T.S. Eliot: Four Quartets
There are several internet sites offering online texts of the "Four Quartets". I do not
know which site was the first; but its author saved his successors much work, for they
evidently copied his text exactly — including his errors of spelling, punctuation, and
even his missed lines. This is amusing inasmuch as these sites were presumably constructed as
the result of genuine enthusiasm for Eliot's poetic masterwork. But it is saddening to
see basic standards of academic accuracy disregarded thus; moreover, these sites remain
uncorrected. (They are welcome to take my own source code, which will enable them to
amend their errors without much effort.)
I have omitted line numbers in the texts at this site; they can easily be added if the
documents are opened in any good word processor.
The two extracts from the Fragments of the Presocratics (Herakleitos or Heraclitus)
by H. A. Diels are presented here in the Greek and in an English translation.
Written in 1935.
Burnt Norton is a manor in Gloucestershire visited by Eliot in 1934. Its rose garden
suggested the imagery of the opening section.
"As in the figure of the ten stairs"
The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross states that "there are ten
steps on the mystical ladder of divine love." Other references to St. John of the
Cross are scattered throughout the poem.
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.
"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 Salvagespresumably les trois sauvagesis a small
group of rocks, with a beacon, off the N.E. coast of Cape Ann,
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 an Internet page of
notes to the Quartets)
Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield: in the Mahabharata, the discourse
known as the Bhagavad Gita.
"Figlia del tuo figlio"
"Daughter of your son" (i.e. Mary and Jesus); from Dante's Paradisio.
Written in 1942.
Little Gidding is a village in Cambridgeshire visited by Eliot in 1936. It was
the home of a religious community established in 1626. In 1633 Charles I visited the
community; in 1646 he returned, fleeing Parliamentary troops who broke up the community.
"Sin is Behovely, but
All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well."
Dame Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, the 13th revelation;
a modern translation of which might read "Sin was necessary, but it is going to
be well, everything is going to be well".
"By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching."
Dame Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, the 14th revelation.