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Anglican Books > Elliot's Quartet # 2 East Coker

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message 1: by Karen L. (new)

Karen L. Post anything on Quartet # 2 here.


message 2: by Karen L. (last edited Oct 17, 2009 04:17PM) (new)

Karen L. These parts below seem to have Christian symbolism in them. I heard that this was the poem written during his conversion? Does anyone know much about that? This is a difficult poem. I think, I might say like Skylar, that is my least favorite of his poems.

Oh Michelle, I hope you can add some insights, or I'm afraid this poetry discussion might fade away into a black hole :)

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.


Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.








message 3: by Greg (last edited Oct 19, 2009 12:44PM) (new)

Greg | 10 comments Karen,
You are absolutely right -this is a difficult poem. Many Master Thesis have been written offering various interpretations and insights. While there is a basic beauty in his use of words, as you have noted, The Four Quartets is definitely not a poem for a "liesurely walk-though" but is meant to be intellectually and philosophically challending - a virtual mental wrestling match. It cannot be understood, beyond its surface beauty of form and weaving of words, without some appreciation for the pre-Socratic philosophers, and the basic tenants of Eastern Philosophy, and the nature of English Literature of the Romance Period, in addition to the tenants and doctrines of Orthodox Christianity. So, while it may be appreciated without an in-depth knowledge of these things just mentioned, it cannot be truly interpretted and understood without them. That doesn't mean that the average person can't grasp them, but it does mean that we will need to become more of a "serious student" than a "tourist" in our reading of it, willing to do some intellectual work in addition to "enjoying the scenery". I'm not sure everyone in the group, who thought this might be an interesting poem to explore, has bought into that. That may be why you feel the discussion may "slip into a black hole", as you put it (disappointing - I hope not).

I think the discussion needs the guiding hand of a good published commentary on the work. I submit as support of this idea my comments of 09/04/2009 on Quartet 1, part 1 (message 6) on a commentator's assertion that the five parts comprising each of the Quartets are meant to be understood in terms of the two introductory quotes in Greek that form a sort of prolog to the poem. I found this helpful, but thought I was having too much to say, with a different level of focus than what was appearing in other comments, so I drew back.

By the way, as you have mentioned, Eliot did write this poem after his conversion, but not before he first wrote "Ash Wednesday" which deals more directly with his conversion. Both poems contained accumulations of thoughts, and even scraps of other poetic works, written befre his conversion, as well as contents newly written after his conversion. Not everyone loved them. C.S. Lewis did not like them and said, in a 1935 letter to a mutual friend of theirs, Paul Elmer More, that he considered the work of Eliot to be "a very great evil". Samuel Beckett suggests that Eliot's work "belongs in what the reverse of "T. Eliot" spells"! And yet, Hugh Kenner commented, "He has been the most gifted and influential literary critic in English in the twentieth century." Many others agree with him. Where there is such a wide diversity of criticism, we can know that the issue of interpretation will be difficult and require more than a "drive-by" or even meaningful surface appreciation of the work.

Just food for thought: Why is this work called the "Four Quartets"? It is in four Sections but that is one Quartet, while the title is in the plural. Each of the four sections ("Quartets") is divided into five parts, not four. So why is the work not called the Four Quintets? Each section is a quintet, not a quartet and the whole work is a quartet (singular) not quartets (plural) - meaningful????? What is the significance of the name of each of the four sections?


message 4: by Karen L. (last edited Oct 19, 2009 01:59PM) (new)

Karen L. This link has brief notes on the poem about the Quartet names:
http://www.tristan.icom43.net/quartet...
EAST COKER

"Written in 1940.

East Coker is a village near Yeovil, Somerset, Eliot's ancestral home. Andrew Eliot left East Coker for the New World in about 1669.

Part I
"In my beginning is my end"
Cf: "In my end is my beginning" in Part V. The latter is the motto of Mary Queen of Scots ("En ma fin est mon commencement").

"The association of man and woman
In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie..."
This passage is taken from The Boke Named the Governour (1530) by Sir Thomas Elyot, an ancestor of T.S. Eliot.


THE DRY SALVAGES

Written in 1941.

"The Dry Salvages—presumably les trois sauvages—is a small
group of rocks, with a beacon, off the N.E. coast of Cape Ann,
Massachusetts."
Eliot's family spent time in this area during his childhood.

By his own reckoning (in a speech given upon receiving the Emerson-Thoreau Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959, at which he read this poem), the poem begins where Eliot began (St. Louis, the Mississippi River) and ends where he expected to end (a parish church of a village in Somerset).

(from a WWW page of notes to the Quartets)

Part III
Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield: in the Mahabharata, the discourse known as the Bhagavad Gita.

Part IV
"Figlia del tuo figlio"
"Daughter of your son" (i.e. Mary and Jesus); from Dante's Paradisio."






message 5: by Karen L. (new)

Karen L. It is Good Friday, and a friend sent this part of "East Coker," out to a bunch of church friends in an email. Wow, It really moves me. I thought the underlined part below to be very interesting.

IV

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

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


The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good."


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