T. S. Eliot
See also: Four Quartets
- I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.
- "Preludes" (1917), § IV
- Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
- Mr. Aldous Huxley, who is perhaps one of those people who have to perpetrate thirty bad novels before producing a good one, has a certain natural — but little developed — aptitude for seriousness.
- The Contemporary English Novelist, La Nouvelle Revue française (1 May 1927)
- A dangerous person to disagree with.
- On Samuel Johnson in Homage to John Dryden: Three Essays on Poetry of the Seventeenth Century (1927)
- It is a test (a positive test, I do not assert that it is always valid negatively), that genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.
- Dante (1929), a biographical essay
- I am glad you have a Cat, but I do not believe it is So remarkable a cat as My Cat. My Cat is a Lilliecat Hubvously. What a lilliecat it is. There never was such a Lilliecat. Its Name is JELLYORUM and its one Idea is to be Usefull!!
- Letter to his godson, Thomas Erle Faber (January 1931) as quoted in "T.S. Eliot's Private Letters To Faber Publishing Family To Be Sold" at World Collector's Net (12 August 2005)
- Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
- Preface to Transit of Venus: Poems by Harry Crosby (1931)
- It is self-evident that St. Louis affected me more deeply than any other environment has ever done. I feel that there is something in having passed one's childhood beside the big river, which is incommunicable to those people who have not. I consider myself fortunate to have been born here, rather than in Boston, or New York, or London.
- Letter to Marquis Childs quoted in St. Louis Post Dispatch (15 October 1930) and in the address "American Literature and the American Language" delivered at Washington University (9 June 1953) published in Washington University Studies, New Series: Literature and Language, no. 23 (St. Louis : Washington University Press, 1953), p. 6.
- It is certain that a book is not harmless merely because no one is consciously offended by it.
- Religion and Literature (1935)
- No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job....Poetry..remains one person talking to another....no poet can write a poem of amplitude unless he is the master of the prosaic.
- The Music of Poetry (24 February 1942) the third W. P. Ker memorial lecture delivered in the University of Glasgow
- The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always being asked to do more, and you are not yet decrepit enough to turn them down.
- Time (23 October 1950)
- The majority of mankind is lazy-minded, incurious, absorbed in vanities, and tepid in emotion, and is therefore incapable of either much doubt or much faith; and when the ordinary man calls himself a sceptic or an unbeliever, that is ordinarily a simple pose, cloaking a disinclination to think anything out to a conclusion.
- Introduction to Pascal’s Pensées
- Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table.
- In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
- There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands,
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
- Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all: —
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
- So how should I presume?
- And I have known the eyes already, known them all —
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
- And how should I presume?
- And I have known the arms already, known them all —
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
It is perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
- And how should I begin?
- I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
- I am no prophet — and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
- It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while If one, settling a
Pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
"That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all."
- No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous —
Almost, at times, the Fool.
- I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
- Later republished in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1922)
- We dwell with satisfaction upon the poet's difference from his predecessors, especially his immediate predecessors; we endeavour to find something that can be isolated in order to be enjoyed. Whereas if we approach a poet without this prejudice we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously. And I do not mean the impressionable period of adolescence, but the period of full maturity.
- Yet if the only form of tradition, of handing down, consisted in following the ways of the immediate generation before us in a blind or timid adherence to its successes, "tradition" should positively be discouraged. We have seen many such simple currents soon lost in the sand; and novelty is better than repetition. Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour.
- The historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity.
- Whoever has approved this idea of order, of the form of European, of English literature, will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.
- Some one said: "The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did." Precisely, and they are that which we know.
- It is not the "greatness," the intensity, of the emotions, the components, but the intensity of the artistic process, the pressure, so to speak, under which the fusion takes place, that counts.
- The bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious. Both errors tend to make him "personal." Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.
- Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
- Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign!”
The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
Swaddled with darkness.
- Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,
An old man in a draughty house
Under a windy knob.
- After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities. Think now
She gives when our attention is distracted
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
What's not believed in, or if still believed,
In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon
Into weak hands, what's thought can be dispensed with
Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think
Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.
- The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last
We have not reached conclusion, when I
Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
I have not made this show purposelessly
And it is not by any concitation
Of the backward devils.
