We Shall Not Cease From Exploration: T S Eliot


What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
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.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
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. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Little Gidding (1942) from Four Quartets
T S Eliot’s work is still in copyright, which is why I have not quoted from it until now. However, this extract is only a short portion of the poem, which is normally acceptable. It was used yesterday at the funeral service of Baroness Thatcher.
The illustration is copyright: holbox via Shutterstock

About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
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5 Responses to We Shall Not Cease From Exploration: T S Eliot

  1. Please put the line breaks back in!

  2. I’m confused now. I meant to write ‘stanza breaks’ where I wrote ‘line breaks’: I’m sure last time I looked at this page the selection from Part V included the one-line stanza in the middle:

    With the drawing of this love and the voice of this calling

  3. My apologies. The line is

    With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

    I find the capitals, particularly on Calling, very odd.

  4. layanglicana says:

    Actually, stet! Your “With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling” is a stanza on its own after ‘History is now and England’, which is where I stop my extract. I do not go on to the more famous quatrain ” we shall not cease from exploration…” which follows it. See http://allspirit.co.uk/gidding.html

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