T.S. Eliot
Burnt Norton (1935)




Time present and time past


Are both perhaps present in time future,


And time future contained in time past.


If all time is eternally present


All time is unredeemable.


What might have been is an abstraction


Remaining a perpetual possibility


Only in a world of speculation.


What might have been and what has been


Point to one end, which is always present.


Footfalls echo in the memory


Down the passage which we did not take


Towards the door we never opened


Into the rose-garden. My words echo


Thus, in your mind.


But to what purpose


Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves


I do not know.


Other echoes


Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?


Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,


Round the corner. Through the first gate,


Into our first world, shall we follow


The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.


There they were, dignified, invisible,


Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,


In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,


And the bird called, in response to


The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,


And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses


Had the look of flowers that are looked at.


There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.


So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,


Along the empty alley, into the box circle,


To look down into the drained pool.


Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,


And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,


And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,


The surface glittered out of heart of light,


And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.


Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.


Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,


Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.


Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind


Cannot bear very much reality.


Time past and time future


What might have been and what has been


Point to one end, which is always present.






Garlic and sapphires in the mud


Clot the bedded axle-tree.


The trilling wire in the blood


Sings below inveterate scars


Appeasing long forgotten wars.


The dance along the artery


The circulation of the lymph


Are figured in the drift of stars


Ascend to summer in the tree


We move above the moving tree


In light upon the figured leaf


And hear upon the sodden floor


Below, the boarhound and the boar


Pursue their pattern as before


But reconciled among the stars.


At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;


Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,


But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,


Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,


Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,


There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.


I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.


And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.


The inner freedom from the practical desire,


The release from action and suffering, release from the inner


And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded


By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,


Erhebung without motion, concentration


Without elimination, both a new world


And the old made explicit, understood


In the completion of its partial ecstasy,


The resolution of its partial horror.


Yet the enchainment of past and future


Woven in the weakness of the changing body,


Protects mankind from heaven and damnation


Which flesh cannot endure.


Time past and time future


Allow but a little consciousness.


To be conscious is not to be in time


But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,


The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,


The moment in the draughty church at smokefall


Be remembered; involved with past and future.


Only through time time is conquered.






Here is a place of disaffection


Time before and time after


In a dim light: neither daylight


Investing form with lucid stillness


Turning shadow into transient beauty


With slow rotation suggesting permanence


Nor darkness to purify the soul


Emptying the sensual with deprivation


Cleansing affection from the temporal.


Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker


Over the strained time-ridden faces


Distracted from distraction by distraction


Filled with fancies and empty of meaning


Tumid apathy with no concentration


Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind


That blows before and after time,


Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs


Time before and time after.


Eructation of unhealthy souls


Into the faded air, the torpid


Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London,


Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney,


Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here


Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.


Descend lower, descend only


Into the world of perpetual solitude,


World not world, but that which is not world,


Internal darkness, deprivation


And destitution of all property,


Desiccation of the world of sense,


Evacuation of the world of fancy,


Inoperancy of the world of spirit;


This is the one way, and the other


Is the same, not in movement


But abstention from movement; while the world moves


In appetency, on its metalled ways


Of time past and time future.






Time and the bell have buried the day,


The black cloud carries the sun away.


Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis


Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray


Clutch and cling?




Fingers of yew be curled


Down on us? After the kingfisher's wing


Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still


At the still point of the turning world.






Words move, music moves


Only in time; but that which is only living


Can only die. Words, after speech, reach


Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,


Can words or music reach


The stillness, as a Chinese jar still


Moves perpetually in its stillness.


Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,


Not that only, but the co-existence,


Or say that the end precedes the beginning,


And the end and the beginning were always there


Before the beginning and after the end.


And all is always now. Words strain,


Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,


Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,


Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,


Will not stay still. Shrieking voices


Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,


Always assail them. The Word in the desert


Is most attacked by voices of temptation,


The crying shadow in the funeral dance,


The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.


The detail of the pattern is movement,


As in the figure of the ten stairs.


Desire itself is movement


Not in itself desirable;


Love is itself unmoving,


Only the cause and end of movement,


Timeless, and undesiring


Except in the aspect of time


Caught in the form of limitation


Between un-being and being.


Sudden in a shaft of sunlight


Even while the dust moves


There rises the hidden laughter


Of children in the foliage


Quick now, here, now, alwaysó


Ridiculous the waste sad time


Stretching before and after.