Monday, June 30, 2014

Excerpts from TS Eliot's "Four Quartets" [Part III]

"Little Gidding"
Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic…
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul's sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time
But not in time's covenant.

You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
     We only live, only suspire
     Consumed by either fire or fire.

For last year's words belong to last year's language 
And next year's words await another voice.


What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph.

Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.



  1. I've been so shocked at how much all of your T.S. Eliot posts! Not because of you I hasten to add! It's because I'm aware that Eliot is classed as a modernist writer and modernism and I... well, we're not friends. But T.S. Eliot, wow! His poems actually do something to me. I can't pretend I understand everything he's saying but his language is beautiful and I can feel genuine emotion behind the words.

    1. Ah... Modernism and I have a provisional relationship. But one of my last classes in undergrad was an interdisciplinary class on modernism and I was surprised how much I loved it! Eliot is a challenge to understand - I'm probably only 40% Eliot-literate. And yet... his lines reverberate within me. His Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock has won a spot (at least for now) as my absolute favorite poem. His ambiguity has depth rather than just being smoke and mirrors. It beautifully captures the uncertainty of WWI. The repetition imitates the rhythm of my internal conversations. And in all of its grand philosophizing... it captures the metaphysical questions of every-day scenarios. "I have measured out my life in coffee spoons."

      Ah... getting carried away. Maybe I need a whole separate blog post on that one poem. It's phenomenal. :)

  2. I love 'J Alfred Prufrock' too! It's supposed to be his most accessible poem and it's truly beautiful :)

    On a possibly shallower note, it's Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch's favourite poem (brothers from another mother!) and there's a video of Tom Hiddleston reciting some of it on YouTube. Sadly it's not a complete reading :(