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T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot in 1923 by Lady Ottoline Morrell
Born Thomas Stearns Eliot
26 September 1888(1888-09-26)
St. Louis, Missouri
Died 4 January 1965 (aged 76)
London, England
Occupation Poet, dramatist, literary critic
Ethnicity Caucasian
Citizenship American by birth; British from 1927
Education A.B. in philosophy
Alma mater Harvard University
Merton College, Oxford
Period 1905–1965
Literary movement Modernism
Notable work(s) The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915), The Waste Land (1922)
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature (1948), Order of Merit (1948)
Spouse(s) Vivienne Haigh-Wood (1915–1947); Esmé Valerie Fletcher (1957 until his death)
Children none
Signature

Thomas Stearns Eliot (September 26, 1888–January 4, 1965) was an Anglo-American poet, playwright, and literary critic, arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century.[3] The first poem he became known for, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, was started in February 1910 and published in Chicago in June 1915, and is regarded as a masterpiece of the modernist movement.[4] It was followed by some of the best-known poems in the English language, including Gerontion (1920), The Waste Land (1922), The Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930), and Four Quartets (1945). He is also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935).

Born in Saint Louis, Missouri, and educated at Harvard, Eliot studied philosophy at the Sorbonne for a year, then won a scholarship to Oxford in 1914, becoming a British citizen when he was 39. "[M]y poetry has obviously more in common with my distinguished contemporaries in America than with anything written in my generation in England," he said of his nationality and its role in his work. "It wouldn't be what it is, and I imagine it wouldn't be so good ... if I'd been born in England, and it wouldn't be what it is if I'd stayed in America. It's a combination of things. But in its sources, in its emotional springs, it comes from America."[5] He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.

Contents

Life

Early life and education

Eliot was born into the Eliot family, a bourgeois family,[6] originally from New England, who had moved to St. Louis, Missouri.[4] His father, Henry Ware Eliot (1843–1919), was a successful businessman, president and treasurer of the Hydraulic-Press Brick Company in St. Louis. His mother, Charlotte Champe Stearns (1843–1929), wrote poems and was a social worker. Eliot was the last of six surviving children; his parents were both 44 years old when he was born. His four sisters were between 11 and 19 years older than him; his brother was eight years older. Known to family and friends as Tom, he was the namesake of his maternal grandfather Thomas Stearns.

From 1898 to 1905, Eliot attended Smith Academy, where he studied Latin, Ancient Greek, French, and German. He began to write poetry when he was 14 under the influence of Edward Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a translation of the poetry of Omar Khayyam, though he said the results were gloomy and despairing, and he destroyed them. The first poem that he showed anyone was written as a school exercise when he was 15, and was published in the Smith Academy Record, and later in The Harvard Advocate, Harvard University's student magazine.[7]

After graduation, he attended Milton Academy in Massachusetts for a preparatory year, where he met Scofield Thayer, who would later publish The Waste Land. He studied philosophy at Harvard from 1906 to 1909, earning his bachelor's degree after three years, instead of the usual four.[4] Frank Kermode writes that the most important moment of Eliot's undergraduate career was in 1908, when he discovered Arthur Symons's The Symbolist Movement in Poetry (1899). This introduced him to Jules Laforgue, Arthur Rimbaud, and Paul Verlaine, and without Verlaine, Eliot wrote, he might never have heard of Tristan Corbière. He wrote that the book affected the course of his life.[8] The Harvard Advocate published some of his poems, and he became lifelong friends with Conrad Aiken, the American novelist.

He worked as a philosophy assistant at Harvard from 1909–1910, then from 1910–1911, he lived in Paris, studying philosophy at the Sorbonne, where he attended lectures by Henri Bergson and read poetry with Alain-Fournier.[4][8] From 1911–1914, he was back at Harvard studying Indian philosophy and Sanskrit.[4][9] He was awarded a scholarship to Merton College, Oxford in 1914. He visited Marburg in Germany first, where he planned to take a summer program, but when the First World War broke out, he went to Oxford instead. There were so many American students at Merton at the time that the Junior Common Room proposed a motion "that this society abhors the Americanization of Oxford," defeated by two votes after Eliot reminded the students how much they owed American culture.[10] But he didn't settle at Merton, and left after a year. He wrote to Conrad Aiken on New Year's Eve 1914: "I hate university towns and university people, who are the same everywhere, with pregnant wives, sprawling children, many books and hideous pictures on the walls ... Oxford is very pretty, but I don't like to be dead."[10] By 1916, he had completed a PhD dissertion for Harvard on Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley, about F. H. Bradley but he failed to return for the viva voce.[4]

Marriage

Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot (left), with Peter Stainer and Mildred Woodruff, photographed by Lady Ottoline Morrell

In a letter to Aiken late in December 1914, Eliot, aged 26, wrote, "I am very dependent upon women (I mean female society)," and then added a complaint that he was still a virgin.[11] Less than four months later, Thayer introduced Eliot to Vivienne Haigh-Wood, a Cambridge governess. They were married at Hampstead Register Office on June 26, 1915.[12]

After a short, unaccompanied visit to his family in the United States, he returned to London and took several teaching jobs such as lecturing at Birkbeck College, University of London. The philosopher Bertrand Russell took an interest in Eliot's wife while the newlyweds stayed in his flat. Some scholars have suggested that she and Russell had an affair, but the allegations were never confirmed.[13] In a private paper written in his sixties, Eliot confessed: "I came to persuade myself that I was in love with Vivienne simply because I wanted to burn my boats and commit myself to staying in England. And she persuaded herself (also under the influence of [Ezra] Pound) that she would save the poet by keeping him in England. To her, the marriage brought no happiness. To me, it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land."[14] Their relationship was the subject of a 1984 play Tom and Viv, which in 1994 was made into a film.

Teaching, Lloyds, Faber and Faber

A plaque at SOAS's Faber Building, 24 Russell Square, London.

After leaving Merton, Eliot worked as a schoolteacher, most notably at Highgate School, a private school in London, where he taught French and Latin[4]—his students included the young John Betjeman—and later at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe a state school in Buckinghamshire. To earn extra money, he wrote book reviews and lectured at evening extension courses. In 1917, he took a position at Lloyds Bank in London, working on foreign accounts. On a trip to Paris in August 1920, he met the writer James Joyce and artist Wyndham Lewis. Eliot said he found Joyce arrogant—Joyce doubted Eliot's ability as a poet at the time—but the two soon became friends, with Eliot's visiting Joyce whenever he was in Paris.[15] In 1925, he left Lloyds to join the publishing firm Faber and Gwyer, later Faber and Faber, where he remained for the rest of his career, eventually becoming a director. Wyndham Lewis and Eliot became close friends, a friendship leading to Lewis's well-known painting of Eliot in 1938 (see lead image, above).

Conversion to Anglicanism and British citizenship

On June 29, 1927 Eliot converted to Anglicanism, and in November that year took British citizenship. He became a warden of his parish church, Saint Stephen's, Gloucester Road, London,[16] and a life member of the Society of King Charles the Martyr.[17]

Separation and remarriage

By 1932, Eliot had been contemplating a separation from his wife for some time. When Harvard offered him the Charles Eliot Norton professorship for the 1932-1933 academic year, he accepted and left Vivienne in England. Upon his return, he arranged for a formal separation from her, avoiding all but one meeting with her between his leaving for America in 1932 and her death in 1947. Vivien was committed to the Northumberland House mental hospital, Stoke Newington, in 1938, and remained there until she died. Although Eliot was still her husband, he never visited her.[18]

From 1946 to 1957, Eliot shared a flat with his friend John Davy Hayward, who gathered and archived Eliot's papers, styling himself "Keeper of the Eliot Archive".[19] Hayward also collected Eliot's pre-Prufrock verse, commercially published after Eliot's death as Poems Written in Early Youth. When Eliot and Hayward separated their household in 1957, Hayward retained his collection of Eliot's papers, which he bequeathed to King's College, Cambridge in 1965.

On January 10, 1957, Eliot married Esmé Valerie Fletcher, 37 years younger than him. In contrast to his first marriage, Eliot knew Fletcher well, as she had been his secretary at Faber and Faber since August 1949. They kept their wedding secret; the ceremony was held in a church at 6.15 a.m. with virtually no one in attendance other than his wife's parents. Since Eliot's death, Valerie has dedicated her time to preserving his legacy; she has edited and annotated The Letters of T. S. Eliot and a facsimile of the draft of The Waste Land. In the early 1960s, by then in failing health, Eliot worked as an editor for the Wesleyan University Press, seeking out new poets in Europe for publication.[20]

Death

Eliot died of emphysema in London on January 4, 1965. For many years he had had health problems caused by his heavy smoking, and had often been laid low with bronchitis or tachycardia. His body was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. According to Eliot's wishes, the ashes were taken to St Michael's Church in East Coker, the village from which his ancestors had emigrated to America. There, a simple wall plaque commemorates him with a quotation from his poem "East Coker": "In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning." On the second anniversary of his death, he was commemorated by the installation of a large stone in the floor of Poets' Corner in London's Westminster Abbey. The stone is inscribed with his dates, his Order of Merit, and a quotation from his poem, "Little Gidding": "the communication / Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond / the language of the living."

