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About this poet

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri,  on September 26, 1888. He lived in St. Louis during the first eighteen years of his life and attended Harvard University. In 1910, he left the United States for the Sorbonne, having earned both undergraduate and masters degrees and having contributed several poems to the Harvard Advocate.

After a year in Paris, he returned to Harvard to pursue a doctorate in philosophy, but returned to Europe and settled in England in 1914. The following year, he married Vivienne Haigh-Wood and began working in London, first as a teacher, and later for Lloyd's Bank.

It was in London that Eliot came under the influence of his contemporary Ezra Pound, who recognized his poetic genius at once, and assisted in the publication of his work in a number of magazines, most notably "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in Poetry in 1915. His first book of poems, Prufrock and Other Observations, was published in 1917, and immediately established him as a leading poet of the avant-garde. With the publication of The Waste Land in 1922, now considered by many to be the single most influential poetic work of the twentieth century, Eliot's reputation began to grow to nearly mythic proportions; by 1930, and for the next thirty years, he was the most dominant figure in poetry and literary criticism in the English-speaking world.

As a poet, he transmuted his affinity for the English metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century (most notably John Donne) and the nineteenth century French symbolist poets (including Baudelaire and Laforgue) into radical innovations in poetic technique and subject matter. His poems in many respects articulated the disillusionment of a younger post–World War I generation with the values and conventions—both literary and social—of the Victorian era. As a critic also, he had an enormous impact on contemporary literary taste, propounding views that, after his conversion to orthodox Christianity in the late thirties, were increasingly based in social and religious conservatism. His major later poetry collections include Ash Wednesday (1930) and Four Quartets (1943); his books of literary and social criticism include The Sacred Wood (1920), The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933), After Strange Gods (1934), and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1940). Eliot was also an important playwright, whose verse dramas include Murder in the Cathedral, The Family Reunion, and The Cocktail Party.

He became a British citizen in 1927; long associated with the publishing house of Faber & Faber, he published many younger poets, and eventually became director of the firm. After a notoriously unhappy first marriage, Eliot separated from his first wife in 1933, and remarried Valerie Fletcher in 1956. T. S. Eliot received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. He died in London on Janurary 4, 1965.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Collected Poems (1962)
The Complete Poems and Plays (1952)
Four Quartets
(1943)

Burnt Norton (1941)
The Dry Salvages
(1941)
East Coker (1940)
Ash Wednesday (1930)
Poems, 1909–1925 (1925)
The Waste Land (1922)
Poems (1919)
Prufrock and Other Observations
(1917)

Prose

Religious Drama: Mediaeval and Modern (1954)
The Three Voices of Poetry (1954)
Poetry and Drama (1951)
Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1949)
The Classics and The Man of Letters (1942)
The Idea of a Christian Society (1940)
Essays Ancient and Modern (1936)
Elizabethan Essays (1934)
The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933)
After Strange Gods (1933)
John Dryden (1932)
Thoughts After Lambeth (1931)
Tradition and Experimentation in Present-Day Literature (1929)
Dante (1929)
For Lancelot Andrews (1928)
Andrew Marvell (1922)
The Sacred Wood (1920)

Drama

The Elder Statesman (1958)
The Confidential Clerk (1953)
The Cocktail Party (1950)
The Family Reunion (1939)
Murder in the Cathedral (1935)
The Rock (1934)
Sweeney Agonistes (1932)
 


Multimedia

From the Image Archive

 

Gerontion

T. S. Eliot, 1888 - 1965
          Thou hast nor youth nor age
          But as it were an after dinner sleep
          Dreaming of both.

Here I am, an old man in a dry month,	
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.	
I was neither at the hot gates	
Nor fought in the warm rain	
Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,
Bitten by flies, fought.	
My house is a decayed house,	
And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,	
Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,	
Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.
The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;	
Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.	
The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,	
Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.	
 
                    I an old man,
A dull head among windy spaces.	
 
Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign”:	
The word within a word, unable to speak a word,	
Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year	
Came Christ the tiger
 
In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,	
To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk	
Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero	
With caressing hands, at Limoges	
Who walked all night in the next room;
By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;	
By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room	
Shifting the candles; Fraulein von Kulp	
Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles	
Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,
An old man in a draughty house	
Under a windy knob.	
 
After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now	
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors	
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities. Think now	
She gives when our attention is distracted	
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions	
That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late	
What’s not believed in, or if still believed,
In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon	
Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with	
Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think	
Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices	
Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.	
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.	
 
The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last	
We have not reached conclusion, when I	
Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
I have not made this show purposelessly	
And it is not by any concitation	
Of the backward devils	
I would meet you upon this honestly.	
I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.	
I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it	
Since what is kept must be adulterated?	
I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:	
How should I use it for your closer contact?
 
These with a thousand small deliberations	
Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,	
Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,	
With pungent sauces, multiply variety	
In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do,
Suspend its operations, will the weevil	
Delay? De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled	
Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear	
In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits	
Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,
White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims,	
And an old man driven by the Trades	
To a a sleepy corner.	
 
                    Tenants of the house,	
Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot

Born in Missouri on September 26, 1888, T. S. Eliot is the author of The Waste Land, which is now considered by many to be the most influential poetic work of the twentieth century.

by this poet

poem
Twelve o'clock.	
Along the reaches of the street	
Held in a lunar synthesis,	
Whispering lunar incantations	
Dissolve the floors of memory	        
And all its clear relations,	
Its divisions and precisions.	
Every street lamp that I pass	
Beats like a fatalistic drum,	
And through the spaces of the dark
poem

"Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi
in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Σιβυλλα
τι θελεις
; respondebat illa: αποθανειν θελω."

For Ezra Pound
il miglior fabbro.

 

poem
Thou hast committed—
Fornication: but that was in another country,
And besides, the wench is dead.

                    The Jew of Malta.
I

Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon You have the scene arrange itself—as it will seem to do— With