TS Eliot celebrated at Little Gidding
Last weekend witnessed the 8th annual TS Eliot Festival in the remote and beautiful grounds of Little Gidding. Eliot’s visit in 1936 may have been brief, but it had left a deep impression. So much so that, in his compilation of his Four Quartets in the early 1940s, he dedicated one to Little Gidding, the reading of which takes place every year within a few metres of Ferrar House, the chapel, the dull facade and tombstone (of Nicholas Ferrar), and even the pigsties that are mentioned in the poem.
Little Gidding is a tiny hamlet, with a small cluster of cottages and, for two days each year, people come from around the world to pay homage to his memory, listen to readings of his poetry, be instructed by thoughtful insights from learned academics, and even to be treated to songs and music, especially at the choral Evensong that concludes the weekend.
This year, we were blessed with the most glorious weather, enough to seduce anyone into becoming one of Eliot’s ardent fans. But when the weather is fine and the sun is shining, it is just a little more difficult to conjure up that image of the “mid-winter spring” with its “transitory blossom of snow” that dominates the first few lines of his Fourth Quartet.