Poetry

For a poet of his stature, Eliot produced a relatively small amount of poetry. He was aware of this early in his career. He wrote to J. H. Woods, one of his former Harvard professors, that, "My reputation in London is built upon one small volume of verse, and is kept up by printing two or three more poems in a year. The only thing that matters is that these should be perfect in their kind, so that each should be an event."[21]

Typically, Eliot first published his poems individually in periodicals or in small books or pamphlets, and then collected them in books. His first collection was Prufrock and Other Observations (1917). In 1920, he published more poems in Ara Vos Prec (London) and Poems: 1920 (New York). These had the same poems (in a different order) except that "Ode" in the British edition was replaced with "Hysteria" in the American edition. In 1925, he collected The Waste Land and the poems in Prufrock and Poems into one volume and added The Hollow Men to form Poems: 1909–1925. From then on, he updated this work as Collected Poems. Exceptions are Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), a collection of light verse; Poems Written in Early Youth, posthumously published in 1967 and consisting mainly of poems published 1907–1910 in The Harvard Advocate,[22], and Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909–1917, material Eliot never intended to have published, which appeared posthumously in 1997.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

In 1915 Ezra Pound, overseas editor of Poetry magazine, recommended to Harriet Monroe, the magazine's founder, that she publish "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". Although the character Prufrock seems to be middle-aged, Eliot wrote most of the poem when he was only 22. Its now-famous opening lines, comparing the evening sky to "a patient etherised upon a table," were considered shocking and offensive, especially at a time when Georgian Poetry was hailed for its derivations of the 19th century Romantic Poets. The poem follows the conscious experience of a man, Prufrock (relayed in the "stream of consciousness" form characteristic of the Modernists), lamenting his physical and intellectual inertia, the lost opportunities in his life and lack of spiritual progress, with the recurrent theme of carnal love unattained. Critical opinion is divided as to whether the narrator leaves his residence during the course of the narration. The locations described can be interpreted either as actual physical experiences, mental recollections, or even as symbolic images from the sub-conscious mind, as, for example, in the refrain "In the room the women come and go." The poem's structure was heavily influenced by Eliot's extensive reading of Dante Alighieri, in the Italian, and refers to a number of literary works, including Hamlet and those of the French Symbolists.

Its reception in London can be gauged from an unsigned review in The Times Literary Supplement on June 21, 1917: "The fact that these things occurred to the mind of Mr Eliot is surely of the very smallest importance to anyone, even to himself. They certainly have no relation to poetry…"[23]

The Waste Land

In October 1922 Eliot published The Waste Land in The Criterion. It was composed during a period of personal difficulty for Eliot—his marriage was failing, and both he and Vivien were suffering from nervous disorders. The poem is often read as a representation of the disillusionment of the post-war generation. That year Eliot lived in Lausanne, Switzerland to take a treatment and to convalesce from a break-down. There he wrote the final section, "What the Thunder Said," which contains frequent references to mountains.[24] The poem's original draft was submitted to Ezra Pound, who persuaded Eliot to shorten it considerably. Before the poem's publication as a book in December 1922, Eliot distanced himself from its vision of despair. On November 15, 1922, he wrote to Richard Aldington, saying, "As for The Waste Land, that is a thing of the past so far as I am concerned and I am now feeling toward a new form and style." The poem is known for its obscure nature—its slippage between satire and prophecy; its abrupt changes of speaker, location, and time; its elegiac but intimidating summoning up of a vast and dissonant range of cultures and literatures. Despite this, it has become a touchstone of modern literature, a poetic counterpart to a novel published in the same year, James Joyce's Ulysses. Among its best-known phrases are "April is the cruellest month", "I will show you fear in a handful of dust"; and "Shantih shantih shantih," the Sanskrit word that ends the poem.

The Hollow Men

The Hollow Men appeared in 1925. For the critic Edmund Wilson, it marked "the nadir of the phase of despair and desolation given such effective expression in The Waste Land."[25] It is Eliot's major poem of the late twenties. Similar to other work, its themes are overlapping and fragmentary: post-war Europe under the Treaty of Versailles (which Eliot despised: compare Gerontion); the difficulty of hope and religious conversion; and Eliot's failed marriage.[26]

Allen Tate perceived a shift in Eliot's method, writing that, "The mythologies disappear altogether in The Hollow Men." This is a striking claim for a poem as indebted to Dante as anything else in Eliot’s early work, to say little of the modern English mythology—the ‘Old Guy [Fawkes]’ of the Gunpowder Plot—or the colonial and agrarian mythos of Joseph Conrad and James George Frazer, which, at least for reasons of textual history, echo in The Waste Land.[27] The "continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity" that is so characteristic of his mythical method remained in fine form.[28] The Hollow Men contains some of Eliot's most famous lines, most notably its conclusion:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is the first long poem written by Eliot after his 1927 conversion to Anglicanism. Published in 1930, it deals with the struggle that ensues when one who has lacked faith acquires it. Sometimes referred to as Eliot's "conversion poem," it is richly but ambiguously allusive, and deals with the aspiration to move from spiritual barrenness to hope for human salvation, inspired by Dante's Purgatorio. The style is different from the poetry that predates his conversion. Ash Wednesday and the poems that followed had a more casual, melodic, and contemplative method.

Many critics were particularly enthusiastic about it. Edwin Muir maintained that it is one of the most moving poems Eliot wrote, and perhaps the "most perfect,"[29] though it was not well-received by everyone. The poem's groundwork of orthodox Christianity discomfited many of the more secular literati.[4]

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

In 1930, he published a book of light verse, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, "Old Possum" being Ezra Pound's nickname for him. This first edition had an illustration of the author on the cover. In 1954, the composer Alan Rawsthorne set six of the poems for speaker and orchestra, in a work entitled Practical Cats. After Eliot's death, it became the basis of the musical, Cats, by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Four Quartets

Eliot regarded Four Quartets as his masterpiece, and it is the work that led to his being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.[4] It consists of four long poems, each first published separately: Burnt Norton (1936), East Coker (1940), Dry Salvages (1941) and Little Gidding (1942). Each has five sections. Although they resist easy characterisation, each begins with a rumination on the geographical location of its title, and each meditates on the nature of time in some important respect—theological, historical, physical—and its relation to the human condition. Each poem is associated with one of the four classical elements: air, earth, water, and fire.

Burnt Norton asks what it means to consider things that might have been. We see the shell of an abandoned house, and Eliot toys with the idea that all these merely possible realities are present together, invisible to us. All the possible ways people might walk across a courtyard add up to a vast dance we can't see; children who aren't there are hiding in the bushes.

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.[30]

East Coker continues the examination of time and meaning, focusing in a famous passage on the nature of language and poetry. Out of darkness, Eliot offers a solution: "I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope".

The Dry Salvages treats the element of water, via images of river and sea. It strives to contain opposites: "... the past and future/Are conquered, and reconciled".

Little Gidding (the element of fire) is the most anthologized of the Quartets. Eliot's experiences as an air raid warden in The Blitz power the poem, and he imagines meeting Dante during the German bombing. The beginning of the Quartets ("Houses .../Are removed, destroyed") had become a violent everyday experience; this creates an animation, where for the first time he talks of Love as the driving force behind all experience. From this background, the Quartets end with an affirmation of Julian of Norwich: "all shall be well and/All manner of thing shall be well".

The Four Quartets cannot be understood without reference to Christian thought, traditions, and history. Eliot draws upon the theology, art, symbolism and language of such figures as Dante, and mystics St. John of the Cross and Julian of Norwich. The "deeper communion" sought in East Coker, the "hints and whispers of children, the sickness that must grow worse in order to find healing," and the exploration which inevitably leads us home all point to the pilgrim's path along the road of sanctification.

Plays

With the important exception of his magnum opus Four Quartets, Eliot directed much of his creative energies after Ash Wednesday to writing plays in verse, mostly comedies or plays with redemptive endings. He was long a critic and admirer of Elizabethan and Jacobean verse drama; witness his allusions to Webster, Thomas Middleton, William Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd in The Waste Land. In a 1933 lecture he said: "Every poet would like, I fancy, to be able to think that he had some direct social utility. ... He would like to be something of a popular entertainer, and be able to think his own thoughts behind a tragic or a comic mask. He would like to convey the pleasures of poetry, not only to a larger audience, but to larger groups of people collectively; and the theatre is the best place in which to do it."[31]

After The Waste Land (1922), he wrote that he was "now feeling toward a new form and style." One project he had in mind was writing a play in verse with a jazz tempo featuring Sweeney, a character who had appeared in a number of his poems. Eliot did not finish it. He did publish separately two pieces of what he had written. The two, Fragment of a Prologue (1926) and Fragment of an Agon (1927) were published together in 1932 as Sweeney Agonistes. Although Eliot noted that this was not intended to be a one-act play, it is sometimes performed as one.[32]

A pageant play by Eliot called The Rock was performed in 1934 for the benefit for churches in the Diocese of London. Much of it was a collaborative effort; Eliot accepted credit only for the authorship of one scene and the choruses.[32] George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester, had been instrumental in connecting Eliot with producer E. Martin Browne for the production of The Rock, and later asked Eliot to write another play for the Canterbury Festival in 1935. This one, Murder in the Cathedral, concerning the death of the martyr, Thomas Becket, was more under Eliot's control. After this, he worked on commercial plays for more general audiences: The Family Reunion (1939), The Cocktail Party (1949), The Confidential Clerk, (1953) and The Elder Statesman (1958). The Broadway production in New York of The Cocktail Party received the 1950 Tony Award for Best Play.

Literary criticism

Eliot also made significant contributions to the field of literary criticism, strongly influencing the school of New Criticism. While somewhat self-deprecating and minimizing of his work—he once said his criticism was merely a “by-product” of his “private poetry-workshop”[33]—Eliot is considered by some to be one of the greatest literary critics of the 20th century. The critic William Empson once said, "I do not know for certain how much of my own mind [Eliot] invented, let alone how much of it is a reaction against him or indeed a consequence of misreading him. He is a very penetrating influence, perhaps not unlike the east wind."[34]

In his critical essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” Eliot argues that art must be understood not in a vacuum, but in the context of previous pieces of art: “In a peculiar sense [an artist or poet] ... must inevitably be judged by the standards of the past.”[33] This essay was one of the most important works of the school of New Criticism. Specifically, it introduced the idea that the value of one work of art must be viewed in the context of all previous work, a “simultaneous order” or works. Also important to New Criticism was the idea—as articulated in Eliot’s essay "Hamlet and His Problems[35]—of an “objective correlative,” which posits a connection among the words of the text and events, states of mind, and experiences. This notion concedes that a poem means what it says, but suggests that there can be a non-subjective judgment based on different readers’ different—but perhaps corollary—interpretations of a work.

