On “Four Quartets”

The BBC recently broadcast a reading of T.S.Eliot’s “Four Quartets” by Ralph Fiennes. I say ‘reading’ but with Fiennes, a stage and spotlights, it was more like a performance. Which was fine. Some parts worked especially well, I thought.

The programme prompted me to go back and re-read the poem – possibly for the first time in twenty-plus years. Indeed, back to my second-hand copy of the 1974 Faber edition bought for 60p in 1979 when I was at University. The margins were filled with naïve pencil comments!

And I was struck – both in Fiennes’s performance and my silent reading – how, whilst it is possible to understand the poem intellectually at a modest age, in order to get closer to the heart of it emotionally one needs to be older; probably closer to ‘the end’ than ‘the beginning’. It also helps if one has spent the last few decades trying to write too. I think both give you an insight into what Eliot may have been getting at…

Perhaps this is the case with all literature. Indeed, with life as a whole. But it struck me as particularly relevant for “Four Quartets”.

That’s it…