T.S.Eliot at Little Gidding

Dining 'al fresco' in the beautiful grounds

Much of T.S.Eliot’s poetry remains a mystery to me. I can’t always plumb the depths of its meaning, but just occasionally it speaks to me, and gives me some memorable lines to ponder further. At the 6th Annual T.S.Eliot Festival at Little Gidding last weekend,

Simon Armitage

in the wake of splendid readings of the Waste Land and the Little Gidding Quartet (with Simon Armitage as one of the readers), I found re-visiting familiar verses in a ‘viva voce’ environment helped to tease out more of the subtleties of meaning. Whenever I complete a cycle-pilgrimage, I dig out my volume of Eliot to re-read those immortal lines at the end

Simon Kershaw addressing the audience

of the Little Gidding Quartet that remind me that “what we call the beginning is often the end……….and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time”.

However, a chance remark by one of the speakers had me leafing to the closing lines of the East Coker Quartet, where I found further subtly defined thoughts to justify my existence on this earth. I could have expressed these same thoughts in some distressingly

Hugh Black-Hawkins & Nicholas Sagovsky

muddled way, but not with the ease and directness of Eliot: “Home is where one starts from. As we grow older, the world becomes stranger…………………Old men ought to be explorers, here or there does not matter. We must be still and still moving into another intensity……….”

Outside the dull facade by the tombstone

Little Gidding was a place that Eliot only visited once, but it left such a deep impression on him that he was inspired to write lines such as:

“If you came this way, taking the route you would be likely to take, from the place you would be likely to come from………… you would find the hedges white again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness……………..there are other places which also are the world’s end……….but this is the nearest, in place and time, now and in England”.


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on July 11, 2011, in Little Gidding and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I really like your photograph at the top with the subtle refelctions and hints of depth, just like Eliot’s wonderful Four Quartets. Is it possible to get a copy of the ohotograph please? rosemary pitt

    • Hi Rosemary,
      I think the photo you are referring to is my themed-header photo for my web-pages which, unfortunately, is generic and not of Lt Gidding. Sorry about that!

  2. I am at the end of a six chapter book called The Reluctant Immigrant and I keep thinking about ‘coming full circle’ – the name of the last chapter – and, of course, Little Gidding. But in reading some comments here I am tempted to retrace your steps before I commit because there may be some more suble thoughts in his other poems that make up the Four Quartets. I like your thoughts. Thanks Patricia.

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