More generally, New Critics took a cue from Eliot in regards to his “‘classical’ ideals and his religious thought; his attention to the poetry and drama of the early seventeenth century; his deprecation of the Romantics, especially Shelley; his proposition that good poems constitute ‘not a turning loose of emotion but an escape from emotion'; and his insistence that ‘poets…at present must be difficult.’”[36]

Eliot’s essays were a major factor in the revival of interest in the metaphysical poets. Eliot particularly praised the metaphysical poets' ability to show experience as both psychological and sensual, while at the same time infusing this portrayal with—in Eliot's view—wit and uniqueness. Eliot's essay "The Metaphysical Poets," along with giving new significance and attention to metaphysical poetry, introduced his now well-known definition of "unified sensibility,"[37] which is considered by some to mean the same thing as the term "metaphysical."[38]

His 1922 poem The Waste Land[39]—which at the time of its publication, many critics believed to be a joke or hoax[40]—also can be better understood in light of his work as a critic. He had argued that a poet must write “programmatic criticism"; that is, a poet should write to advance his own interests rather than to advance “historical scholarship". Viewed from Eliot's critical lens, The Waste Land likely shows his personal despair about World War I rather than an objective historical understanding of it.[41]

In 1958, the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed Eliot to a commission that produced The Revised Psalter (1963). A harsh critic of Eliot's, C. S. Lewis, was also a member of the commission, where their antagonism turned into a friendship.[42]

Critical reception

Response to his poetry and literary criticism

Eliot's poetry was first criticized as not being poetry at all. Many critics attacked his practice of widespread interweaving of quotations from other authors into his work. "Notes on the Waste Land," which follows the poem, gives the source of many of these, but not all. Eliot defended this as a necessary salvaging of tradition in an age of fragmentation, and completely integral to the work, adding richness through unexpected juxtaposition. Other critics have condemned the practice as showing a lack of originality, and for plagiarism. The prominent critic F. W. Bateson published an essay called "T. S. Eliot: The Poetry of Pseudo-Learning". Eliot wrote in The Sacred Wood: "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different."

Canadian academic Robert Ian Scott pointed out that the title of The Waste Land and some of the images had previously appeared in the work of a minor Kentucky poet, Madison Cawein (1865–1914). Bevis Hillier compared Cawein's lines "… come and go/Around its ancient portico" with Eliot's "… come and go/talking of Michelangelo". (This line actually appears in Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", and not in The Waste Land.) Cawein's "Waste Land" had appeared in the January 1913 issue of the Chicago magazine Poetry (which contained an article by Ezra Pound on London poets). But scholars are continually finding new sources for Eliot's Waste Land, often in odd places.

Many famous fellow writers and critics have paid tribute to Eliot. According to poet Ted Hughes, "Each year Eliot's presence reasserts itself at a deeper level, to an audience that is surprised to find itself more chastened, more astonished, more humble." Hugh Kenner commented, "He has been the most gifted and influential literary critic in English in the twentieth century." However, other writers have not supported this view. In one of his criticisms, Samuel Beckett suggests that Eliot's work belongs in what the reverse of "T. Eliot" spells.[43]

C. S. Lewis thought Eliot's literary criticism "superficial and unscholarly". In a 1935 letter to a mutual friend of theirs, Paul Elmer More, Lewis wrote that he considered the work of Eliot to be "a very great evil."[42] In a 1943 letter to Eliot, Lewis expressed both admiration along with antagonism toward his views when he wrote: "I hope the fact that I find myself often contradicting you in print gives no offence; it is a kind of tribute to you—whenever I fall foul of some widespread contemporary view about literature I always seem to find that you have expressed it most clearly. One aims at the officers first in meeting an attack!"[42]

Allegations of anti-Semitism

The depiction of Jews in some of Eliot's poems has led several critics to accuse him of anti-Semitism.[44] Gerontion contains a depiction of a landlord referred to only as the "jew [who] squats on the window sill." Another much-quoted example is the poem, Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar, in which a character in the poem implicitly blames the Jews for the decline of Venice: "The rats are underneath the piles/ The Jew is underneath the lot." In A Cooking Egg, Eliot writes, "The red-eyed scavengers are creeping/ From Kentish Town and Golder's Green" (Golders Green is a largely Jewish suburb of London). On the other hand, commentators note that the publisher of Gerontion and Burbank was John Rodker, himself Jewish. Additionally, Eliot mailed a draft of Gerontion to his friend Sidney Schiff, also a Jew, for pre-publication editing and commentary. A third "anti-Semitic" poem, Sweeney Among the Nightingales, was published by Eliot's Jewish friend Leonard Woolf. None of these men considered the poems anti-Semitic.[45]

Eliot wrote a letter to the Daily Mail in January 1932, congratulating the newspaper for a series of laudatory articles on the rise of Benito Mussolini, and in a series of lectures delivered at the University of Virginia in 1933, later published under the title After Strange Gods: A Primer of Modern Heresy (1934), he said, regarding a homogeneity of culture, "What is still more important is unity of religious background, and reasons of race and religion combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable."[46] He later disavowed the book, and refused to allow any part of it to be reprinted. In The Idea of a Christian Society (1940) he writes, "totalitarianism can retain the terms 'freedom' and 'democracy' and give them its own meaning: and its right to them is not so easily disproved as minds inflamed by passion suppose."[47]

One of the first protests against Eliot on the subject of anti-Semitism came in the form of a poem from the Anglo-Jewish writer and poet Emanuel Litvinoff, read out during an inaugural poetry reading for the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1951, attended by Eliot.[48] Only a few years after the Holocaust, Eliot had republished lines originally written in the 1920s about "money in furs" and the "protozoic slime" of Bleistein's "lustreless, protrusive eye" in his Selected Poems of 1948, angering Litvinoff. Litvinoff read out his poem, entitled "To T. S. Eliot," to a packed but silent room, ending with the lines, "Let your words/tread lightly on this earth of Europe/lest my people's bones protest".

There was an absolute shocked silence. When I finished reading it Herbert Read said to me "if I had known that you were going to read such a poem I would never have allowed it" and I thought "eh and you're an anarchist?" Then hell broke loose and I remember particularly Stephen Spender getting up and saying "as a poet as Jewish as Litvinoff, I'm outraged by this unwanted, undeserved attack on my friend T.S. Eliot" and so on and so forth ... Apparently Eliot was heard to mutter, he had his head down leaning on a chair, to his entourage "it's a good poem."[48]

Leonard Woolf, husband of Virginia Woolf, who was himself Jewish and a friend of Eliot's, judged that Eliot was probably "slightly anti-Semitic in the sort of vague way which is not uncommon. He would have denied it quite genuinely."[49] In 2003, Professor Ronald Schuchard of Emory University published details of a previously unknown cache of letters from Eliot to Horace Kallen, which reveal that in the early 1940s Eliot was actively helping Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria to re-settle in Britain and America. In letters written after the war, Eliot also voiced support for the state of Israel.[50]

In 2009, Faber published Volume 2 of Eliot's letters, and reissued Volume 1 with 200 new letters. Craig Raine writes that the letters reveal some of Eliot's correspondents as flagrant anti-Semites, though Eliot himself was more restrained. Eliot's mother writes, "I have an instinctive antipathy to Jews, just as I have to certain animals," while his legal and literary representative in New York, John Quinn, writes of the streets being "infested ... with swarms of horrible looking Jews, low, squat, animal-like." Eliot complains to Quinn that he is annoyed with his publisher in the U.S., Horace Liveright, who was Jewish, and that, "I am sick of doing business with Jew [sic] publishers who will not carry out their part of the contract unless they are forced to," though he goes on to write in not dissimilar terms about Christian publishers too: "I wish I could find a decent Christian publisher in New York who could be trusted ..."[51]

Awards

Works

Poetry

Plays

Nonfiction

  • Christianity & Culture (1939, 1948)
  • The Second-Order Mind (1920)
  • Tradition and the Individual Talent (1920)
  • The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1920)
  • Homage to John Dryden (1924)
  • Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca (1928)
  • For Lancelot Andrewes (1928)
  • Dante (1929)
  • Selected Essays, 1917–1932 (1932)
  • The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933)
  • After Strange Gods (1934)
  • Elizabethan Essays (1934)
  • Essays Ancient and Modern (1936)
  • The Idea of a Christian Society (1940)
  • A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1941) made by Eliot, with an essay on Rudyard Kipling, London, Faber and Faber.
  • Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948)
  • Poetry and Drama (1951)
  • The Three Voices of Poetry (1954)
  • The Frontiers of Criticism (1956)
  • On Poetry and Poets (1957)

Posthumous publications

  • To Criticize the Critic (1965)
  • The Waste Land: Facsimile Edition (1974)
  • Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917 (1996)

