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four quartetsYesterday, 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.

T.S Eliot’s The Four Quartets may be found at The Imaginative Conservative BookstoreThe Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.

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4 replies to this post
  1. First, when someone says 'in my humble opinion' (or far worse, writes 'IMHO'), it seems that the one thing that the speaker is not is humble: compared to my grandmother's such declarations, Papal Bulls and Islamic fatwas are tentative. So hurrah for Dr Brizer dumping a phony convention and, in his case, justifiably so.

    My own two most marked-up volumes (neither by me – i have a lifelong phobia about writing in books) were both graduation presents from Dr. Robt. v.v. Rice, beloved English professor at Hillsdale College: Paradise Lost and The Red and the Black. I have now ordered the Quartets to re-read in Kabul, along with the subject of Dr Birzer's other recent review.

    Stephen Masty

  2. I agree wholeheartedly, Brad, that the Four Quartets are works of genius imbued with transcendent light. After reading favorite passages of Scripture, I retreated to these verses to ponder the eternal things upon my mother's death, and found comfort.

  3. The books one has on his nightstand are personal, yet visually give an impression of the who he is…Brad as you continue on your journey, I pray that one day your reach paradise. Eliot's works can assist all of us on our journey.

  4. I don't think I quite understand them, but they keep coming to my mind as if they had something I should someday finally grasp…What there is to conquer has already been discovered, once or twice or several times… There is something here that goes beyond the meaning of mere words, somethinh hidden, something meaningful to me, despite the fact that I am totally unable to say what it is or might be.

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