T.S. Eliot: Four Quartets


There are several internet sites offering online texts of the "Four Quartets". I do not know which site was the first; but its author saved his successors much work, for they evidently copied his text exactly — including his errors of spelling, punctuation, and even his missed lines. This is amusing inasmuch as these sites were presumably constructed as the result of genuine enthusiasm for Eliot's poetic masterwork. But it is saddening to see basic standards of academic accuracy disregarded thus; moreover, these sites remain uncorrected. (They are welcome to take my own source code, which will enable them to amend their errors without much effort.)

I have omitted line numbers in the texts at this site; they can easily be added if the documents are opened in any good word processor.


The two extracts from the Fragments of the Presocratics (Herakleitos or Heraclitus) by H. A. Diels are presented here in the Greek and in an English translation.


Written in 1935.

Burnt Norton is a manor in Gloucestershire visited by Eliot in 1934. Its rose garden suggested the imagery of the opening section.

Part II
Elevation/exaltation (German).

Part V
"As in the figure of the ten stairs"
The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross states that "there are ten steps on the mystical ladder of divine love." Other references to St. John of the Cross are scattered throughout the poem.


Written in 1940.

East Coker is a village near Yeovil, Somerset, Eliot's ancestral home. Andrew Eliot left East Coker for the New World in about 1669.

Part I
"In my beginning is my end"
Cf: "In my end is my beginning" in Part V. The latter is the motto of Mary Queen of Scots ("En ma fin est mon commencement").

"The association of man and woman
In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie..."

This passage is taken from The Boke Named the Governour (1530) by Sir Thomas Elyot, an ancestor of T.S. Eliot.


Written in 1941.

"The Dry Salvages—presumably les trois sauvages—is a small group of rocks, with a beacon, off the N.E. coast of Cape Ann, Massachusetts." Eliot's family spent time in this area during his childhood.

By his own reckoning (in a speech given upon receiving the Emerson-Thoreau Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959, at which he read this poem), the poem begins where Eliot began (St. Louis, the Mississippi River) and ends where he expected to end (a parish church of a village in Somerset).

(from an Internet page of notes to the Quartets)

Part III
Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield: in the Mahabharata, the discourse known as the Bhagavad Gita.

Part IV
"Figlia del tuo figlio"
"Daughter of your son" (i.e. Mary and Jesus); from Dante's Paradiso.


Written in 1942.

Little Gidding is a village in Cambridgeshire visited by Eliot in 1936. It was the home of a religious community established in 1626. In 1633 Charles I visited the community; in 1646 he returned, fleeing Parliamentary troops who broke up the community.

Part III
"Sin is Behovely, but
All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well."

Dame Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, the 13th revelation; a modern translation of which might read "Sin was necessary, but it is going to be well, everything is going to be well".

"By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching."

Dame Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, the 14th revelation.

June 2000

  Quartet No. 1: Burnt Norton
  Quartet No. 2: East Coker
  Quartet No. 3: The Dry Salvages
  Quartet No. 4: Little Gidding