Notes

  1. ^ Hart Crane (1899-1932)
  2. ^ Influences by Seamus Heaney, Bostonreview.net, accessed August 3, 2009.
  3. ^ Collini, Stefan. I cannot go on, The Guardian, November 7, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thomas Stearns Eliot, Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed November 7, 2009.
  5. ^ Hall, Donald. The Art of Poetry No. 1, The Paris Review, Issue 21, Spring-Summer 1959, p. 25, accessed November 7, 2009.
  6. ^ T.S. Eliot: the modernist in history, (New York, 1991) By Ronald Bush, page 72
  7. ^ Hall, Donald. The Art of Poetry No. 1, The Paris Review, Issue 21, Spring-Summer 1959, accessed November 7, 2009.
  8. ^ a b Kermode, Frank. Introduction to The Waste Land and Other Poems, Penguin Classics, 2003.
  9. ^ Perl, Jeffry M. and Andrew P. Tuck. "The Hidden Advantage of Tradition: On the Significance of T. S. Eliot's Indic Studies", Philosophy East & West V. 35 No. 2, April 1985, pp. 116–131.
  10. ^ a b Seymour-Jones, Carole. Painted Shadow: The Life of Vivienne Eliot, First Wife of T. S. Eliot, Knopf Publishing Group, p. 1.
  11. ^ Eliot, T. S. The Letters of T. S. Eliot, Volume 1, 1898-192. p. 75.
  12. ^ Richardson, John, Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters. Random House, 2001, p. 20.
  13. ^ Seymour-Jones, Carole. Painted Shadow: A Life of Vivienne Eliot. Knopf Publishing Group, 2001, p. 17.
  14. ^ Eliot, T. S. The Letters of T. S. Eliot, Volume 1, 1898-192, p. xvii.
  15. ^ Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. pp. 492–495
  16. ^ plaque on interior wall of Saint Stephen's
  17. ^ obituary notice in Church and King, Vol. XVII, No. 4, February 28, 1965, p. 3.
  18. ^ Seymour-Jones, Carole. Painted Shadow: A Life of Vivienne Eliot. Constable 2001, p. 561.
  19. ^ Gordon, Lyndall. T. S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life. Norton 1998, p. 455.
  20. ^ Gordon, Jane. The University of Verse, The New York Times, October 16, 2005; University Press timeline, 1957
  21. ^ Eliot, T. S. "Letter to J. H. Woods, April 21, 1919." The Letters of T. S. Eliot, vol. I. Valerie Eliot, ed. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1988, p. 285.
  22. ^ "''T. S. Eliot: The Harvard Advocate Poems''. Retrieved 5 February 2007". Theworld.com. http://www.theworld.com/~raparker/exploring/tseliot/works/poems/eliot-harvard-poems.html. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  23. ^ Waugh, Arthur. The New Poetry, Quarterly Review, October 1916, citing the Times Literary Supplement June 21, 1917, no. 805, 299; Wagner, Erica (2001) "An eruption of fury", The Guardian, letters to the editor, September 4, 2001. Wagner omits the word "very" from the quote.
  24. ^ Wraight, John. The Swiss and the British. Michael Russell Publishing, 1987.
  25. ^ Wilson, Edmund. "Review of Ash Wednesday," New Republic, August 20, 1930.
  26. ^ See, for instance, the biographically oriented work of one of Eliot's editors and major critics, Ronald Schuchard.
  27. ^ Grant, Michael (ed.). T. S. Eliot: the Critical Heritage. Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982.
  28. ^ " 'Ulysses', Order, and Myth", Selected Essays T. S. Eliot (orig 1923).
  29. ^ Untermeyer, Louis. Modern American Poetry. Hartcourt Brace, 1950, pp. 395-396.
  30. ^ Eliot, T.S. Burnt Norton, Tristan.icom43.net, accessed November 7, 2009.
  31. ^ Eliot, T. S. The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, Harvard University Press, 1933 (penultimate paragraph)
  32. ^ a b Gallup, Donald. T. S. Eliot: A Bibliography (A Revised and Extended Edition), Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1969.
  33. ^ a b "Tradition and the Individual Talent. Eliot, T. S. 1920. ''The Sacred Wood''". Bartleby.com. http://www.bartleby.com/200/sw4.html. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  34. ^ quoted in Roger Kimball, "A Craving for Reality," The New Criterion Vol. 18, 1999
  35. ^ "Hamlet and His Problems. Eliot, T. S. 1920. ''The Sacred Wood''". Bartleby.com. http://www.bartleby.com/200/sw9.html. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  36. ^ Burt, Steven and Lewin, Jennifer. "Poetry and the New Criticism." A Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry, Neil Roberts, ed. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 2001. p. 154
  37. ^ "Project MUSE". Muse.jhu.edu. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_modern_literature/v027/27.1baker.html. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  38. ^ A. E. Malloch, "The Unified Sensibility and Metaphysical Poetry", College English, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Nov., 1953), pp. 95-101
  39. ^ "Eliot, T. S. 1922. ''The Waste Land''". Bartleby.com. http://www.bartleby.com/201/1.html. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  40. ^ Draper, R. P. An Introduction to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English, 1999. p. 13
  41. ^ "T. S. Eliot :: The Waste Land and criticism - ''Britannica Online Encyclopedia''". Britannica.com. 1965-01-04. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-2088/TS-Eliot. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  42. ^ a b c Spruyt, Bart Jan. "One of the enemy: C. S. Lewis on the very great evil of T. S. Eliot's work", lecture to the conference Order and Liberty in the American Tradition, July 28–August 3, 2004, Oxford University, accessed November 7, 2009.
  43. ^ Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 217
  44. ^ Gross, John. Was T.S. Eliot a Scoundrel?, Commentary magazine, November 1996; Anthony, Julius. T.S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism, and Literary Form. 1996.
  45. ^ Eliot, T.S. The Letters of T. S. Eliot, vol. 1, pp. 312, 324; Woolf, Leonard. Beginning Again: An Autobiography, p. 242; Rajan, B (ed.). T. S. Eliot: A Study of His Writings by Several Hands. p. 140.
  46. ^ Kirk, Russell. "T. S. Eliot on Literary Morals: On T. S. Eliot's After Strange Gods", Touchstone Magazine, volume 10, issue 4, Fall 1997.
  47. ^ Eliot, T.S. The Idea of a Christian Society, Harcourt, Brace & Company, Inc., 1940.
  48. ^ a b Burman, Hannah. London's Voices, Museum of London, March 11, 1998, accessed November 7, 2009.
  49. ^ Ackroyd, Peter, T. S. Eliot, Abacus, 1985, p. 304.
  50. ^ Eliot, T.S. Modernism/Modernity. January 2003.
  51. ^ Raine, Craig. "Was he anti-Semitic?", a review of Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume I 1898-1922 and Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume II 1923-1925, edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton, Faber 2009, The Spectator, November 14, 2009.

Further reading

  • Ackroyd, Peter. T. S. Eliot: A Life. (1984)
  • Asher, Kenneth T. S. Eliot and Ideology (1995)
  • Brand, Clinton A. "The Voice of This Calling: The Enduring Legacy of T. S. Eliot," Modern Age Volume 45, Number 4; Fall 2003 online edition, conservative perspective
  • Bush, Ronald. T. S. Eliot: A Study in Character and Style. (1984)
  • Christensen, Karen. "Dear Mrs. Eliot," The Guardian Review. (29 January 2005).
  • Crawford, Robert. The Savage and the City in the Work of T. S. Eliot. (1987).
  • Dawson, J.L., P.D. Holland & D.J. McKitterick, A Concordance to 'The Complete Poems and Plays of T.S. Eliot'. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1995.
  • Gardner, Helen. The Composition of Four Quartets. (1978).
  • ---The Art of T. S. Eliot. (1949)
  • Hargrove, Nancy Duvall. Landscape as Symbol in the Poetry of T. S. Eliot. University Press of Mississippi (1978).
  • ---. T. S. Eliot's Parisian Year. University Press of Florida (2009).
  • The Letters of T. S. Eliot. Ed. by Valerie Eliot. Vol. I, 1898-1922. San Diego [etc.] 1988. Vol. 2, 1923-1925. Edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton, London, Faber, 2009. ISBN 9780571140817
  • Gordon, Lyndall. T. S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life. (1998)
  • Julius, Anthony. T. S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism, and Literary Form. Cambridge University Press (1995)
  • Kelleter, Frank. Die Moderne und der Tod: Edgar Allan Poe–T. S. Eliot–Samuel Beckett. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang, 1998.
  • Kenner, Hugh. The Invisible Poet: T. S. Eliot. (1969)
  • ---, editor, T. S. Eliot: A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice-Hall. (1962)
  • Kirsch, Adam. "Matthew Arnold and T. S. Eliot", The American Scholar. Vol 67, Iss 3. Summer 1998
  • Levy, William Turner and Victor Scherle. Affectionately, T. S. Eliot: The Story of a Friendship: 1947-1965. (1968).
  • Maxwell, D. E. S. The Poetry of T. S. Eliot, Routledge and Keagan Paul. (1960).
  • Matthews, T. S. Great Tom: Notes Towards the Definition of T. S. Eliot. (1973)
  • Miller, James E., Jr. T. S. Eliot. The Making of an American Poet, 1888-1922. The Pennsylvania State University Press. 2005.
  • North, Michael (ed.) The Waste Land (Norton Critical Editions). New York: W.W. Norton, 2000.
  • Quillian, William H. Hamlet and the New Poetic: James Joyce and T. S. Eliot. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press (1983).
  • Raine, Craig. T. S. Eliot. Oxford University Press (2006).
  • Ricks, Christopher.T. S. Eliot and Prejudice. (1988).
  • Robinson, Ian "The English Prophets", The Brynmill Press Ltd (2001)
  • Ronnick, Michele Valerie, "Eliot's 'The Hollow Men'", The Explicator. Vol 56, Iss 2. (1998)
  • Schuchard, Ronald. Eliot's Dark Angel: Intersections of Life and Art. (1999).
  • Seferis, George. "Introduction to T. S. Eliot" in Modernism/modernity 16:1 ([1] January 2009), 146-60.
  • Seymour-Jones, Carole. Painted Shadow: A Life of Vivienne Eliot. (2001).
  • Sencourt, Robert. T. S. Eliot: A Memoir. (1971).
  • Spender, Stephen. T. S. Eliot. (1975).
  • Sinha, Arun Kumar and Vikram, Kumar. T. S. Eliot: An Intensive Study of Selected Poems, Spectrum Books Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi, (2005).
  • Tate, Allen, editor. T. S. Eliot: The Man and His Work, First published in 1966 - republished by Penguin 1971.

