Yesterday, I was asked to comment on one of my favorite works in the western canon. For what it’s worth, here’s my description of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. The Four Quartets—perhaps the single greatest work of art in the twentieth century, and maybe even of modernity, according to my admittedly not so humble opinion—concluded Eliot’s poetry career.
If The Wasteland represented Eliot’s Inferno and the Hollow Men and Ash Wednesday his Purgatorio, his Four Quartets served as his Paradiso. Each of the Four Quartets represents one of the four original Greek substances (the Urstoff—earth, wind, water, and fire), and yet the Logos (Divine Fire) runs through and redeems all, so that the poem concluded with the Incarnation—when the fire and the rose become one.
Not only having written beautifully, Eliot seemly put everything he had into the Four Quartets, intellectually and spiritually. I have several copies of the Four Quartets, but I keep my most marked up one on my nightstand. It, the Bible, and the Aeneid, have given me more comfort and thought and inspiration than I could ever explain in words.
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