Thursday, November 27, 2014

Four Quartets, by T.S. Eliot

Four QuartetsFour Quartets by T.S. Eliot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish there were a way to give more than five stars, or something beyond stars. My reaction to this work goes so far past the dichotomy of "like/dislike" that any stab at a review or an opinion falls well short of the reality.

Decades ago, I remember reading one of these four poems in an advanced English literature class, and it snapped me out of the haze of adolescence into something resembling total awareness. All the words were familiar, but arranged in a way that shook me awake. One quote stuck in my conscious and subconscious permanently: we shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

As a Unitarian Universalist, later in life I took Emerson's fine advice to “Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.” During the many years I've been doing this, Eliot's quote above found its way into my own words three separate times-- nothing else is repeated amongst the thousands of quotes taken from all I read.

This month, I read Four Quartets the morning after my mother died, as a way to somehow integrate the enormity of what had happened and get some of the pain to move. The themes in the poems of time, life, death, immortality, destruction, and love helped more than anyone else's words of comfort or hope. It helped me frame a tragic event in a larger context so that I could move forward, internally and externally.

Another reviewer said that this work will echo in your head for the rest of your life. It's one of the most enduring and important things I've ever read.

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