A Conversation for 'Four Quartets' by TS Eliot

Poetry and the Human Soul

Post 1


This article gives an interesting discussion of the underlying, overt Christian themes in T.S. Eliot's "Four Quartets". As a lover of Eliot's poetry, let me add merely that the imagery, the sound, the taste of the words in the poem are inexpressibly potent. Eliot was a master of words - his detractors notwithstanding - and his use of the sound of words to convey an almost antiphonal sub-meaning under the layer of what is said is uncannily powerful. Power and lyricism... they are the two most riveting qualities in a poem (for me, at any rate).

The subject of "bleakness" has been a recurring theme in Eliot's poetry, and his ways of describing it are overwhelmingly effective. The repetition of a single word to build up a particular image, then immediately switching to a personal "vision" which proceeds, somehow, out of the drum beat of those words... the use of the tender alongside the groteque... These are the things that will remain in the mind long after putting down a work by Eliot. True, in the Four Quartets, Eliot eschews the easier poetic forms, using more "poetic prose" (or prosodic poetry) to convey his images. However, he uses words as a fisherman uses his bait - to catch the slippery meaning in the seas of the mind.

Is the imagery too bleak? Some may find it so... but not I. That may be because I write poetry of bleakness, not because such poetry expresses my fundamental beliefs, but because the imagery must be expressed. Eliot has a different purpose (or purposes) - however, it can be supposed that he, too, was a conduit for imagery that laid its poetic imperative upon him. Combining such imperatives with his Christian views may have resulted in a somewhat unorthodox poem (unorthodox both as a piece of artistic writing and as an exposition of his faith), but art has always been in the habit of pushing boundaries, pushing over expectations. In some ways, this work can be compared to the book of Ecclesiastes, where the author writes that "all is vanity"... and he pointedly reminds us that, be we rich or poverty-hampered, famous or obscure, we all die.

Thank you. I enjoyed this article.

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Poetry and the Human Soul

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