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

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.
~ The Four Quartets ~
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.

Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-09-261965-01-04) was an American-born English poet, dramatist and literary critic.

See also: The Four Quartets

Contents

Sourced

It is self-evident that St. Louis affected me more deeply than any other environment has ever done. I feel that there is something in having passed one's childhood beside the big river, which is incommunicable to those people who have not.
  • Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
  • Mr. Aldous Huxley, who is perhaps one of those people who have to perpetrate thirty bad novels before producing a good one, has a certain natural — but little developed — aptitude for seriousness.
  • A dangerous person to disagree with.
    • On Samuel Johnson in Homage to John Dryden: Three Essays on Poetry of the Seventeenth Century (1927)
  • It is a test (a positive test, I do not assert that it is always valid negatively), that genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.
    • Dante (1929), a biographical essay
  • Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
  • It is self-evident that St. Louis affected me more deeply than any other environment has ever done. I feel that there is something in having passed one's childhood beside the big river, which is incommunicable to those people who have not. I consider myself fortunate to have been born here, rather than in Boston, or New York, or London.
    • Letter to Marquis Childs quoted in St. Louis Post Dispatch (1930-10-15) and in the address "American Literature and the American Language" delivered at Washington University (1953-06-09) published in Washington University Studies, New Series: Literature and Language, no. 23 (St. Louis : Washington University Press, 1953), p. 6.
  • It is certain that a book is not harmless merely because no one is consciously offended by it.
    • Religion and Literature 1935
  • The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always being asked to do more, and you are not yet decrepit enough to turn them down.
  • I am moved by fancies that are curled
    Around these images, and cling:
    The notion of some infinitely gentle
    Infinitely suffering thing.
    • Preludes

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915)

Full text online (at Wikisource)
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
  • Let us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    Like a patient etherized upon a table.
  • In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo.
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
  • There will be time, there will be time
    To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

    There will be time to murder and create,
    And time for all the works and days of hands,
    That lift and drop a question on your plate;
    Time for you and time for me,
    And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
    And for a hundred visions and revisions,
    Before the taking of a toast and tea.
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
  • Do I dare
    Disturb the universe?
    In a minute there is time
    For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

    For I have known them all already, known them all: —
    Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
    I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
    I know the voices dying with a dying fall
    Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?
I grow old ... I grow old ...
Do I dare to eat a peach?
  • And I have known the eyes already, known them all —
    The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
    And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
    When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
    Then how should I begin
    To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?
  • And I have known the arms already, known them all —
    Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
    [But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
    It is perfume from a dress
    That makes me so digress?
    Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
    And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
  • I am no prophet — and here's no great matter;
    I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
    And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
    And in short, I was afraid.
  • It is impossible to say just what I mean!
    But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
    Would it have been worth while If one, settling a
    Pillow or throwing off a shawl,
    And turning toward the window, should say:
    "That is not it at all,
    That is not what I meant, at all."
  • No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
    Am an attendant lord, one that will do
    To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
    Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous —
    Almost, at times, the Fool.
  • I grow old ... I grow old ...
    I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

    Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
    I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
    I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
    I do not think that they will sing to me.

    I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
    Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
    When the wind blows the water white and black.
    We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
    By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
    Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Tradition and the Individual Talent (1919)

Later republished in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1922)
We shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously.
  • We dwell with satisfaction upon the poet's difference from his predecessors, especially his immediate predecessors; we endeavour to find something that can be isolated in order to be enjoyed. Whereas if we approach a poet without this prejudice we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously. And I do not mean the impressionable period of adolescence, but the period of full maturity.
  • Yet if the only form of tradition, of handing down, consisted in following the ways of the immediate generation before us in a blind or timid adherence to its successes, "tradition" should positively be discouraged. We have seen many such simple currents soon lost in the sand; and novelty is better than repetition. Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour.
  • The historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity.
The bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious.
  • Whoever has approved this idea of order, of the form of European, of English literature, will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.
  • Some one said: "The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did." Precisely, and they are that which we know.
  • It is not the "greatness," the intensity, of the emotions, the components, but the intensity of the artistic process, the pressure, so to speak, under which the fusion takes place, that counts.
  • The bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious. Both errors tend to make him "personal." Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.

Poems (1920)

Full text online
Signs are taken for wonders.
  • Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
    Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
    • "Gerontion"
  • Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign!”
    The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
    Swaddled with darkness.
    • "Gerontion"
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities...
  • Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,
    An old man in a draughty house
    Under a windy knob.
    • "Gerontion"
  • After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
    History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
    And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
    Guides us by vanities. Think now
    She gives when our attention is distracted
    And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
    That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
    What's not believed in, or if still believed,
    In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon
    Into weak hands, what's thought can be dispensed with
    Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think
    Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
    Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
    Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
    These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.
    • "Gerontion"
  • The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last
    We have not reached conclusion, when I
    Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
    I have not made this show purposelessly
    And it is not by any concitation
    Of the backward devils.
    I would meet you upon this honestly.
    I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
    To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.
    I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it
    Since what is kept must be adulterated?
    • "Gerontion"
Webster was much possessed by death
And saw the skull beneath the skin.
  • so the countess passed on until she came through the little park, where Niobe presented her with a cabinet, and so departed.
    • "Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a cigar"
  • The broad-backed hippopotamus
    Rests on his belly in the mud;
    Although he seems so firm to us
    He is merely flesh and blood.
    • "The Hippopotamus"
  • Webster was much possessed by death
    And saw the skull beneath the skin
    • "Whispers of Immortality"
  • Grishkin is nice: her
    Russian eye is underlined for emphasis;
    Uncorseted, her friendly bust
    Gives promise of pneumatic bliss.
    • "Whispers of Immortality" "Grishkin" has been identified by Ezra Pound as having been "Serafima Astafieva" a Russian dancer.

The Waste Land (1922)

Full text online (at Wikisource)
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
  • April is the cruellest month, breeding
    Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
    Memory and desire, stirring
    Dull roots with spring rain.
    • Line 1 et seq.
  • There is shadow under this red rock
    (Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
    And I will show you something different from either
    Your shadow at morning striding behind you
    Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
    I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
    • Line 25 et seq.
  • I was neither
    Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
    Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
    • Line 39 et seq.
  • Unreal city,
    Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
    A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
    I had not thought death had undone so many.
    • Line 60 et seq.
    • This is a reference to Dante's **Inferno**, Canto III, lines 55-57.
  • O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—
    It's so elegant
    So intelligent
    • Line 128 et seq.
  • O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
    Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
    • Line 320 et seq.
The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed...
  • Who is the third who walks always beside you
    When I count, there are only you and I together
    But when I look ahead up the white road
    There is always another one walking beside you
    • Line 359 et seq.
    • Eliot's note: Stimulated by Shackleton's Antarctic expedition where the explorers at the extremity of their strength believed there was another who walked with them across South Georgia!
  • What is that sound high in the air
    Murmur of maternal lamentation
    Who are those hooded hordes swarming
    Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
    Ringed by the flat horizon only
    What is the city over the mountains
    Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
    Falling towers
    Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
    Vienna London
    Unreal
    • Line 367 et seq.
  • In this decayed hole among the mountains
    In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
    Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
    There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
    • Line 385 et seq.
  • Then spoke the thunder
    DA

    Datta: what have we given?
    My friend, blood shaking my heart
    The awful daring of a moment's surrender
    Which an age of prudence can never retract
    By this, and this only, we have existed

  • I have heard the key
    Turn in the door once and turn once only
    We think of the key, each in his prison
    Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
  • These fragments I have shored against my ruins
    Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.
    Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
    Shantih shantih shantih
    • The final lines of the poem.

The Hollow Men (1925)

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw.
  • We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw.
  • Those who have crossed
    With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
    Remember us — if at all — not as lost
    Violent souls, but only
    As the hollow men
    The stuffed men.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
  • Between the idea
    And the reality
    Between the motion
    And the act
    Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
  • Between the conception
    And the creation
    Between the emotion
    And the response
    Falls the Shadow
Life is very long
  • Between the desire
    And the spasm
    Between the potency
    And the existence
    Between the essence
    And the descent
    Falls the Shadow
  • This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

Ash-Wednesday (1930)

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope...
  • Because I do not hope to turn again
    Because I do not hope
    Because I do not hope to turn
    Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
    I no longer strive to strive towards such things

    (Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
    Why should I mourn
    The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know the infirm glory of the positive hour...
  • Because I do not hope to know
    The infirm glory of the positive hour
    Because I do not think
    Because I know I shall not know
    The one veritable transitory power
    Because I cannot drink
    There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
  • Because I know that time is always time
    And place is always and only place
    And what is actual is actual only for one time
    And only for one place
    I rejoice that things are as they are and
    I renounce the blessèd face
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen.
  • Because I cannot hope to turn again
    Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
    Upon which to rejoice
  • Let these words answer
    For what is done, not to be done again
    May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
  • Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
    But merely vans to beat the air
    The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
    Smaller and dryer than the will
    Teach us to care and not to care
    Teach us to sit still.

    Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
    Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

  • Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
    The wind will listen.
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
  • Lady of silences
    Calm and distressed
    Torn and most whole

    Rose of memory
    Rose of forgetfulness
    Exhausted and life-giving
    Worried reposeful
    The single Rose
    Is now the Garden
    Where all loves end

    Terminate torment
    Of love unsatisfied
    The greater torment
    Of love satisfied
    End of the endless
    Journey to no end
    Conclusion of all that
    Is inconclusible
    Speech without word and
    Word of no speech
    Grace to the Mother
    For the Garden
    Where all love ends.
Redeem the time. Redeem the unread vision in the higher dream...
  • This is the land which ye
    Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
    Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.
  • Redeem
    The time.
    Redeem
    The unread vision in the higher dream
    While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.
Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence...
  • If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
    If the unheard, unspoken
    Word is unspoken, unheard;
    Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
    The Word without a word, the Word within
    The world and for the world;
    And the light shone in darkness and
    Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
    About the centre of the silent Word.

