T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns Eliot (26 September 1888 – 4 January 1965) was an American-born English poet, dramatist and literary critic. Noted for spiritual and religious themes in many of his poems, he converted from Unitarianism to Anglicanism in 1927.
- I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me.
- "A Song for Simeon" from Collected Poems 1909-1962
- 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.
- Atheism should always be encouraged (i.e. rationalistic not emotional atheism) for the sake of the Faith.
- Letter to Richard Aldington (24 February, 1927). The Letters of T.S. Eliot: 1926-1927, p. 424
- 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)
- My general point of view may be described as classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and Anglo-Catholic in religion.
- "Preface" in For Lancelot Andrewes (1928)
- 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), in Selected Essays (1932), p. 238
- 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
- If we take the widest and wisest view of a Cause, there is no such thing as a Lost Cause, because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause. We fight for lost causes because we know that our defeat may be the preface to our successors' victory, though that victory itself will be temporary; we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that it will triumph.
- "Francis Herbert Bradley" (1927), in Essays Ancient and Modern (1936)
- The 'greatness' of literature cannot be determined solely by literary standards; though we must remember that whether it is literature or not can be determined only by literary standards.
- "Religion and Literature" (1935), in Essays Ancient and Modern (1936)
- When we read of human beings behaving in certain ways, with the approval of the author, who gives his benediction to this behavior by his attitude towards the result of the behavior arranged by himself, we can be influenced towards behaving in the same way.
- "Religion and Literature" (1935), in Essays Ancient and Modern (1936)
- It is certain that a book is not harmless merely because no one is consciously offended by it.
- "Religion and Literature" (1935), in Essays Ancient and Modern (1936)
- The division between those who accept, and those who deny, Christian revelation I take to be the most profound division between human beings.
- "Revelation" (1937), in The Idea of a Christian Society and Other Writings (London: Faber and Faber, 1982), p. 168
- 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
- Fortunate the man who, at the right moment meets the right friend; fortunate also the man who at the right moment meets the right enemy. I do not approve the extermination of the enemy; the policy of exterminating or, as it is barbarously said, liquidating enemies, is one of the most alarming developments of modern war and peace, from the point of view of those who desire the survival of culture. One needs the enemy... A country within which the divisions have gone too far is a danger to itself: a country which is too well united - whether by nature or by device, by honest purpose or by fraud and oppression - is a menace to others.
- Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948)
- Long ago I studied the ancient Indian languages, and while I was chiefly interested at that time in philosophy, I read a little poetry too; and I know that my own poetry shows the influence of Indian thought and sensibility.
- Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948), quoted in Gewali, Salil (2013). Great Minds on India. New Delhi: Penguin Random House.
- 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 (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1958)
- No one can become really educated without having pursued some study in which he took no interest—for it is a part of education to interest ourselves in subjects for which we have no aptitude.
- Quoted in Herbert Howarth, Notes on Some Figures behind T. S. Eliot (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1964), p. 89
- 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. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to anyone who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year...
- 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.
- No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of æsthetic, not merely historical, criticism.
- What happens when a new work of art is created, is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new.
- 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. And the poet who is aware of this will be aware of great difficulties and responsibilities.
- 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.
- What happens is a continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valuable. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.
- 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)Edit
- 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)Edit
- 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.
- Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's dream kingdom´
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind's singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.
- This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.
The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms
In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Of death's twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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 one 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 Idea of a Christian Society (1939)Edit
London: Faber and Faber, 1939
- When a term has become as universally sanctified as 'democracy' now is, I begin to wonder whether it means anything, in meaning too many things […]. Some persons have gone so far as to affirm, as something self-evident, that democracy is the only regime compatible with Christianity; on the other hand, the word is not abandoned by sympathisers with the government of Germany. If anybody ever attacked democracy, I might discover what the word means. Certainly there is a sense in which Britain and America are more democratic than Germany; but on the other hand, defenders of the totalitarian system can make out a plausible case for maintaining that what we have is not democracy, but financial oligarchy.
- Ch. I, pp. 14–15
- That Liberalism may be a tendency towards something very different from itself, is a possibility in its nature. For it is something which tends to release energy rather than accumulate it, to relax, rather than to fortify. It is a movement not so much defined by its end, as by its starting point; away from, rather than towards, something definite. Our point of departure is more real to us than our destination; and the destination is likely to present a very different picture when arrived at, from the vaguer image formed in imagination. By destroying traditional social habits of the people, by dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constituents, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified, by fostering a notion of getting on to which the alternative is a hopeless apathy, Liberalism can prepare the way for that which is its own negation: the artificial, mechanised or brutalised control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos.
- Ch. I, pp. 15–16
- [T]he tendency of unlimited industrialism is to create bodies of men and women—of all classes—detached from tradition, alienated from religion, and susceptible to mass suggestion: in other words, a mob. And a mob will be no less a mob if it is well fed, well clothed, well housed, and well disciplined.
- Ch. I, p. 21
- Sometimes misquoted on the internet, with "unlimited industrialism" replaced by "liberals".
- For the great mass of humanity whose attention is occupied mostly by their direct relation to the soil, or the sea, or the machine, and to a small number of persons, pleasures, and duties,[…] as their capacity for thinking about the objects of faith is small, their Christianity may be almost wholly realised in behaviour: both in their customary and periodic religious observances, and in a traditional code of behaviour towards their neighbours.
