-first-century collapse of Western civilization following decades of decay and concomitant  tyranny.

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Ken Myers is the host and producer of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. Formerly an arts editor with National Public Radio, he also serves as music director at All Saints Anglican Church in Ivy, Virginia. He is a contributing editor for Touchstone.

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