T.S. Eliot: Poems

Language and Religion in T.S. Eliot's "The Four Quartets"

The poem "The Four Quartets" by T. S. Eliot illustrates an intricate link between the various problems and limitations of language and those of religious thought. This direct relationship is expressed through the poem's first two quartets, "Burnt Norton" and "East Coker," which see the poet struggling with both the meanings and perceptions of language and of religious beliefs.

In order to fully understand the various problems of language, it is first necessary to examine the variety of linguistic styles used in this poem. The first, most striking feature of the poem is its title, "Four Quartets," which invokes a sense of musicality. Indeed, we find an orchestration of a variety of styles and voices throughout the poem. The first movement of "Burnt Norton" introduces us to the voice of a philosopher in deep meditation about the past, the future, and what might have been as the poet begins with the rather enigmatic lines, "Time present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in time future..." ("Burnt Norton," I, ll. 1-2)

The second stanza appears to break completely from the previous style and voice as we see the experience in the rose-garden described...

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