          O my people, what have I done unto thee.

    Where shall the word be found, where will the word
    Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence

In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying...
  • Wavering between the profit and the loss
    In this brief transit where the dreams cross
    The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross between blue rocks...
  • And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
    In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
    And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
    For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
    Quickens to recover
    The cry of quail and the whirling plover
    And the blind eye creates
    The empty forms between the ivory gates
    And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth
    This is the time of tension between dying and birth
    The place of solitude where three dreams cross
    Between blue rocks

    But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
    Let the other yew be shaken and reply.
  • Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
    Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
    Teach us to care and not to care
  • Sister, mother
    And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
    Suffer me not to be separated

    And let my cry come unto Thee.

Choruses from The Rock (1934)

The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness...
  • The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
    The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
  • O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
    O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
    O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
    The endless cycle of idea and action,
    Endless invention, endless experiment,
    Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
    Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
    Knowledge of words, and ignorance of The Word.

    All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
    All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
    But nearness to death no nearer to God.
    Where is the Life we have lost in living?
    Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
    Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

    The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
    Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.
I say to you: Make perfect your will. I say: take no thought of the harvest, but only of proper sowing...
However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.
  • The lot of man is ceaseless labor,
    Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,
    Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.
    I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know
    That it is hard to be really useful, resigning
    The things that men count for happiness, seeking
    The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting
    With equal face those that bring ignominy,
    The applause of all or the love of none.
    All men are ready to invest their money
    But most expect dividends.
    I say to you: Make perfect your will.
    I say: take no thought of the harvest,
    But only of proper sowing.
In the vacant places we will build with new bricks...
  • The world turns and the world changes,
    But one thing does not change.
    In all of my years, one thing does not change,
    However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
    The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.
  • You neglect and belittle the desert.
    The desert is not remote in southern tropics
    The desert is not only around the corner,
    The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you,
    The desert is in the heart of your brother.
  • Let me show you the work of the humble. Listen.
  • In the vacant places
    We will build with new bricks
What life have you, if you have not life together?
  • Where the bricks are fallen
    We will build with new stone
    Where the beams are rotten
    We will build with new timbers
    Where the word is unspoken
    We will build with new speech
    There is work together
    A Church for all
    And a job for each
    Every man to his work.
  • What life have you, if you have not life together?
    There is not life that is not in community,
    And no community not lived in praise of GOD.
  • And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
    And no man knows or cares who is his neighbor
    Unless his neighbor makes too much disturbance,
    But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
    Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.
  • Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore.
  • I have given you the power of choice, and you only alternate
    Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.
  • And the wind shall say: "Here were decent godless people:
    Their only monument the asphalt road
    And a thousand lost golf balls."
  • When the Stranger says: "What is the meaning of this city ?
    Do you huddle close together because you love each other?"
    What will you answer? "We all dwell together
    To make money from each other"? or "This is a community"?
Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger...
  • Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.
    Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.
  • There is one who remembers the way to your door:
    Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
    You shall not deny the Stranger.
  • They constantly try to escape
    From the darkness outside and within
    By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.

    But the man that is shall shadow
    The man that pretends to be.
  • Then it seemed as if men must proceed from light to light, in the light of the Word,
    Through the Passion and Sacrifice saved in spite of their negative being;
    Bestial as always before, carnal, self seeking as always before, selfish and purblind as ever before,
    Yet always struggling, always reaffirming,always resuming their march on the way that was lit by the light;
    Often halting, loitering, straying, delaying, returning, yet following no other way.
And among his hearers were a few good men, many who were evil, and most who were neither, like all men in all places.
  • But it seems that something has happened that has never happened before: though we know not just when, or why, or how, or where.
    Men have left GOD not for other gods, they say, but for no God; and this has never happened before
    That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first Reason,
    And then Money, and Power, and what they call Life, or Race, or Dialectic.
  • What have we to do but stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards in an age which advances progressively backwards?
  • There came one who spoke of the shame of Jerusalem
    And the holy places defiled;
    Peter the Hermit, scourging with words.
    And among his hearers were a few good men,
    Many who were evil,
    And most who were neither,
    Like all men in all places.
  • In spite of all the dishonour,
    the broken standards, the broken lives,
    The broken faith in one place or another,
    There was something left that was more than the tales
    Of old men on winter evenings.
  • Our age is an age of moderate virtue
    And moderate vice
  • The soul of Man must quicken to creation.
  • Out of the meaningless practical shapes of all that is living or lifeless
    Joined with the artist's eye, new life, new form, new colour.
    Out of the sea of sound the life of music,
    Out of the slimy mud of words, out of the sleet and hail of verbal imprecisions,
    Approximate thoughts and feelings, words that have taken the place of thoughts and feelings,
    There spring the perfect order of speech, and the beauty of incantation.
  • The work of creation is never without travail
  • Light
    Light
    The visible reminder of Invisible Light.
  • O Light Invisible, we praise Thee!
    Too bright for mortal vision.
  • We see the light but see not whence it comes.
    O Light Invisible, we glorify Thee!

Murder in the Cathedral (1935)

They speak better than they know, and beyond your understanding.
  • Destiny waits in the hand of God, not in the hands of statesmen.
The pattern is the action and the suffering, that the wheel may turn and still be forever still.
  • They speak better than they know, and beyond your understanding.
    They know and do not know, what it is to act or suffer.
    They know and do not know, that action is suffering
    And suffering is action. Neither does the agent suffer
    Nor the patient act. But both are fixed
    In an eternal action, an eternal patience.
    To which all must consent that it may be willed
    And which all must suffer that they may will it,
    That the pattern may subsist, for the pattern is the action
    And the suffering, that the wheel may turn and still
    Be forever still.
Men learn little from others' experience.
But in the life of one man, never the same time returns.
  • Men learn little from others' experience.
    But in the life of one man, never
    The same time returns.
    Sever
    The cord, shed the scale. Only
    The fool, fixed in his folly, may think
    He can turn the wheel on which he turns
  • Purpose is plain.
    Endurance of friendship does not depend
    Upon ourselves, but upon circumstance.
    But circumstance is not undetermined.
    Unreal friendship may turn to real
    But real friendship, once ended, cannot be mended.
    Sooner shall enmity turn to alliance.
    The enmity that never knew friendship
    Can sooner know accord.
  • All things become less real, man passes
    From unreality to unreality.
A martyrdom is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God...
  • God is leaving us, God is leaving us, more pang, more pain, than birth or death.
  • The last temptation is the greatest treason:
    To do the right deed for the wrong reason.
  • Servant of God has chance of greater sin
    And sorrow, than the man who serves a king.

    For those who serve the greater cause may make the cause serve them,
    Still doing right: and striving with political men
    May make that cause political, not by what they do
    But by what they are.
You shall forget these things, toiling in the household, You shall remember them, droning by the fire, when age and forgetfulness sweeten memory...
  • Saints are not made by accident. Still less is a Christian martyrdom the effect of a man's will to become a Saint, as a man by willing and contriving may become a ruler of men. Ambition fortifies the will of man to become ruler over other men: it operates with deception, cajolery, and violence, it is the action of impurity upon impurity. Not so in Heaven. A martyr, a saint, is always made by the design of God, for His love of men, to warn them and to lead them, to bring them back to His ways. A martyrdom is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, not lost it but found it, for he has found freedom in submission to God. The martyr no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of martyrdom. So thus as on earth the Church mourns and rejoices at once, in a fashion that the world cannot understand; so in Heaven the Saints are most high, having made themselves most low, seeing themselves not as we see them, but in the light of the Godhead from which they draw their being.
Human kind cannot bear very much reality.
  • You shall forget these things, toiling in the household,
    You shall remember them, droning by the fire,
    When age and forgetfulness sweeten memory
    Only like a dream that has often been told
    And often been changed in the telling. They will seem unreal.
    Human kind cannot bear very much reality.
The church shall be open, even to our enemies.
  • The church shall be open, even to our enemies.
    We are not here to triumph by fighting , by stratagem, or by resistance,
    Not to fight with beasts as men. We have fought the beast
    And have conquered.
    We have only to conquer
    Now, by suffering. This is the easier victory.
  • You would bar the door
    Against the lion, the leopard, the wolf or the boar,
    Why not more
    Against beasts with the souls of damned men, against men
    Who would damn themselves to beasts. My Lord! My Lord!
  • You think me reckless, desperate and mad.
    You argue by results, as this world does,
    To settle if an act be good or bad.

    You defer to the fact. For every life and every act
    Consequence of good and evil can be shown.
    And as in time results of many deeds are blended
    So good and evil in the end become confounded.

    It is not in time that my death shall be known;
    It is out of time that my decision is taken
    If you call that decision
    To which my whole being gives entire consent.
    I give my life
    To the Law of God above the Law of Man.

    Those who do not the same
    How should they know what I do?
  • We did not wish anything to happen.
    We understood the private catastrophe,
    The personal loss, the general misery,
    Living and partly living;
  • In life there is not time to grieve long
    But this, this is out of life, this is out of time,
    An instant eternity of evil and wrong.
  • In the small circle of pain within the skull
    You still shall tramp and tread one endless round
    Of thought, to justify your action to yourselves,
    Weaving a fiction which unravels as you weave,
    Pacing forever in the hell of make-believe
    Which never is belief: this is your fate on earth
    And we must think no further of you.
Only in thy light, and thy glory is declared
even in that which denies thee; the darkness declares the glory of light.
  • We praise thee, O God, for thy glory displayed
    in all the creatures of the earth,
    In the snow, in the rain, in the wind, in the storm,
    in all of thy creatures, both the hunters and the hunted,
    For all things exist as seen by thee,
    only as known by thee, all things exist
    Only in thy light, and thy glory is declared
    even in that which denies thee;
    the darkness declares the glory of light.
    Those who deny thee could not deny, if thou didst not exist;
    and their denial is never complete,
    for if it were so, they would not exist.
    They affirm thee in living; all things affirm thee in living;

    the bird in the air, both the hawk and the finch;
    the beast on the earth, both the wolf and the lamb.
    Therefore we, whom thou hast made to be conscious of thee, must consciously praise thee, in thought and in word and in deed.
From such ground springs that which forever renews the earth though it is forever denied.
  • O father, father
    Gone from us, lost to us,
    The church lies bereft,
    Alone,
    Desecrated, desolated.
    And the heathen shall build
    On the ruins
    Their world without God.
    I see it.
    I see it.
  • Wherever a saint has dwelt, wherever a martyr has given his blood for the blood of Christ,
    There is holy ground, and the sanctity shall not depart from it
    Though armies trample over it, though sightseers come with guide-books looking over it;
    From where the western seas gnaw at the coast of Iona,
    To the death in the desert, the prayer in forgotten places by the broken Imperial column,
    From such ground springs that which forever renews the earth
    Though it is forever denied.

