The last word of the first line of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. Chosen because of its pejorative connotations, it is a description of reproduction that strips the act of all its joyous attributes and instead reduces it to a dull, mechanical process.

The fact that this word, as is the case with many others that complete lines in the poem's introduction, is a gerund reinforces this meaning; the ironic use of -ing endings in the first few lines, which are used to much more positive, jubulent ends in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, here have an antithetical effect: they drag the momentum of the poem.

Compare the deflated tones that Eliot uses, 'breeding', 'mixing', and 'stirring', to Chaucer's 'pierced', 'bathed', and 'engendered'. The contrast is most explicitly noted if one recongnizes that all six words can be used to describe the sex act.

If you wanted to, you could perhaps summarize much of Eliot's poem, or at least its tone, with the word 'breeding' alone.

Breeding, the art of improving races or breeds of domestic animals, or modifying them in certain directions, by continuous attention to their pairing, in conjunction with a similar attention to their feeding and general treatment. No sooner had the Revolutionary War closed than importations of improved stock began. This was kept up until the War of 1812 temporarily checked it. Mr. Rommel says that the year 1817 will always be memorable in American cattle history. In that year, following the short-horn importations of 1812, came the beginning of the Devon and Hereford importations, together with still another arrival of short-horns. Growth was slow up to 1827, when there came renewed activity, especially in short-horns. Companies were formed and the improvement of cattle was marked. In point of numbers the shorthorn breed rapidly assumed the foremost position, and till about the year 1880 was the only beef of prominence. The expansion of the cattle business was rapid. Up to the opening of the Union Pacific railroad it was mainly carried on in the part of the country E. of the Missouri River. Then came the discovery of the great opportunities offered by the far Western plains for grazing. The growth in the cattle raising industry was then abnormal. "In the early eighties," says Mr. Rommel, "pure-bred cattle by the thousands were brought from England to supplement the breeding herds for the range, and the nearest that the Hereford and Angus breeds ever came to having a boom in this country was at this time." After the collapse, which was bound to follow, the cattle business is now on what is thought to be a substantial and healthy foundation.


Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

Breed"ing (?), n.

1.

The act or process of generating or bearing.

2.

The raising or improving of any kind of domestic animals; as, farmers should pay attention to breeding.

3.

Nurture; education; formation of manners.

She had her breeding at my father's charge. Shak.

4.

Deportment or behavior in the external offices and decorums of social life; manners; knowledge of, or training in, the ceremonies, or polite observances of society.

Delicacy of breeding, or that polite deference and respect which civility obliges us either to express or counterfeit towards the persons with whom we converse. Hume.

5.

Descent; pedigree; extraction.

[Obs.]

Honest gentlemen, I know not your breeding. Shak.

Close breeding, In and in breeding, breeding from a male and female from the same parentage. -- Cross breeding, breeding from a male and female of different lineage. -- Good breeding, politeness; genteel deportment.

Syn. -- Education; instruction; nurture; training; manners. See Education.

 

© Webster 1913.

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