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Four quartets by T. S. Eliot

Four quartets (original 1943; edition 1978)

by T. S. Eliot

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Title:Four quartets
Authors:T. S. Eliot
Info:THE FOLIO SOCIETY (1978), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:Folio Society

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Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot (1943)


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English (24)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (26)
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Over two millennia ago, a Hebrew philosopher known anonymously as the Qoheleth offered this observation:

"[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV).

You could consider Eliot’s Four Quartets his own wrestling on this ancient theme. Despite the Byrds’ zen-like refrain, the Qoheleth was troubled by this dark truth. We are creatures of time without the capacity to understand beginning and ending (let alone eternity!)

Eliot’s meditations are correspondingly dark. He begins, like the Qoheleth:

"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable" (“Burnt Norton” 1-5).

Time is a mystery. We can’t grasp it. We can’t somehow view it from the fixed point of a wheel—we can only participate in the dance that circuits around the “still point” (“Burnt Norton” 66).

Four Quartets are not something to be read lightly. They are incredibly dense and pregnant with meaning. This is language distilled to its essence.

For the Christian, these poems hold something extra. Eliot’s high-church Anglican worldview is infused in his writing. Consider these verses about the death of Christ:

"The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good" (“East Coker” 67-71).

Indeed, the incarnation of Christ is the only real solution to time. In Jesus, the eternal entered time. If we have a hope of grasping the mystery, it will be found in him.

More than Eliot’s day, ours is full of people “Distraction from distraction by distraction / Filled with fancies and empty of meaning” (“Burnt Norton” 101). It is a helpful antidote to slow down and meditate deeply on something. Aside from scripture, I can think of no better work of art than Eliot’s Four Quartets. ( )
  StephenBarkley | Jul 23, 2014 |
bookshelves: radio-4, published-1943, winter-20132014, poetry, nobel-laureate, philosophy, religion
Read from January 16 to 19, 2014

Sat 18/1/2014 R4

Jeremy Irons reads TS Eliot's four linked meditations.

BBC description: Four Quartets is the culminating achievement of T.S. Eliot's career as a poet. While containing some of the most musical and unforgettable passages in twentieth-century poetry, its four parts, 'Burnt Norton', 'East Coker', 'The Dry Salvages' and 'Little Gidding', present a rigorous meditation on the spiritual, philosophical and personal themes which preoccupied the author. It was the way in which a private voice was heard to speak for the concerns of an entire generation, in the midst of war and doubt, that confirmed it as an enduring masterpiece.

With an introduction by Michael Symmons Roberts, Lord David Alton and Gail McDonald.

It is all very Proustian:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

Found it a wonderful experience to read as I listened, and you can listen too. Without this I would have read salvages the wrong way: Eliot wrote it to be pronounced 'salve-ages', which is incredibly neat and in context.

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

4* Four Quartets
3* The Waste Land
5* Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
3* Murder in the Cathedral ( )
  mimal | Jan 19, 2014 |
One of the few Poetry books that I have returned to many times. The four poems, Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages, and Little Gidding, were first published together in 1943.
  grathbone | Jan 17, 2014 |
I listened to this without reading anything beforehand. I didn't pretend to understand, but "Dry Salvages" hit me most. (Because I had wanted to escape to the sea all day today.)

After I listened the first time, I read about the locations of all the poems and a little bit of background here and there and listened to it a second time. I get it! YAY!

Here is my review: http://carolhomeschool2.blogspot.com/2013/04/25-four-quartets-by-ts-eliot.html

Beautiful. :) ( )
  Carolfoasia | Apr 22, 2013 |
Lovely, dense poetry. I used to carry this with me everywhere. ( )
  jarvenpa | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eliot, T. S.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gaos, VicenteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matthiessen, F. O.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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του λογου δ'εοντος ξυνου ζϖουσιν οι πολλοι ϖς ιδιαν εχοντες φρονησιν.

1. p. 77. Fr. 2.

οδος ανϖ κατϖ μια και ϖυτη.

1. p. 89 Fr. 60.

Diels: Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (Herakleitos).
First words
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
Last words
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156332256, Paperback)

Published in the fiery days of World War II, Four Quartets stands as a testament to the power of poetry amid the chaos of the time. Let the words speak for themselves: "The dove descending breaks the air/With flame of incandescent terror/Of which the tongues declare/The only discharge from sin and error/The only hope, or the despair/Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre--/To be redeemed from fire by fire./Who then devised this torment?/Love/Love is the unfamiliar Name/Behind the hands that wave/The intolerable shirt of flame/Which human power cannot remove./We only live, only suspire/Consumed by either fire or fire."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:40 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The last major verse written by Eliot and what Eliot himself considered his finest work, Four Quartets is a rich composition that expands the spiritual vision brought out in The Waste Land. Here, in four linked poems, spiritual, philosophical, and personal themes emerge through symbolic allusions and literary and religious references from both Eastern and Western thought. Four Quartets is the culminating achievement by a man considered the greatest poet of the twentieth century and one of the seminal figures in the evolution of modernism.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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