I would meet you upon this honestly.
I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.
I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it
Since what is kept must be adulterated?
- so the countess passed on until she came through the little park, where Niobe presented her with a cabinet, and so departed.
- "Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a cigar"
- The broad-backed hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud;
Although he seems so firm to us
He is merely flesh and blood.
- "The Hippopotamus"
- Webster was much possessed by death
And saw the skull beneath the skin
- "Whispers of Immortality"
- Grishkin is nice: her
Russian eye is underlined for emphasis;
Uncorseted, her friendly bust
Gives promise of pneumatic bliss.
- "Whispers of Immortality" "Grishkin" has been identified by Ezra Pound as having been "Serafima Astafieva" a Russian dancer.
The Waste Land (1922)
- April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
- Line 1 et seq.
- There is shadow under this red rock
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
- Line 25 et seq.
- I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
- Line 39 et seq.
- Unreal city,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
- Line 60 et seq.
- This is a reference to Dante's **Inferno**, Canto III, lines 55-57.
- O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—
It's so elegant
- Line 128 et seq.
- O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
- Line 320 et seq.
- Who is the third who walks always beside you
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
- What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only
What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
- Line 367 et seq.
- In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
- Line 385 et seq.
- Then spoke the thunder
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
- I have heard the key
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
- These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih shantih shantih
- The final lines of the poem.
The Hollow Men (1925)
- A penny for the Old Guy
- A quotation of a traditional Guy Fawkes Night saying.
- We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw.
- Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us — if at all — not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
- Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
- For Thine is the Kingdom
- Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
- Life is very long
- Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
- This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
- Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
- Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
- Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
- Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
- Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
- Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
- Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen.
- Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.
- This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.
- If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
- Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
- And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth
This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.
- Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
- Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.
Choruses from The Rock (1934)
- The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
- O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of The Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.
- The lot of man is ceaseless labor,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,
Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.
I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know
That it is hard to be really useful, resigning
The things that men count for happiness, seeking
The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting
With equal face those that bring ignominy,
The applause of all or the love of none.
All men are ready to invest their money
But most expect dividends.
I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing.
- The world turns and the world changes,
But one thing does not change.
In all of my years, one thing does not change,
However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.
- You neglect and belittle the desert.
The desert is not remote in southern tropics
The desert is not only around the corner,
The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you,
The desert is in the heart of your brother.
- Let me show you the work of the humble. Listen.
- In the vacant places
We will build with new bricks
- Where the bricks are fallen
We will build with new stone
Where the beams are rotten
We will build with new timbers
Where the word is unspoken
We will build with new speech
There is work together
A Church for all
And a job for each
Every man to his work.
- What life have you, if you have not life together?
There is not life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of GOD.
- And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbor
Unless his neighbor makes too much disturbance,
But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.
- Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore.
- I have given you the power of choice, and you only alternate
Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.
- And the wind shall say: "Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls."
- When the Stranger says: "What is the meaning of this city ?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?"
What will you answer? "We all dwell together
To make money from each other"? or "This is a community"?
- Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.
- There is one who remembers the way to your door:
Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
You shall not deny the Stranger.
- They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
But the man that is shall shadow
The man that pretends to be.
- Then it seemed as if men must proceed from light to light, in the light of the Word,
Through the Passion and Sacrifice saved in spite of their negative being;
Bestial as always before, carnal, self seeking as always before, selfish and purblind as ever before,
Yet always struggling, always reaffirming,always resuming their march on the way that was lit by the light;
Often halting, loitering, straying, delaying, returning, yet following no other way.
- But it seems that something has happened that has never happened before: though we know not just when, or why, or how, or where.
Men have left GOD not for other gods, they say, but for no God; and this has never happened before
That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first Reason,
And then Money, and Power, and what they call Life, or Race, or Dialectic.
- What have we to do but stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards in an age which advances progressively backwards?
- There came one who spoke of the shame of Jerusalem
And the holy places defiled;
Peter the Hermit, scourging with words.
And among his hearers were a few good men,
Many who were evil,
And most who were neither,
Like all men in all places.
- In spite of all the dishonour,
the broken standards, the broken lives,
The broken faith in one place or another,
There was something left that was more than the tales
Of old men on winter evenings.
