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T. S. Eliot – Part VI

Continuing the discussion of the Four Quartets, Dr. White examines the fourth part of each as lyric poems dealing in large part with Our Lord, Our Lady, and the Holy Ghost. In these poems the mystery of time and eternity is reconciled. The doctor also asserts and defends the claims that Little Gidding is the best lyric poem of the 20th century. Furthermore, the themes that Eliot explored in his earlier Wasteland – suffering, death, time, the first and last things, sacrifice and love – are resolved by way of an exploration of the effective identity, the necessary confluence & connection, of the tensions – issuing forth in redemption.

The doctor also notes that between 1942 and 1954 Eliot published no poetry and instead turned his attention to drama in an effort to find language that comports with how the language is currently used. In this connection Eliot’s Cocktail Party is explored along with aspects of his prose. Among the topics discusser are Eliot’s appreciation of the insanity and self-contradictory nature of literature, the newly created 3-beat line in Cocktail Party, with its allusions and samplings from light-hearted English comedy (e.g., Wilde, Noel Coward). It includes, Dr. White also argues, one of the greatest speeches of all drama. The idea of Eliot, he says, was to attract and captivate his audience with rhythm by giving them easy poetry habitually – and then, by contrast, rewarding them with verse more properly so called. Finally the Elder Statesman (1957), Eliot’s last play, is also considered, containing themes relating the cleansing of the conscience, the reappearance of figures wronged in his life, and his concern that honors were falsely earned and undeserved. “Fixed in the certainty of love unchanging” – the play uses the word “love” more than any other of his works. Finally, the Cultivation of Christmas Trees (1957) is considered, along with the end of Eliot’s life where he recaptures joy and marries very late – which brought him a great measure of happiness after much misery earlier in life.

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