Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I've been reading T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets" again. The complaint of distraction is not new. The Four Quartets were published in 1943. From "Burnt Norton," the first of the four:

Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
With slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.
Eructation of unhealthy souls
Into the faded air, the torpid
Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London,
Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney,
Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here
Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.


Charles Cameron (hipbone) said...

In this twittering world? They had Twitter back then? grin.

barba de chiva said...

Nice. Thanks for posting that, even if it does make for gloomy reading on this monsoony morning made doubly dim by an eclipse.

But then some days I wonder if we'd feel the loss if Eliot had just been a regular grumpy old man, grousing about kids today and shooting from his porch at the dogs in his flowerbeds.

Cheryl Rofer said...

I thought the apparent foresight, down to "twittering," in this part of Burnt Norton was amusing. Nothing that Eliot had intended, of course.

But I find a lot of hope in the Four Quartets, too, even as that grumpy old man is one of the ways I visualize Eliot.

electric said...

Strange, I don't think of T.S. Elliot as a grump but, I only know him vicariously through these poems.