- Our age is an age of moderate virtue
And moderate vice
- The soul of Man must quicken to creation.
- Out of the meaningless practical shapes of all that is living or lifeless
Joined with the artist's eye, new life, new form, new colour.
Out of the sea of sound the life of music,
Out of the slimy mud of words, out of the sleet and hail of verbal imprecisions,
Approximate thoughts and feelings, words that have taken the place of thoughts and feelings,
There spring the perfect order of speech, and the beauty of incantation.
- The work of creation is never without travail
The visible reminder of Invisible Light.
- O Light Invisible, we praise Thee!
Too bright for mortal vision.
- We see the light but see not whence it comes.
O Light Invisible, we glorify Thee!
Murder in the Cathedral (1935)
- Destiny waits in the hand of God, not in the hands of statesmen.
- They speak better than they know, and beyond your understanding.
They know and do not know, what it is to act or suffer.
They know and do not know, that action is suffering
And suffering is action. Neither does the agent suffer
Nor the patient act. But both are fixed
In an eternal action, an eternal patience.
To which all must consent that it may be willed
And which all must suffer that they may will it,
That the pattern may subsist, for the pattern is the action
And the suffering, that the wheel may turn and still
Be forever still.
- Men learn little from others' experience.
But in the life of one man, never
The same time returns. Sever
The cord, shed the scale. Only
The fool, fixed in his folly, may think
He can turn the wheel on which he turns
- Purpose is plain.
Endurance of friendship does not depend
Upon ourselves, but upon circumstance.
But circumstance is not undetermined.
Unreal friendship may turn to real
But real friendship, once ended, cannot be mended.
Sooner shall enmity turn to alliance.
The enmity that never knew friendship
Can sooner know accord.
- All things become less real, man passes
From unreality to unreality.
God is leaving us, God is leaving us, more pang, more pain, than birth or death.
- The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.
- Servant of God has chance of greater sin
And sorrow, than the man who serves a king.
For those who serve the greater cause may make the cause serve them,
Still doing right: and striving with political men
May make that cause political, not by what they do
But by what they are.
- Saints are not made by accident. Still less is a Christian martyrdom the effect of a man's will to become a Saint, as a man by willing and contriving may become a ruler of men. Ambition fortifies the will of man to become ruler over other men: it operates with deception, cajolery, and violence, it is the action of impurity upon impurity. Not so in Heaven. A martyr, a saint, is always made by the design of God, for His love of men, to warn them and to lead them, to bring them back to His ways. A martyrdom is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, not lost it but found it, for he has found freedom in submission to God. The martyr no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of martyrdom. So thus as on earth the Church mourns and rejoices at once, in a fashion that the world cannot understand; so in Heaven the Saints
- You shall forget these things, toiling in the household,
You shall remember them, droning by the fire,
When age and forgetfulness sweeten memory
Only like a dream that has often been told
And often been changed in the telling. They will seem unreal.
Human kind cannot bear very much reality.
- The church shall be open, even to our enemies.
We are not here to triumph by fighting, by stratagem, or by resistance,
Not to fight with beasts as men. We have fought the beast
And have conquered. We have only to conquer
Now, by suffering. This is the easier victory.
- You would bar the door
Against the lion, the leopard, the wolf or the boar,
Why not more
Against beasts with the souls of damned men, against men
Who would damn themselves to beasts. My Lord! My Lord!
- You think me reckless, desperate and mad.
You argue by results, as this world does,
To settle if an act be good or bad.
You defer to the fact. For every life and every act
Consequence of good and evil can be shown.
And as in time results of many deeds are blended
So good and evil in the end become confounded.
It is not in time that my death shall be known;
It is out of time that my decision is taken
If you call that decision
To which my whole being gives entire consent.
I give my life
To the Law of God above the Law of Man.
Those who do not the same
How should they know what I do?
- We did not wish anything to happen.
We understood the private catastrophe,
The personal loss, the general misery,
Living and partly living;
- In life there is not time to grieve long
But this, this is out of life, this is out of time,
An instant eternity of evil and wrong.
