T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” is truly a masterpiece. After reading “The Waste Land”, I was sure that it was his most intricate, finest work. I was wrong. “Four Quartets” is the densest reading that I have ever encountered. While that could be the result of a plethora of reading at semester’s end, I would compare this to any of Shakespeare’s great works as far as intricately laced significance goes. The rhythm and language of the poem present endless opportunities for deconstruction of meaning.
It was while reading Brooks’ article, “‘Four Quartets’: The Structure in Relation to the Themes”, that I came across a term that sparked my light bulb. While reading each of the quartets, I tried to go into them with an open mind. However, I could not escape the religious undertones that I felt throughout each section, such as ideas of a garden, pools, etc. Brooks’ theory of structure with the divisions of a)vision, b)negation, c)acceptance, d)transformation, e)communion with divine reality, and f) integration were certainly true from my reading of the poem. It was the specific word “reconciliation” within his article that solidified some of my own theories.
When I first started reading “Burnt Norton”, I had visions of
Therefore we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen, for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.
“Our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” may be Eliot’s overall theme for the poem. Despite the mortal lifetime of our physical bodies, through belief in God and Christian teachings, our souls can be immortalized. Yet, while we endure this journey of faith, there are times of darkness (literally and figuratively) and it is the light of God that will save us. I think that this idea can be further seen in 2 Corinthians 5:17-19,
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely. God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
In my research for these passages, I first started looking for funeral liturgies. While reading the poem, I could not resist the temptation to consider this a funeral rite of sorts. The modern writer’s interest in anthropology and ritual could not be overlooked. Perhaps this is Eliot’s own liturgy as he himself has come full circle from being faithless to faithful.