The Family Reunion (1939)

I don't belong to any generation.
  • I don't belong to any generation.
  • Thus with most careful devotion
    Thus with precise attention
    To detail, interfering preparation
    Of that which is already prepared
    Men tighten the knot of confusion
    Into perfect misunderstanding
  • All that I can hope to make you understand
    Is only events: not what has happened.
    And people to whom nothing has ever happened
    Cannot understand the unimportance of events.
I am not speaking
Of my own experience, but trying to give you
Comparisons in a more familiar medium.
  • You are all people
    To whom has happened, at most a continual impact
    Of external events. You have gone through life in sleep.
    Never woken to the nightmare. I tell you life would be unendurable
    If you were wide awake. You do not know
    The noxious smell untraceable in the drains,
    Inaccessible to the plumbers, that has its hour of the night; you do not know
    The unspoken voice of sorrow in the ancient bedroom
    At three o'clock in the morning. I am not speaking
    Of my own experience, but trying to give you
    Comparisons in a more familiar medium.
    I am the old house
    With the noxious smell and the sorrow before morning,
    In which all past is present, all degradation
    Is unredeemable. As for what happens —
    Of the past you can only see what is past,
    Not what is always present. That is what matters.
Hold tight, hold tight, we must insist that the world is what we have always taken it to be.
  • This is what matters, but it is unspeakable.
    Untranslatable: I talk in general terms
    Because the particular has no language.
I see more than this, more than I can tell you, More than there are words for...
  • You isolate the single event
    As something so dreadful that it couldn't have happened
    Because you could not bear it. So you must believe
    That I suffer from delusions. It is not my conscience
    Not my mind, that is diseased, but the world I have to live in.
  • Hold tight, hold tight, we must insist that the world is what we have always taken it to be.
  • I see more than this, more than I can tell you, More than there are words for.
    At this moment there is no decision to be made;
    The decision will be made by powers beyond us
    Which now and then emerge.
  • One thing you cannot know:
    The sudden extinction of every alternative,
    The unexpected crash of the iron cataract.
    You do not know what hope is, until you have lost it.
    You only know what it is not to hope:
    You do not know what it is to have hope taken from you,

    Or to fling it away, to join the legion of the hopeless
    Unrecognized by other men, though sometimes by each other.
They don't understand what it is to be awake,
To be living on several planes at once
Though one cannot speak with several voices at once.
  • If I tried to explain, you could never understand;
    Explaining would only make a worse misunderstanding...
  • It's all a delusion,
    Everything you feel — I don't mean what you think,
    But what you feel. You attach yourself to loathing
    As others do to loving; an infatuation
    That's wrong, a good that is misdirected.
  • Pain is the opposite of joy,
    but joy is a kind of pain
    I believe the moment of birth
    Is when we have knowledge of death
    I believe the season of birth
    Is the season of sacrifice
Everything tends towards reconciliation
As a stone falls, as the tree falls, And in the end
That is the completion which at the beginning
would have seemed the ruin.
  • It is only when they see nothing
    That people can always show the suitable emotions —
    And so far as they feel at all, their emotions are suitable.
    They don't understand what it is to be awake,
    To be living on several planes at once
    Though one cannot speak with several voices at once.
  • To rest in your own suffering
    Is evasion of suffering. We must learn to suffer more.
  • The moment of sudden loathing
    And the season of stifled sorrow
    The whisper, the transparent deception
    The keeping up of appearances
    The making the best of a bad job
    All twined and tangled together, all are recorded.
  • There is nothing at all to be done about it,
    There is nothing to do about anything
Accident is design
And design is accident
In a cloud of unknowing.
  • Everything is true in a different sense,
    A sense that would have seemed meaningless before.
    Everything tends towards reconciliation
    As a stone falls, as the tree falls, And in the end
    That is the completion which at the beginning
    would have seemed the ruin.
  • Accident is design
    And design is accident
    In a cloud of unknowing.
The circle of our understanding
Is a very restricted area.
  • Harry has crossed the frontier
    Beyond which safety and danger have a different meaning.

    And he cannot return. That is his privilege.
  • I've no gift of language, but I'm sure of what I mean:
    We most of us seem to live according to circumstance,
    But with people like him, there's something inside them
    That accounts for what happens to them. You get a feeling of it.
  • He is every bit as sane as you or I,
    He sees the world as clearly as you or I see it,
    It is only that he has seen a great deal more than that.
  • The circle of our understanding
    Is a very restricted area.

    Except for a limited number
    Of strictly practical purposes
    We do not know what we are doing;
    And even then, when you think of it,
    We do not know much about thinking.

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939)

The Naming of cats is a difficult matter; It isn't just one of your holiday games...
  • The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
    It isn't just one of your holiday games;
    You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
    When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
    • The Naming of Cats
  • When the day's hustle and bustle is done,
    Then the Gumbie Cat's work is but hardly begun.
    • The Old Gumbie Cat
Jellicle Cats come out tonight,
Jellicle Cats come one come all...
  • Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat —
    And there isn't any call for me to shout it:
    For he will do
    As he do do
    And there's no doing anything about it!
    • The Rum Tum Tugger
  • Jellicle Cats come out tonight,
    Jellicle Cats come one come all:
    The Jellicle Moon is shining bright —
    Jellicles come to the Jellicle Ball.
    • The Song of the Jellicles
You now have learned enough to see
That Cats are much like you and me...
  • Old Deuteronomy's lived a long time;
    He's a Cat who has lived many lives in succession.

    He was famous in proverb and famous in rhyme
    A long while before Queen Victoria's accession.
    • Old Deuteronomy
  • And we all say: OH!
    Well I never!
    Was there ever
    A Cat so clever
    As Magical Mr. Mistoffelees!
    • Mr. Mistoffelees
  • He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
    For when they reach the scene of crime — Macavity's not there!
    • Macavity: The Mystery Cat
  • Macavity, Macavity, there's no on like Macavity,
    He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
    • Macavity: The Mystery Cat
  • He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
    At whatever time the deed took place-
    Macavity wasn't there.
    • Macavity: The Mystery Cat
  • Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
    For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
    You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square —
    But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there!
    • Macavity: The Mystery Cat
  • They say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
    (I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
    Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
    Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!
    • Macavity: The Mystery Cat
  • These modern productions are all very well,
    But there's nothing to equal, from what I hear tell,
    That moment of mystery
    When I made history
    As Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.
    • Gus: The Theatre Cat
  • You now have learned enough to see
    That Cats are much like you and me
    And other people whom we find
    Possessed of various types of mind.
    For some are sane and some are mad
    And some are good and some are bad
    And some are better, some are worse —
    But all may be described in verse.
    • The Ad-dressing of Cats

The Cocktail Party (1949)

It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous.
Resign yourself to be the fool you are.
  • It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous.
    Resign yourself to be the fool you are.
  • You will find that you survive humiliation
    And that's an experience of incalculable value.
  • That is the worst moment, when you feel you have lost
    The desires for all that was most desirable,
    Before you are contented with what you can desire;
    Before you know what is left to be desired;
    And you go on wishing that you could desire
    What desire has left behind.
    But you cannot understand.
    How could you understand what it is to feel old?
  • You will change your mind, but you are not free.
    Your moment of freedom was yesterday.
    You made a decision. You set in motion
    Forces in your life and in the lives of others
    Which cannot be reversed.
  • We die to each other daily.
    What we know of other people
    Is only our memory of the moments
    During which we knew them. And they have changed since then.

    To pretend that they and we are the same
    Is a useful and convenient social convention
    Which must sometimes broken. We must also remember
    That at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.
  • I have had quite enough humiliation
    Lately, to bring me to the point
    At which humiliation ceases to humiliate.
    You get to the point at which you cease to feel
    And then you speak your mind.
  • You're still trying to invent a personality for me
    Which will only keep me away from myself.
All cases are unique, and very similar to others.
  • What is hell? Hell is oneself.
    Hell is alone, the other figures in it
    Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from
    And nothing to escape to. One is always alone.
  • All cases are unique, and very similar to others.
  • Half the harm that is done in this world
    Is due to people who want to feel important.

