Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yes, More T.S. Eliot

Four QuartetsFour Quartets by T.S. Eliot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know I've mentioned this already, but I do love T.S. Eliot. His poetry isn't the kind that you understand right away. It's not light reading, but it's beautiful.

Four Quartets is, without a doubt, my favorite of his collected poetry that I've read so far. Wasteland was beautiful, wild, crazy, and deep, but Four Quartets is much more soulful. It was also written after his conversion to the Anglican church, so it has a lot of religious and spiritual themes, a lot more than Wasteland did.

The book is arranged into four separate poems: Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages, and Little Gidding.

When reading T.S. Eliot, my routine is usually this:

  •  Read once, just listening to and enjoying rhythm and sounds of words
  •  Read again, this time looking for the meaning
  •  Read the third time, trying to make sure I understood the right meaning
  • Read again, understand enough to move on

That's actually a lot like how you're supposed to read the Bible. Read, digest, read, digest.

I'll leave you with some bits of poetry from the book:

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind us of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

- From East Coker

I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope,
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith,
But the faith and the love are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

- From Burnt Norton

For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. 

- From The Dry Salvages

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.

- From Little Gidding

Have you read any T.S. Eliot? Have a favorite book of poetry? Have a fixed way of reading poetry? Hate poetry? Love poetry?
Let me know by commenting!


  1. Ah. I just want to close my eyes and have someone read this to me so I can savor the sound of the words.

  2. Somehow, I missed a lot of T.S. Eliot. I've only read a couple of his poems. I'll have to make an effort to remedy that.

    Also, the long-awaited last sci-fi fiction is up on my blog. I'm tickled by the way it came out. I'm anxious to know your opinion. :)

  3. Leslie - I know. Isn't it beautiful? That's why I love T.S. Eliot.

    EvalinaMaria - Poetry is such a great medium, isn't it? It expresses thoughts in ways that plain prose can't.

    Jessica - you should! It's worth reading. Thanks for the heads-up about the story!



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