The liturgical calendar gives us occasional times out of ordinary time. The 40+ days of Lent is such a time, a season where one might be encountered by the holy or wholly new-to-me. Poetry and music both have this capacity to address us, rather than the other way around. We chose T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets for our Lenten meditation because it is rich with unexpected and necessary encounters.
The five bloggers (introduced on The Bloggers tab) will share reflections on Eliot’s work in light of the Lenten pilgrimage. Four Quartets for Lent will last four weeks beginning February 19, one each at Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages, and Little Gidding; five bloggers taking on the movements in each quartet. We hope that our writing will give you a place or two from which to explore your own encounters.
A word about accessing the poem: It is under copyright until 2039 or thereabouts, but it is available on-line. (I have no idea how this works, but there it is.) Just google “Four Quartets” or the name of the quartet of the week. However, it is lovely to have your own copy so that you can make notes, question marks, argue with Eliot, etc.
The poem for those who haven’t been there yet: The best way to begin is to read Four Quartets out loud all the way through. This will take a little less than an hour. The poet’s work reveals more when it is to listened to as a whole.
You won’t understand it in the usual way. The poem is not a singular argument or narrative with a discernible arc or an extended metaphor. It is, unsurprisingly, like music. Themes begin, they are countered. Other themes and variations start and stop. It has a totality about it, but it is best to begin by simply listening, following, moment to moment, movement by movement.
For those Christians who’ve wrestled with Paul, reading Four Quartets is a bit like reading Paul’s Letter to the Romans. I did two seminars on Romans after which I announced that I was never preaching on it. Fortunately I kept at it and discovered myself thinking, understanding, even feeling differently than I would have had I had never encountered the apostle at his densest. Also similar is that, at least in my reading of commentators on Paul and Eliot, there is no consensus on exactly what is going on. So there. Your insights are likely to be as likely as any others. Go for it. In any event, they’ll have meaning for you.
Fare forward, voyagers!