Widely regarded as a classic, and certainly a summing-up as Eliot approached the end of life. Whether it's his best work can be debated. Even while reveling in his imagery, especially the intensity of "The Dry Salvages" with its poignant accounting of approaching finality, I yet found myself regretting the absence of the dark humor of "Murder in the Cathedral" or the droll observations of "Old Possum's Book of practical Cats". Never mind, this is still very fine stuff, an old wine well cellared.
I'm struck by the similarity of mood between these poems and that of Richard Strauss' "Four Last Songs", each of them in turn having been based upon poems that looked toward end of life. Acceptance and clarity of understanding rather than melancholia.
The fact that Eliot chose to title each 'quartet" with the name of a particular place, three of them iconic to England, the other on the New England coast intrigued me. Here was a man born in the American mid-west who only became a British subject in middle age. And yet his work is deeply infused with the atmosphere of gardens and the sea, characteristics that are quintessentially English.
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