- In the small circle of pain within the skull
You still shall tramp and tread one endless round
Of thought, to justify your action to yourselves,
Weaving a fiction which unravels as you weave,
Pacing forever in the hell of make-believe
Which never is belief: this is your fate on earth
And we must think no further of you.
- We praise thee, O God, for thy glory displayed
in all the creatures of the earth,
In the snow, in the rain, in the wind, in the storm,
in all of thy creatures, both the hunters and the hunted,
For all things exist as seen by thee,
only as known by thee, all things exist
Only in thy light, and thy glory is declared
even in that which denies thee;
the darkness declares the glory of light.
Those who deny thee could not deny, if thou didst not exist;
and their denial is never complete,
for if it were so, they would not exist.
They affirm thee in living; all things affirm thee in living;
the bird in the air, both the hawk and the finch;
the beast on the earth, both the wolf and the lamb.
Therefore we, whom thou hast made to be conscious of thee, must consciously praise thee, in thought and in word and in deed.
- O father, father
Gone from us, lost to us,
The church lies bereft,
And the heathen shall build
On the ruins
Their world without God.
I see it.
I see it.
- Wherever a saint has dwelt, wherever a martyr has given his blood for the blood of Christ,
There is holy ground, and the sanctity shall not depart from it
Though armies trample over it, though sightseers come with guide-books looking over it;
From where the western seas gnaw at the coast of Iona,
To the death in the desert, the prayer in forgotten places by the broken Imperial column,
From such ground springs that which forever renews the earth
Though it is forever denied.
The Family Reunion (1939)
- I don't belong to any generation.
- The man who returns will have to meet
The boy who left.
- Thus with most careful devotion
Thus with precise attention
To detail, interfering preparation
Of that which is already prepared
Men tighten the knot of confusion
Into perfect misunderstanding
- All that I can hope to make you understand
Is only events: not what has happened.
And people to whom nothing has ever happened
Cannot understand the unimportance of events.
- You are all people
To whom has happened, at most a continual impact
Of external events. You have gone through life in sleep.
Never woken to the nightmare. I tell you life would be unendurable
If you were wide awake. You do not know
The noxious smell untraceable in the drains,
Inaccessible to the plumbers, that has its hour of the night; you do not know
The unspoken voice of sorrow in the ancient bedroom
At three o'clock in the morning. I am not speaking
Of my own experience, but trying to give you
Comparisons in a more familiar medium. I am the old house
With the noxious smell and the sorrow before morning,
In which all past is present, all degradation
Is unredeemable. As for what happens —
Of the past you can only see what is past,
Not what is always present. That is what matters.
- This is what matters, but it is unspeakable.
Untranslatable: I talk in general terms
Because the particular has no language.
- You isolate the single event
As something so dreadful that it couldn't have happened
Because you could not bear it. So you must believe
That I suffer from delusions. It is not my conscience
Not my mind, that is diseased, but the world I have to live in.
- Hold tight, hold tight, we must insist that the world is what we have always taken it to be.
- I see more than this, more than I can tell you, More than there are words for.
At this moment there is no decision to be made;
The decision will be made by powers beyond us
Which now and then emerge.
- One thing you cannot know:
The sudden extinction of every alternative,
The unexpected crash of the iron cataract.
You do not know what hope is, until you have lost it.
You only know what it is not to hope:
You do not know what it is to have hope taken from you,
Or to fling it away, to join the legion of the hopeless
Unrecognized by other men, though sometimes by each other.
cannot speak with several voices at once.]]
- If I tried to explain, you could never understand;
Explaining would only make a worse misunderstanding...
- It's all a delusion,
Everything you feel — I don't mean what you think,
But what you feel. You attach yourself to loathing
As others do to loving; an infatuation
That's wrong, a good that is misdirected.
- Pain is the opposite of joy,
but joy is a kind of pain
I believe the moment of birth
Is when we have knowledge of death
I believe the season of birth
Is the season of sacrifice
- It is only when they see nothing
That people can always show the suitable emotions —
And so far as they feel at all, their emotions are suitable.
They don't understand what it is to be awake,
To be living on several planes at once
Though one cannot speak with several voices at once.
- To rest in your own suffering
Is evasion of suffering. We must learn to suffer more.
