It is a funny yet chilling little affair: that much cannot be denied. Having read the two verses, we are left in no doubt as to which of the two speakers in the poem is going to far outlast the other. How then, as both comedy and warning, is it to be rated when compared with some of Eliot's sinister-jocular lines: with, say, this largely unpunctuated exchange from "Fragment of an Agon"?
SWEENEY: I know a man once did a girl
Any man might do a girl in
Any man has to, needs to, wants to
Once in a lifetime, do a girl in
Well he kept her there in a bath
With a gallon of lysol in a bath
SWARTS: These fellows always get pinched in the end.
SNOW: Excuse me, they don't all get
pinched in the end.
What about them bones on Epsom
I seen that in the papers
They don't all get pinched in the end...
Given the differences between them, any attempt at a direct comparison between the two passages would be implausible; yet no one would wish to deny the power of the machine-gun rat-tat-tat of Sweeney's assertion of what any man has to, needs to, wants to, once in a lifetime "do" with a troublesome partner. Yet, to my taste, "Waiting Both" is the funnier of the two passages, and the more grown up — and much the grimmer, too.
Rewriter: A draft of "The Waste Land"