"The Wasteland", first published in 1922, is one of Eliot's most influential works and has long been on the syllabus for A-Level English Literature.
"Four Quartets" consists of four long poems, first published between 1935 and 1942. They are linked by common themes, and are individually "Burnt Norton", "East Coker", "The Dry Salvages", and "Little Gidding".
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"Complex, erudite, cryptic, satiric, spiritually earnest, and occasionally lyrical, ["The Waste Land"] became one of the most recognizable landmarks of modernism"....[the "Four Quartets"] were the first of Eliot's poems to reach a wide public and they succeeded in communicating in modern idiom the fundamentals of Christian faith and experiences." (The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature)
"The 20th century"
Paul Scofield's reading of these masterworks is wonderful, incomparable - do not even think of buying Eliot's own dull, flat renderings unless you intend to get both versions.
Even as I type this short review, I feel impatient to play through the poems again...
"Wasted on the young"
There is a bit of an Eliot renaissance going on at the time of re-reading The Waste Land and Four Quartets with the launch of an app which gives access at the touch of a screen to the final draft, the Ezra Pound-annotated version and early drafts, various audio recordings of eminent readers and a video performance by Fiona Shaw together with hyperlinks to all of the background references on which the poem is built. It all makes me envious and inevitably I think back to the hours and hours that I spent in the University chasing one reference to the next moving from shelf to shelf and reading around and losing the overall sense of where I was in the poem. Oddly, I think the act of physically walking around a library is a good metaphor for the approach to The Waste Land - an app is a little too straight-forward. Yes, you immediately get access to all of the relevant information. But, more to the point, what is not ‘relevant’ does not appear on the screen in front of you. Having the time to get lost in literature is one of the great pleasures of being a full time student. I never left the library without my full complement of six books to be taken out at any one time. Reading from start to finish and following the complete works was a particular discipline and a diminishing pleasure - but following up a particular reference on a particular point was - and still is - the source of real excitement. Knowing that any reference can be entered on Google and fully explained narrows this and I’m not sure that the result is nearly as satisfying. Given that we live in an age of closing libraries is it too much to link the rise of the app with the decline of the inter-library loan? Best always to get back to the original text which, as a reader now at the age at which Eliot as the writer was when he wrote - only serves to broaden and deepen the emotional response to the words.
"A must for all literature lovers"
Whatever your feelings about poetry, it is an undeniable truth that it has so much more impact when it is heard than when it is read. What a joy therefore to come across this excellent audio-edition of these two complex and meaty poems by T. S. Eliot. The beauty of the audio-recordings lie in the way that you can listen to the poems as a whole again and again and discover more and more about the central truths they offer about life and what it is to be human with each listening. Not a choice for the fainthearted, but if you like literature and poetry, you will not regret buying this! An audiobook that stands an infinite number of re-readings.
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