    They don't mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them.
    Or they do not see it, or they justify it
    Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle
    To think well of themselves.
  • It is very often that my patients
    Are only pieces of a total situation
    Which I have to explore. The single patient
    Who is ill all by himself, is rather the exception.
  • There are several symptoms
    Which must occur together, and to a marked degree,
    To qualify a patient for my sanatorium:
    And one of them is an honest mind. That is one of the causes of their suffering.
  • You have come to where the word 'insult' has no meaning;
    And you must put up with that.
  • To men of a certain type
    The suspicion that they are incapable of loving
    Is as disturbing to their self-esteem
    As, in cruder men, the fear of impotence.
Your burden is not to clear your conscience
But to learn how to bear the burdens on your conscience.
  • The best of a bad job is all any of us make of it — except of course the saints
  • Your burden is not to clear your conscience
    But to learn how to bear the burdens on your conscience.
  • I should really like to think there's something wrong with me —
    Because, if there isn't then there's something wrong,
    Or at least, very different from what it seemed to be,
    With the world itself — and that's much more frightening!
    That would be terrible.
  • An awareness of solitude.
  • Everyone's alone — or so it seems to me.
    They make noises, and think they are talking to each other;
    They make faces, and think they understand each other.
    And I'm sure they don't. Is that a delusion?
Can we only love
Something created in our own imaginations?
  • Can we only love
    Something created in our own imaginations?
    Are we all in fact unloving and unloveable?
    Then one is alone, and if one is alone
    Then lover and beloved are equally unreal
    And the dreamer is no more real than his dreams.
I shall be left with the inconsolable memory
Of the treasure I went into the forest to find...
  • I shall be left with the inconsolable memory
    Of the treasure I went into the forest to find
    And never found, and which was not there
    And is perhaps not anywhere? But if not anywhere
    Why do I feel guilty at not having found it?
I have thought at moments that the ecstasy is real
Although those who experience it may have no reality...
  • Disillusion can become itself an illusion
    If we rest in it.
  • It's not that I'm afraid of being hurt again:
    Nothing again can either hurt or heal.
    I have thought at moments that the ecstasy is real
    Although those who experience it may have no reality.
    For what happened is remembered like a dream
    In which one is exalted by intensity of loving
    In the spirit, a vibration of delight
    Without desire, for desire is fulfilled
    In the delight of loving.
    A state one does not know
    When awake. But what, or whom I love,
    Or what in me was loving, I do not know.
    And if all that is meaningless, I want to be cured
    Of a craving for something I cannot find
    And of the shame of never finding it.
  • Two people who know they do not understand each other,
    Breeding children whom they do not understand
    And who will never understand them.
Each way means loneliness — and communion.
  • In a world of lunacy
    Violence, stupidity, greed…it is a good life.
  • I feel it would be a kind of surrender —
    No, not a surrender — more like a betrayal.
    You see, I think I really had a vision or something
    Though I don't know what it is. I don't want to forget it.
    I want to live with it. I could do without everything
    Put up with anything, if I might cherish it.
  • There is another way, if you have the courage.
    The first I could describe in familiar terms
    Because you have seen it, as we all have seen it,
    Illustrated, more or less, in lives of those about us.
    The second is unknown, and so requires faith —
    The kind of faith that issues from despair.
    The destination cannot be described;
    You will know very little until you get there;
    You will journey blind.
    But the way leads towards possession
    Of what you have sought for in the wrong place.
  • Neither way is better.
    Both ways are necessary.
    It is also necessary
    To make a choice between them.
  • Those who take the other
    Can forget their loneliness. You will not forget yours.
    Each way means loneliness — and communion.
Every moment is a fresh beginning.
  • We must always take risks. That is our destiny.
  • I'd say that she suffered all that we should suffer
    In fear and pain and loathing — all these together —
    And reluctance of the body to become a thing.
    I'd say she suffered more, because more conscious
    Than the rest of us.
  • If we all were judged according to the consequences
    Of all our words and deeds, beyond the intention
    And beyond our limited understanding
    Of ourselves and others, we should all be condemned.
  • Only by acceptance of the past will you alter its meaning.
  • Every moment is a fresh beginning.

External links

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Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Literary Studies > T. S. Eliot

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Contents

Unit Summary

Content summary

The communication of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living - T.S Eliot, Little Gidding


If you have any questions please bring them up in the discussion area, I would be happy to talk them over. Would someone please run a search for typos?

This course carries with it possibly the strangest assignment you will ever be given. Examine the sensual in ways you never have before. Follow specks of light, trace the patterns of sound cars make as they go past in your mind. In addition, find beautiful places and sit and look at them. Also, think, critically consider everything you experience, analyse the culture around you, consider the motivations people have for doing everything.

The course has with it supplementary material, mostly reading. The choices are selected to try to help you understand T.S Eliot and his poetry, they do not all immediately connect with the reading they are attached to, but as a whole, if considered carefully, will give you insight not only into the soul and writings of T.S Eliot, but also into the soul of humankind. I would appreciate persons knowledgeable about non western traditions to post equivalent literature from traditions they understand ( i.e Buddhist and Hindu texts, etc.) into these sections.

Papers in this course will not be marked, nevertheless it is recommended for your own sake that you complete them, they add far greater depth to the experience and enhance your writing skills. In addition, they might even help you find things about yourself, your life and your philosophy you never knew before. To find the readings online, as well as invaluable essays and study aids, look in the resources section.

Intended outcome

Unit materials

  • Study guide:

Texts

Lessons

Assignments

(Poetic reading assingments should be read out loud if possible)

Wk I

Key questions

Does our society allow us a voice?

Read

"The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock". Read all biographical materials provided ( and more if you can find some).

Write
  • Write a paper, try to include the following aspects of the poem ( if they interest you)

The use of rhyme in the first verse

The fragmentary nature of the poem

The themes of isolation and impotencency it brings up

The surreal images it uses ( i.e "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons).

Try to understand the purpose for every element of the poem.

  • Write a poem inspired in some way by "The love song of Alfred J Prufrock" ( even if the inspiration is that you hate the poem!)
Supplementary reading

Fear and trembling by Soren Kierkegaard.

Wk II

Key questions

What are the future directions of modern society

Read

"The Waste Land"

Write

One poem and one essay, as before. Let your essay be informed by the resources I have posted at the bottom of the page.

Supplementary reading

Sections of beyond good and evil by Nietzsche (enter an internet search to find).

Wk III

Key questions

What makes life meaningful, is modern life not as meaningful as it should be?

Read

"The Hollow Men"

Write

One poem and one essay, as before. Let your essay be informed by the resources I have posted at the bottom of the page.

Supplementary material

Browse sections of Max Weber's "The protestant work ethic and the rise of capitalism."

Wk IV
Key questions

What is change? How does it effect mankind?

Read

"Burnt Norton"

Write

One poem and one essay, as before. Let your essay be informed by the resources I have posted at the bottom of the page. There's no supplementary material this week because I'd like you to try something more daring, write a long poem.

WK V

Key questions

What does death mean to you?

Read

"East Coker"

Write

One poem and one essay, as before. Let your essay be informed by the resources I have posted at the bottom of the page.

Supplementary material

The triumph of life by Shelley.

Wk VI

Key questions

What are things we cannot deny?

Read

"The Dry Salvages"

Write

One poem and one essay, as before. Let your essay be informed by the resources I have posted at the bottom of the page.

Supplementary material

View a copy of the artwork "The Scream" ( enter a search) read some material and interpretation of it if possible.

WK VII

Key questions

What would it be like to experience something you cannot describe, or to find yourself suddenly find your postion in the great cosmic scheme of things ( if there were such a thing).

Read

"Little Gidding"

Write

One poem and one essay, as before. Let your essay be informed by the resources I have posted at the bottom of the page.

Supplementary reading

Some of the works of St John of the cross ( enter a search).

Wk VIII

Key questions

If life goes on an on, humankind largely unchanged, If so few of us reach a point of spirtual fufilment, what can the ordinary people do? What would make your life more meaningful?

Read

"Murder in the Cathedral"

Write

One poem and one essay, as before. Let your essay be informed by the resources I have posted at the bottom of the page.

Suplementary reading

The Book of Ecclesiastes

Sum up

What have you learned? Has it changed you as a person? Why not write a poem or an essay about it? Or even a short story? Are you glad you took the course? T.S Eliot won the nobel prize for liteature, would you have awarded it to him?

Resources

Biography

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._S._Eliot An introduction to T.S Eliot the man.

http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/life.htm- An more in depth introduction

On Eliot and his work

http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/eliot/ A simple concise introduction to the poetry of T.S Eliot.

http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/eliot.htm- A lot of very good essays on T.S Eliot and his work.

http://www.bartleby.com/198/1.html The love song of Alfred J Prufcock.

http://eliotswasteland.tripod.com/ A hypertext version of "The Waste Land".

http://www.cs.umbc.edu/~evans/hollow.html The Hollow Men .

http://www.tristan.icom43.net/quartets/ The four quatrets.

http://www.wellsprings.org.uk/wellspring_of_pilgrimage/litgidd.htm A description of Little Gidding church.

Unfortunately no copy of "Murder in the Cathedral" could be found online. If you wish to complete this section of the course you will have to buy a copy yourself, failing that you could just skip it.

Supplementary material

http://home.ddc.net/ygg/etext/fear.htm- Fear and Trembling.

http://www.mala.bc.ca/~johnstoi/Nietzsche/beyondgoodandevil_tofc.htm- Beyond Good and Evil.

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/WEBER/cover.html- The Protestant work ethic and the rise of capitalism

http://eir.library.utoronto.ca/rpo/display/poem1912.html- The Triumph of Life.

http://www.poemhunter.com/p/m/poem.asp?poet=34197&poem=412162- St John of the cross ( one of his poems).

http://www.bartleby.com/108/21/- The book of Ecclesiastes

Spark notes for most of these things are avaliable. Simply search "spark notes" on google, and then find them on the page.


Simple English

File:T.S. Eliot,
T. S. Eliot

Thomas Stearns Eliot (September 26, 1888 - January 4, 1965), was an American poet. He was one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. He also wrote plays and some important essays about literature.

He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, then went to college in Harvard. He spent most of his adult life in London, England. He became a British citizen in 1928.

One famous book of his was written for children and is called The Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. The songs in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats are based on poems in it. He also wrote "The Waste Land", a very mysterious, complicated poem that helped start a new style called Modernism. His friend, Ezra Pound, another Modern poet, helped him finish it.

He was married two times. He worked at a bank in England and later as the head editor of a famous publishing company in London that is now called Faber and Faber. In 1948, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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