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Four Quartets 1st Edition
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After two quotations from Heraclitus, "Burnt Norton" opens the collection. Here Eliot muses on the idea that all possible outcomes of any event are secretly around us, unseen and unperceived. An empty pool is, in some other reality, filled with water and a blooming lotus. Eliot's metaphysical insight here is reminiscent of quantum theory that was then beginning to become the rage in physics circles. These speculations are tricky and difficult to get one's head around, and even more difficult to plainly put into words, but Eliot manages to succeed.
"East Coker", named after the town in England from where Eliot's Puritan ancestor emigrated to America, deals with the cyclical nature of time. Here the poet surveys the tendency for all earthly things to rise and ultimately fall. Christianity with its emphasis on eternal life, asserts Eliot, promises a way to change one's end to one's beginning and escape the fall into oblivion that dooms everything.
"The Dry Salvages", in reference to a place on the New England shore which Eliot visited as a youth, is the weak point of the collection. A rumination with a nautical theme, the poem suffers from meandering phrasing and peculiar wording. Its Marian devotion is inconsistent with the Puritan/Anglican tradition of the rest of FOUR QUARTETS.Read more ›
I read some sections to my wife when we were first married, and she thought that it was an English translation of the Sikh holy texts.
"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"
There is no better explanation of Eastern religion than this. I am eternally grateful for this work.
The inspiration for these poems -- or reflections -- are the late string quartets of Beethoven, those numbered from 12 through 16. It is the 5-movement No.15 in A Minor,Op.132, that seems to have exerted the strongest influence, with it's famous adagio movement, which Beethoven inscribed as the thanksgiving song of a convalescent.
Actually, No.15 was the 13th in order, but the Quartets were published out of sequence, which was not uncommon in Beethoven's time. The Late Quartets progress from the classic 4-movement No.12 and add a movement to each work up to the 7-movement Op.131 in C-sharp Minor. The 16th and final quartet returns to the classic 4-movement form. There is an expansion of form concluding with a contraction and return over the course of 5 works.
Like Eliot's Four Quartets, Beethoven's Late Quartets reflect upon time and faith -- and the 'speech' is often plain: repeated phrases that appear stuck in a groove, hammered chords, cheap tunes that seem to be lifted from a band in a local inn; from long-breathed melodies that look beyond what Wagner and Mahler will eventually bring to music, to cell-like motivs not heard again till Bartok and Webern.
The 'learned' aspect of Eliot's verse can lead us astray, so that we are forever parsing the meaning of the lines. I am taken with the sounds he makes as I read the poems aloud, and the sounds he chose to convey what the poems mean are, in a sense, the essence of meaning. From the first I was struck by the sheer sound of 'time' in the context of these Quartets, which are Eliot's swan song.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have to read this masterpiece every year. And every time I read it, it's new. I find something new, it feels new, it's always fresh. Eliot was a genius.Published 8 days ago by D. Bennett
Either you know or you don't. This knows all that words can say and expresses all that words cannot.Published 6 months ago by rally_squirrel_west
This was amazing. I was truly breathless. I couldn't put it down.Published 8 months ago by Mia Kalish, Ph.D.
This is my favorite poem. It is challenging, complex , evocative and thought provoking. You can read it superficially or you can make the effort to follow the various threads of... Read morePublished 10 months ago by AthenaK
This is the most important reading I have had in a decade for my own understanding and comfort. Past and future are in the present. The only wisdom is humility. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Kindle Customer