T.S. Eliot
Little Gidding (1942)




Midwinter spring is its own season


Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,


Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.


When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,


The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,


In windless cold that is the heart's heat,


Reflecting in a watery mirror


A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.


And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,


Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire


In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing


The soul's sap quivers. There is no earth smell


Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time


But not in time's covenant. Now the hedgerow


Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom


Of snow, a bloom more sudden


Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,


Not in the scheme of generation.


Where is the summer, the unimaginable


Zero summer?




If you came this way,


Taking the route you would be likely to take


From the place you would be likely to come from,


If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges


White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.


It would be the same at the end of the journey,


If you came at night like a broken king,


If you came by day not knowing what you came for,


It would be the same, when you leave the rough road


And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade


And the tombstone. And what you thought you came for


Is only a shell, a husk of meaning


From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled


If at all. Either you had no purpose


Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured


And is altered in fulfilment. There are other places


Which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws,


Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city—


But this is the nearest, in place and time,


Now and in England.




If you came this way,


Taking any route, starting from anywhere,


At any time or at any season,


It would always be the same: you would have to put off


Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,


Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity


Or carry report. You are here to kneel


Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more


Than an order of words, the conscious occupation


Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.


And what the dead had no speech for, when living,


They can tell you, being dead: the communication


Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.


Here, the intersection of the timeless moment


Is England and nowhere. Never and always.






Ash on and old man's sleeve


Is all the ash the burnt roses leave.


Dust in the air suspended


Marks the place where a story ended.


Dust inbreathed was a house—


The walls, the wainscot and the mouse,


The death of hope and despair,


This is the death of air.




There are flood and drouth


Over the eyes and in the mouth,


Dead water and dead sand


Contending for the upper hand.


The parched eviscerate soil


Gapes at the vanity of toil,


Laughs without mirth.


This is the death of earth.




Water and fire succeed


The town, the pasture and the weed.


Water and fire deride


The sacrifice that we denied.


Water and fire shall rot


The marred foundations we forgot,


Of sanctuary and choir.


This is the death of water and fire.




In the uncertain hour before the morning


Near the ending of interminable night


At the recurrent end of the unending


After the dark dove with the flickering tongue


Had passed below the horizon of his homing


While the dead leaves still rattled on like tin


Over the asphalt where no other sound was


Between three districts whence the smoke arose


I met one walking, loitering and hurried


As if blown towards me like the metal leaves


Before the urban dawn wind unresisting.


And as I fixed upon the down-turned face


That pointed scrutiny with which we challenge


The first-met stranger in the waning dusk


I caught the sudden look of some dead master


Whom I had known, forgotten, half recalled


Both one and many; in the brown baked features


The eyes of a familiar compound ghost


Both intimate and unidentifiable.


So I assumed a double part, and cried


And heard another's voice cry: 'What! are you here?'


Although we were not. I was still the same,


Knowing myself yet being someone other—


And he a face still forming; yet the words sufficed


To compel the recognition they preceded.


And so, compliant to the common wind,


Too strange to each other for misunderstanding,


In concord at this intersection time


Of meeting nowhere, no before and after,


We trod the pavement in a dead patrol.


I said: 'The wonder that I feel is easy,


Yet ease is cause of wonder. Therefore speak:


I may not comprehend, may not remember.'


And he: 'I am not eager to rehearse


My thoughts and theory which you have forgotten.


These things have served their purpose: let them be.


So with your own, and pray they be forgiven


By others, as I pray you to forgive


Both bad and good. Last season's fruit is eaten


And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.


For last year's words belong to last year's language


And next year's words await another voice.


But, as the passage now presents no hindrance


To the spirit unappeased and peregrine


Between two worlds become much like each other,


So I find words I never thought to speak


In streets I never thought I should revisit


When I left my body on a distant shore.


Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us


To purify the dialect of the tribe


And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,


Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age


To set a crown upon your lifetime's effort.


First, the cold friction of expiring sense


Without enchantment, offering no promise


But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit


As body and soul begin to fall asunder.


Second, the conscious impotence of rage


At human folly, and the laceration


Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.


And last, the rending pain of re-enactment


Of all that you have done, and been; the shame


Of motives late revealed, and the awareness


Of things ill done and done to others' harm


Which once you took for exercise of virtue.


Then fools' approval stings, and honour stains.


From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit


Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire


Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.'


The day was breaking. In the disfigured street


He left me, with a kind of valediction,


And faded on the blowing of the horn.






There are three conditions which often look alike


Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:


Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment


From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference


Which resembles the others as death resembles life,


Being between two lives—unflowering, between


The live and the dead nettle. This is the use of memory:


For liberation—not less of love but expanding


Of love beyond desire, and so liberation


From the future as well as the past. Thus, love of a country


Begins as attachment to our own field of action


And comes to find that action of little importance


Though never indifferent. History may be servitude,


History may be freedom. See, now they vanish,


The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them,


To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.




Sin is Behovely, but


All shall be well, and


All manner of thing shall be well.


If I think, again, of this place,


And of people, not wholly commendable,


Of no immediate kin or kindness,


But of some peculiar genius,


All touched by a common genius,


United in the strife which divided them;


If I think of a king at nightfall,


Of three men, and more, on the scaffold


And a few who died forgotten


In other places, here and abroad,


And of one who died blind and quiet


Why should we celebrate


These dead men more than the dying?


It is not to ring the bell backward


Nor is it an incantation


To summon the spectre of a Rose.


We cannot revive old factions


We cannot restore old policies


Or follow an antique drum.


These men, and those who opposed them


And those whom they opposed


Accept the constitution of silence


And are folded in a single party.


Whatever we inherit from the fortunate


We have taken from the defeated


What they had to leave us—a symbol:


A symbol perfected in death.


And all shall be well and


All manner of thing shall be well


By the purification of the motive


In the ground of our beseeching.






The dove descending breaks the air


With flame of incandescent terror


Of which the tongues declare


The one discharge from sin and error.


The only hope, or else despair


Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre—


To be redeemed from fire by fire.




Who then devised the torment? Love.


Love is the unfamiliar Name


Behind the hands that wove


The intolerable shirt of flame


Which human power cannot remove.


We only live, only suspire


Consumed by either fire or fire.






What we call the beginning is often the end


And to make and end is to make a beginning.


The end is where we start from. And every phrase


And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,


Taking its place to support the others,


The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,


An easy commerce of the old and the new,


The common word exact without vulgarity,


The formal word precise but not pedantic,


The complete consort dancing together)


Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,


Every poem an epitaph. And any action


Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat


Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.


We die with the dying:


See, they depart, and we go with them.


We are born with the dead:


See, they return, and bring us with them.


The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree


Are of equal duration. A people without history


Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern


Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails


On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel


History is now and England.




With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this






We shall not cease from exploration


And the end of all our exploring


Will be to arrive where we started


And know the place for the first time.


Through the unknown, unremembered gate


When the last of earth left to discover


Is that which was the beginning;


At the source of the longest river


The voice of the hidden waterfall


And the children in the apple-tree


Not known, because not looked for


But heard, half-heard, in the stillness


Between two waves of the sea.


Quick now, here, now, always—


A condition of complete simplicity


(Costing not less than everything)


And all shall be well and


All manner of thing shall be well


When the tongues of flame are in-folded


Into the crowned knot of fire


And the fire and the rose are one.