When love begins to sicken and decay,
It useth an enforced ceremony.
There are no tricks in plain and simple faith;
But hollow men, like horses hot at hand,
Make gallant show and promise of their mettle;
But when they should endure the bloody spur,
They fall their crests, and, like deceitful jades,
Sink in the trial. – Julius Caesar Act IV scene ii
Eliot in his earlier poetry had described a world where love had begun to ‘sicken and decay’. In the Hollow Men he is trying to re-appropriate the ritual dimension of life and to wrestle with the proposition that such a re-appropriation is no longer possible or perhaps even legitimate. Eliot seems to have arrived at an impasse in his life which was both poetic in terms of his literary career, and religious in terms of his spiritual development.
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