- The moment of sudden loathing
And the season of stifled sorrow
The whisper, the transparent deception
The keeping up of appearances
The making the best of a bad job
All twined and tangled together, all are recorded.
- There is nothing at all to be done about it,
There is nothing to do about anything
[[ Everything is true in a different sense,
A sense that would have seemed meaningless before.
Everything tends towards reconciliation
As a stone falls, as the tree falls, And in the end
That is the completion which at the beginning
would have seemed the ruin.
- Accident is design
And design is accident
In a cloud of unknowing.
- Harry has crossed the frontier
Beyond which safety and danger have a different meaning.
And he cannot return. That is his privilege.
- I've no gift of language, but I'm sure of what I mean:
We most of us seem to live according to circumstance,
But with people like him, there's something inside them
That accounts for what happens to them. You get a feeling of it.
- He is every bit as sane as you or I,
He sees the world as clearly as you or I see it,
It is only that he has seen a great deal more than that.
- The circle of our understanding
Is a very restricted area.
Except for a limited number
Of strictly practical purposes
We do not know what we are doing;
And even then, when you think of it,
We do not know much about thinking.
- The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
- The Naming of Cats
- When the day's hustle and bustle is done,
Then the Gumbie Cat's work is but hardly begun.
- The Old Gumbie Cat
- Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat —
And there isn't any call for me to shout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there's no doing anything about it!
- The Rum Tum Tugger
- Jellicle Cats come out tonight,
Jellicle Cats come one come all:
The Jellicle Moon is shining bright —
Jellicles come to the Jellicle Ball.
- The Song of the Jellicles
- Old Deuteronomy's lived a long time;
He's a Cat who has lived many lives in succession.
He was famous in proverb and famous in rhyme
A long while before Queen Victoria's accession.
- Old Deuteronomy
- And we all say: OH!
Well I never!
Was there ever
A Cat so clever
As Magical Mr. Mistoffelees!
- Mr. Mistoffelees
- He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime — Macavity's not there!
- Macavity: The Mystery Cat
- Macavity, Macavity, there's no on like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
- Macavity: The Mystery Cat
- He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place-
Macavity wasn't there.
- Macavity: The Mystery Cat
- Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square —
But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there!
- Macavity: The Mystery Cat
- They say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!
- Macavity: The Mystery Cat
- These modern productions are all very well,
But there's nothing to equal, from what I hear tell,
That moment of mystery
When I made history
As Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.
- Gus: The Theatre Cat
- You now have learned enough to see
That Cats are much like you and me
And other people whom we find
Possessed of various types of mind.
For some are sane and some are mad
And some are good and some are bad
And some are better, some are worse —
But all may be described in verse.
- The Ad-dressing of Cats
The Cocktail Party (1949)
- It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous.
Resign yourself to be the fool you are.
- You will find that you survive humiliation
And that's an experience of incalculable value.
- That is the worst moment, when you feel you have lost
The desires for all that was most desirable,
Before you are contented with what you can desire;
Before you know what is left to be desired;
And you go on wishing that you could desire
What desire has left behind. But you cannot understand.
How could you understand what it is to feel old?
- You will change your mind, but you are not free.
Your moment of freedom was yesterday.
You made a decision. You set in motion
Forces in your life and in the lives of others
Which cannot be reversed.
- The one thing to do is to do nothing. Wait. ... You will find that you survive humiliation and that's an experience of incalculable value.
- Unidentified Guest, Act 1, Scene 1
- We die to each other daily.
What we know of other people
Is only our memory of the moments
During which we knew them. And they have changed since then.
To pretend that they and we are the same
Is a useful and convenient social convention
Which must sometimes broken. We must also remember
That at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.
- I have had quite enough humiliation
Lately, to bring me to the point
At which humiliation ceases to humiliate.
You get to the point at which you cease to feel
And then you speak your mind.
- You're still trying to invent a personality for me
Which will only keep me away from myself.
[[ What is hell? Hell is oneself.
Hell is alone, the other figures in it
Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from
And nothing to escape to. One is always alone.
- All cases are unique, and very similar to others.
- Half the harm that is done in this world
Is due to people who want to feel important.
They don't mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them.
