"The Pattern is Movement": Images of Timelessness and Patterns of Response in T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets

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Virginia Tech


T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets is full of beautiful and resounding imagery, yet the art of unfolding these images, discovering the movement and drama taking place in and between them, often remains elusive. In this thesis, I approach this problem by offering a detailed reading of Eliot's four poems, tracing the repetition and subtle movements of these patterns of images and the connections between them. I show how in each poem, Eliot develops a set of images that uniquely depicts the entrance of the timeless into time; these images offer ways of framing the problem of responding to revelations of deeper reality, which I take to be the poem's central drama. At the same time, across the whole of the four poems, this reoccurring drama—the issue of the intersection of the timeless with time and the poet's response to this intersection—continues to develop, becoming more complex and layered in each of the poems. Unfolding the different but parallel movements that are enacted across the four poems gives us a better understanding of the way the poems work together as a whole, harmonizing with one another to expand and deepen the individual images and momentary expressions of emotion each poem conveys.



Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot, Modern poetry