A critical commentary on the Four quartets of T.S. Eliot.
Hall, Ronald Felix.
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This sequential reading of Four Quartets attends closely to form, rhythm, image, idea, syntax, tone, and mood, examining the relations of one to another and of one part of the cycle to another. It draws on earlier studies which are mainly thematic, but it concentrates primarily on analysis of the poetry itself. Such a commentary does not set out to prove a single hypothesis, and therefore does not lend itself to simple summary. But it emphasises, inter alia, these features. 1. The Quartets are rightly read as a unified cycle. The first three, though relatively complete in themselves, are built upon and retrospectively modified by their successors in a complex pattern; and the recurring and developing themes are not fully resolved until the end of little Gidding. On the other hand, the five individual parts that go to make up each Quartet are not self-contained, and cannot properly be read in isolation. (Such readings fail especially to make sense of the Part IV lyrics. ) 2. The poetry is meditative lyric, or lyric meditation, rather than personal confession or philosophic statement. The poet's voice often speaks generically. The whole cycle - like each Quartet itself - begins with individual perception or experience and, through meditation upon it, broadens into universal statement at the end. The point of departure is generally some time - transcending experience; the concluding meditation generally relates the perceptions of the timeless to perceptions about the nature of art and the nature of love, both human and divine. 3. Despite occasional lapses, usually in Part II or Part III, assertions of large scale failure (in The Dry Salvages especially) are not justified by close scrutiny of the poetic texture. Analysis of structural, tonal, metrical and syntactic features vindicates even the alleged prosaically flat passages. 4. The poetry works largely with traditional imagery, plain diction, orthodox syntax and pervasive four-stress rhythm. There are several departures from all these, yet a rjght reading will see them as deliberate variations, for specific purposes, on the given norms. The general aim of the thesis is to demonstrate that the poems are less difficult in thought and peculiar in method than has often been supposed.