Or they do not see it, or they justify it
Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle
To think well of themselves.
- It is very often that my patients
Are only pieces of a total situation
Which I have to explore. The single patient
Who is ill all by himself, is rather the exception.
- There are several symptoms
Which must occur together, and to a marked degree,
To qualify a patient for my sanatorium:
And one of them is an honest mind. That is one of the causes of their suffering.
- You have come to where the word 'insult' has no meaning;
And you must put up with that.
- To men of a certain type
The suspicion that they are incapable of loving
Is as disturbing to their self-esteem
As, in cruder men, the fear of impotence.
[[* The best of a bad job is all any of us make of it — except of course the saints
- Your burden is not to clear your conscience
But to learn how to bear the burdens on your conscience.
- I should really like to think there's something wrong with me —
Because, if there isn't then there's something wrong,
Or at least, very different from what it seemed to be,
With the world itself — and that's much more frightening!
That would be terrible.
- An awareness of solitude.
- Everyone's alone — or so it seems to me.
They make noises, and think they are talking to each other;
They make faces, and think they understand each other.
And I'm sure they don't. Is that a delusion?
[[e only love
Something created in our own imaginations?
Are we all in fact unloving and unloveable?
Then one is alone, and if one is alone
Then lover and beloved are equally unreal
And the dreamer is no more real than his dreams.
- I shall be left with the inconsolable memory
Of the treasure I went into the forest to find
And never found, and which was not there
And is perhaps not anywhere? But if not anywhere
Why do I feel guilty at not having found it?
- Disillusion can become itself an illusion
If we rest in it.
- It's not that I'm afraid of being hurt again:
Nothing again can either hurt or heal.
I have thought at moments that the ecstasy is real
Although those who experience it may have no reality.
For what happened is remembered like a dream
In which one is exalted by intensity of loving
In the spirit, a vibration of delight
Without desire, for desire is fulfilled
In the delight of loving. A state one does not know
When awake. But what, or whom I love,
Or what in me was loving, I do not know.
And if all that is meaningless, I want to be cured
Of a craving for something I cannot find
And of the shame of never finding it.
- Two people who know they do not understand each other,
Breeding children whom they do not understand
And who will never understand them.
- In a world of lunacy
Violence, stupidity, greed…it is a good life.
- I feel it would be a kind of surrender —
No, not a surrender — more like a betrayal.
You see, I think I really had a vision or something
Though I don't know what it is. I don't want to forget it.
I want to live with it. I could do without everything
Put up with anything, if I might cherish it.
- There is another way, if you have the courage.
The first I could describe in familiar terms
Because you have seen it, as we all have seen it,
Illustrated, more or less, in lives of those about us.
The second is unknown, and so requires faith —
The kind of faith that issues from despair.
The destination cannot be described;
You will know very little until you get there;
You will journey blind. But the way leads towards possession
Of what you have sought for in the wrong place.
- Neither way is better.
Both ways are necessary. It is also necessary
To make a choice between them.
- Those who take the other
Can forget their loneliness. You will not forget yours.
Each way means loneliness — and communion.
- We must always take risks. That is our destiny.
- I'd say that she suffered all that we should suffer
In fear and pain and loathing — all these together —
And reluctance of the body to become a thing.
I'd say she suffered more, because more conscious
Than the rest of us.
- If we all were judged according to the consequences
Of all our words and deeds, beyond the intention
And beyond our limited understanding
Of ourselves and others, we should all be condemned.
- Only by acceptance of the past will you alter its meaning.
- Every moment is a fresh beginning.
Quotes about Eliot
- To purify the 'dialect of the tribe' and to open the doors of perception by discovering a host of new poetic themes and rhythms was the especial achievement of T. S. Eliot. He gave us back our language enlivened and refreshed by new contacts with many other tongues.
- Marshall McLuhan
- The Four Quartets Online
- Ash Wednesday online at the University of Cambridge
- Harcourt Publishers of Eliot's Poetry
- Complete Poems and Plays, 1909–1950, ISBN 015121185X
- Four Quartets, ISBN 0156332256
- Project Gutenberg for T.S. Eliot
- The essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent"
- Quotes by T.S. Eliot