Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot is a work of four poems: Burnt Norton (1935), East Coker (1940), The Dry Salvages (1941), and Little Gidding (1942).
And time future contained in time past. (I)
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know. (I)
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present. (I)
But neither arrest nor movement.
And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance. I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time. (II)
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered. (II)
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. (V)
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain, Crack and sometimes break, under the burden, Under the tension, slip, slide, perish, Will not stay still. (V)
Love is itself unmoving, Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being. (V)
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been. We are only undeceived
Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm. (II)
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless. (II)
And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody's funeral, for there is no one to bury. (III)
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. (III)
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance. In order to possess what you do not possess You must go by the way of dispossession. In order to arrive at what you are not You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not. (III)
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. (V)
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer By strength and submission, has already been discovered Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope To emulate—but there is no competition— There is only the fight to recover what has been lost And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. (V)
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment Isolated, with no before and after, But a lifetime burning in every moment And not the lifetime of one man only But of old stones that cannot be deciphered. (V)
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter We must be still and still moving Into another intensity For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning. (V)
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges. (I)
And the gear of foreign dead men. (I)
Or even development: the latter a partial fallacy
Encouraged by superficial notions of evolution,
Which becomes, in the popular mind, a means of disowning the past. (II)
Or even a very good dinner, but the sudden illumination—
We had the experience but missed the meaning, And approach to the meaning restores the experience In a different form, beyond any meaning We can assign to happiness. I have said before
That the past experience revived in the meaning Is not the experience of one life only But of many generations— not forgetting Something that is probably quite ineffable (II)
Having hoped for the wrong things or dreaded the wrong things,
Is not in question) are likewise permanent With such permanence as time has. We appreciate this better In the agony of others, nearly experienced, Involving ourselves, than in our own.
For our own past is covered by the currents of action,
But the torment of others remains an experience
Unqualified, unworn by subsequent attrition.
People change, and smile: but the agony abides. (II)
You are not the same people who left that station
Or who will arrive at any terminus,
While the narrowing rails slide together behind you (III)
Receding, or those who will disembark.
Here between the hither and the farther shore While time is withdrawn, consider the future And the past with an equal mind. (III)
The mind of a man may be intent
At the time of death'— that is the one action
(And the time of death is every moment) Which shall fructify in the lives of others: And do not think of the fruit of action. Fare forward. (III)
With time, is an occupation for the saint—
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender. (V)
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. (V)
Of spheres of evidence is actual,
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled… (V)
For most of us, this is the aim
Never here to be realised;
Who are only undefeated
Because we have gone on trying;
We, content at the last
If our temporal reversion nourish
(Not too far from the yew-tree)
The life of significant soil. (V)
From the place you would be likely to come from,
If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges
White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness. (I)
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured And is altered in fulfilment. There are other places
Which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws,
Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city—
But this is the nearest, in place and time,
Now and in England. (I)
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living, They can tell you, being dead: the communication Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living. (I)
And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,
Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age
To set a crown upon your lifetime's effort.
First, the cold fricton of expiring sense
Without enchantment, offering no promise
But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit
As body and soul begin to fall asunder.
Second, the conscious impotence of rage
At human folly, and the laceration
Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.
And last, the rending pain of re-enactment Of all that you have done, and been; the shame Of things ill done and done to others' harm Which once you took for exercise of virtue. Then fools' approval stings, and honour stains. From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire Where you must move in measure, like a dancer. (II)
The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them,
To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.
Sin is Behovely, but All shall be well, and All manner of thing shall be well. (III)
Or follow an antique drum. (III)
What they had to leave us— a symbol:
A symbol perfected in death.
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching. (III)
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre—
To be redeemed from fire by fire. (IV)
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire. (IV)
The end is where we start from. (V)
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them. (V)
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern Of timeless moments. (V)
History is now and England. (V)
We shall not cease from explorationAnd the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. (V)
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for But heard, half-heard, in the stillness Between two waves of the sea. (V)
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one. (V)