- Ch. II, pp. 28–29
- In a negative liberal society you have no agreement as to there being any body of knowledge which any educated person should have acquired at any particular stage: the idea of wisdom disappears, and you get sporadic and unrelated experimentation. A nation's system of education is much more important than its system of government; only a proper system of education can unify the active and the contemplative life, action and speculation, politics and the arts. But 'education', said Coleridge, 'is to be reformed, and defined as synonymous with instruction'. This revolution has been effected; to the populace education means instruction. The next step to be taken by the clericalism of secularism, is the inculcation of the political principles approved by the party in power.
- Ch. II, p. 41
- The Coleridge quotation, which, as its context shows, is deeply ironic, is from his On the Constitution of Church and State According to the Idea of Each (London: William Pickering, 1839), Ch. VII. "Regrets and Apprehensions", p. 66
- The Spirit descends in different ways, and I cannot foresee any future society in which we could classify Christians and non-Christians simply by their professions of belief, or even, by any rigid code, by their behaviour. In the present ubiquity of ignorance, one cannot but suspect that many who call themselves Christians do not understand what the word means, and that some who would vigorously repudiate Christianity are more Christian than many who maintain it.
- Ch. II, PP. 42–43
- It is not enthusiasm, but dogma, that differentiates a Christian from a pagan society.
- Ch. IV, p. 59
- Any human scheme for society is realised only when the great mass of humanity has become adapted to it; but this adaptation becomes also, insensibly, an adaptation of the scheme itself to the mass on which it operates: the overwhelming pressure of mediocrity, sluggish and indomitable as a glacier, will mitigate the most violent, and depress the most exalted revolution, and what is realised is so unlike the end that enthusiasm conceived, that foresight would weaken the effort.
- Ch. IV, pp. 59–60
- We may say that religion, as distinguished from modern paganism, implies a life in conformity with nature. It may be observed that the natural life and the supernatural life have a conformity to each other which neither has with the mechanistic life.
- Ch. IV, p. 61
- We are being made aware that the organisation of society on the principle of private profit, as well as public destruction, is leading both to the deformation of humanity by unregulated industrialism, and to the exhaustion of natural resources, and that a good deal of our material progress is a progress for which succeeding generations may pay dearly. I need only mention, as an instance now very much before the public eye, the results of 'soil-erosion'—the exploitation of the earth, on a vast scale for two generations, for commercial profit: immediate benefits leading to dearth and desert.
- Ch. IV, p. 61
- [A] wrong attitude towards nature implies, somewhere, a wrong attitude towards God.
- Ch. IV, p. 62
- As political philosophy derives its sanction from ethics, and ethics from the truth of religion, it is only by returning to the the eternal source of truth that we can hope for any social organisation which will not, to its ultimate destruction, ignore some essential aspect of reality. The term 'democracy', as I have said again and again, does not contain enough positive content to stand alone against the forces you dislike—it can easily be transformed by them. If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God) you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin.
- Ch. IV, p. 63
- "I am a jealous God" (Exodus 20:5)
- [T]he German national religion […] expounded by Professor Wilhelm Hauer […] is deistic, claiming to 'worship a more than human God'. He believes it to be 'an eruption from the biological and spiritual depths of the German nation', and unless one is prepared to deny that the German nation has such depths, I do not see that the statement can be ridiculed. He believes that 'each new age must mold its own religious forms'—alas, many persons in Anglo-Saxon countries hold the same belief. He believes […] also in something very popular in this country, the religion of the blue sky, the grass and flowers.[…] The German National Religion, as Hauer expounds it, turns out to be something with which we are already familiar. So, if the German Religion is also your religion, the sooner you realise the fact the better.
- For most people, the actual constitution of society, or that which their more generous passions wish to bring about, is right, and Christianity must be adapted to it. But the Church cannot be, in any political sense, either conservative, or liberal, or revolutionary. Conservatism is too often conservation of the wrong things; liberalism a relaxation of discipline; revolution a denial of the permanent things.
- Appendix, p. 97
Quotes about EliotEdit
- "Order"—that is what makes Mr Eliot's critical work so precious to us today; he has imposed an order on our chaos, our intellectual anarchy; he throws us a plank as we drown in a sea of platitudes and foaming stupidities. His criticism is sane without being dull or imitative; original without eccentricities; profound without obscurity; cultured without affectation; vigorous without being superficial.
- In writing his verse plays, Mr. Eliot took, I believe, the only possible line. Except at a few unusual moments, he kept the style Drap.
- W. H. Auden, Secondary Worlds (1968)
- We are both poets and we both like to play. That's the similarity. The difference is this: I like to play euchre. He likes to play Eucharist.
- Robert Frost, in Lawrance Thompson, 'Notes from Conversations with Robert Frost' (unpublished), in The Cambridge Companion to Robert Frost, ed. R. Faggen (2001)
- A damned good poet and a fair critic; but he can kiss my ass as a man and he never hit a ball out of the infield in his life.
- Ernest Hemingway, 1950 letter quoted in Edwin McDowell, "The Literati's Appreciation for Baseball," New York Times (April 8,1981), p. 69.
- Did you know T.S. Eliot's little poem about me, called "Mr. Apollinax"? He seems to have noticed the madness.
- Bertrand Russell, in a letter to Barry Fox (27 November 1927)
- The Diary of Vaslav Nijinjsky reaches a limit of sincerity beyond any of the documents that we have referred to on this study. There are other modern works that express the same sense that civilized life is a form of living death; notably the poetry of T. S. Eliot and the novels of Franz Kafka; but there is an element of prophetic denunciation in both, the attitude of healthy men rebuking their sick neighbors. We possess no other record of the Outsider's problems that was written by a man about to be defeated and permanently smashed by those problems.
- 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
- Remembering T. S. Eliot: September 26, 1888–January 4, 1965