Dustin's Reviews > Four Quartets

Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
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's review
Aug 17, 2008

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Eliot finishes his public writing career with this collection, twenty years after The Waste Land. The poem concentrates on religion chiefly and the subsequent consideration of things such as time and generally the vicissitudes of life. As all religious poetry inevitably must, this collection relies heavily upon paradox and Eliot is constantly setting up paradoxical syllogisms such as "In order to arrive at what you do not know / You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance. / In order to possess what you do not possess / You must go by the way of dispossession. / In order to arrive at what you are not / You must go through the way in which you are not."
Eliot deals with the determinism of time and past and future, their feeding into the present and the vanity of man's toil in regards to the ultimate redemption of time.
There is a still point from which one can hear a music, experience a dance, a still point of the turning world, as on the axes of a globe. Where all is motion, but the point has no motion, one of the many paradoxes. He seems to promote transcending a Sweeney-like existence, transcending time and circumstance. As per choices, he takes Frost approach in Two Roads, where "This is the one way, and the other / Is the same"
Yet in East Coker, he seems to promote the simple medieval small-town lifestyle, farm and country community life as the most natural, as with his later associations with the ground swell of the ocean, a beat ingrained into the earth.
"The only wisdom we can hope to acquire / Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless." He seems in his older age to look down upon intellectualism and experience-driven lifestyle.
He connects the feeling of God with the shutting off of lights in a theatre, where one can hear "a movement of darkness on darkness." Enlightenment for Eliot is an acceptance and a walk through darkness instead of a "shaft of light."
A puzzling line I thought is "We are only undeceived / Of that which deceiveing, could no longer harm." I think it means that to know something in full would be to not anymore be able to be affected by finding out it's deception. To be distanced from it, in other words. Which has strange implications in a relationship.

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