“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
—T. S. Eliot in “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets
These four quartets wedded in one poem are incredibly dense and worth reading
repeatedly. Which is why this 59-page edition is the perfect format for the
best enjoyment of this, my favorite poem of this great poet’s work. I find
myself plucking this thin volume regularly from my “favorite books”
bookcase and sliding it into my suitcase almost every time I travel.
T. S. Eliot wrote this poem towards the end of his Nobel-prize-winning career. In
it he’s at the height of his poetic power: exploring parad
ox and imagery,
philosophy and emotion, the concrete and the ethereal. The four sections of
the poem (“Burnt Norton,” “East Coker,” “The Dry Salvages,”
and “Little Gidding”) are each named based on a specific place. They
deal loosely in order with each of the four medieval elements: earth, air, water, and
fire. They are combined by overlapping imagery and shared themes.
Make sure you take lots of time to soak Eliot in—slowly absorb and let
the beautifully crafted words flow into you. Perhaps you’ll find that,
as Eliot says in the Quartets:
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others...
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph.”
Read and enjoy.