T. S. Eliot
T.S. Eliot is a major figure in 20th century literature for
criticism, publishing and poetry. On the critical front he
is known for his ‘rediscovery’ of the Metaphysical poets
Donne and Marvell, his collections of essays The
Sacred Wood and The Use of Poetry and the Use of
Criticism; as a publisher he was a director of Faber
and built up a stable of ‘modern’ poets such as Auden and
It is, however, for his poetry that he will surely last and
this collection gives a marvelous selection of his works.
The first poem in this collection The Love Song of J.
Alfred Prufrock is a masterwork with superb imagery
and a marvelous sense of humour and irony as it gives us the
words of a man who seems much older than Eliot must have
been when he wrote it, it was first published while he was
in his twenties.
While some of his poetry seems to miss the mark as too
dense and perhaps overly constructed others have rich layers
of imagery and allusion that reward a little effort and
rereading with a sense of large and vivid meaning and depth.
The Waste Land, one of Eliot’s most famous poems
and responsible, along with other poems of the period such
as The Hollow Men, in giving Eliot a reputation
as one of the ‘disillusioned’ modern poets. Eliot denied
this, saying he gave the illusion of being
disillusioned. The Wasteland is four
hundred lines long and is quite enigmatic, some scholars
have said that it may have been less enigmatic before Ezra
Pound helped and convinced Eliot to cut it back from an
original 800 lines.
The last major work in this volume is The Four
Quartets. It is impossible in a short review to
summarise the brilliance of these works. Written in the late
thirties they are a masterful summation of the concerns of
Eliot’s earlier works and a culmination of his examination
of his own personal Christianity.
Between these three peaks are many works almost their
equal. Sweeney Agonistes, Ash
Wednesday, The Hollow Men, and excerpts
from the The Rock among them.
To conclude this collection is a wonderful summary of the
poetic works of one of the major literary figures of the
twentieth century. For a complete overview of Eliot you
should read at least one of his plays (Murder In The
Cathedral is my favourite) and one of his volumes of
critical essays such as the two mentioned earlier. I would
recommend this volume to anyone who enjoys poetry,
particularly those who enjoy reading poetry over and over
This Book Now
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