T.S. Eliot: Four Quartets

Notes

FRONT PAGE

The two extracts from the fragments of Herakleitos (Heraclitus) are presented here
in English translation, owing to the difficulty of reproducing the Greek in current
html code.

BURNT NORTON

Written in 1935. Burnt Norton is a manor in Gloucestershire visited by Eliot in 1934.
Its rose garden suggested the imagery of the opening section.

Part II

"Erhebung"
Elevation/exaltation (German).

Part V

"As in the figure of the ten stairs"
The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross states that "there are ten
steps on the mystical ladder of divine love." Other references to St. John of the
Cross are scattered throughout the poem.

EAST COKER

Written in 1940. East Coker, a village near Yeovil, Somerset, is Eliot's ancestral home.
Andrew Eliot left East Coker for the New World in about 1669.

Part I

"In my beginning is my end"
Cf: "In my end is my beginning" in Part V. The latter is the motto of Mary, Queen
of Scots ("En ma fin est mon commencement").

"The association of man and woman
In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie..."

This passage is taken from The Boke Named the Governour (1530) by Sir Thomas Elyot,
an ancestor of T.S. Eliot.

THE DRY SALVAGES

Written in 1941. "The Dry Salvages—presumably les trois sauvages—is a small
group of rocks, with a beacon, off the N.E. coast of Cape Ann,
Massachusetts."

Eliot's family spent time in this area during his childhood. From a WWW page of notes to the Quartets:

By his own reckoning (in a speech given upon receiving the Emerson-Thoreau Medal from
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959, at which he read this poem), the
poem begins where Eliot began (St. Louis, the Mississippi River) and ends where he
expected to end (a parish church of a village in Somerset).

Part III

Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield: in the Mahabharata, the discourse
known as the Bhagavad Gita.

Part IV

"Figlia del tuo figlio"
"Daughter of your son" (i.e. Mary and Jesus); from Dante's Paradisio.

LITTLE GIDDING

Written in 1942. Little Gidding is a village in Cambridgeshire visited by Eliot in 1936. It was
the home of a religious community established in 1626. In 1633 Charles I visited the
community; in 1646 he returned, fleeing Parliamentary troops who broke up the community.

Part III

"Sin is Behovely, but
All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well."

Dame Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, the 13th revelation;
a modern translation of which might read "Sin was necessary, but it is going to
be well, everything is going to be well".

"By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching."

Dame Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, the 14th revelation.


Four Quartets Title Page
Burnt Norton
East Coker
The Dry Salvages
Little Gidding
Notes on The Four Quartets
Poetry Index