Many consider the poem sequence to be his greatest work.
It is always exciting when we get to hear an author read their own words, so when we came across this recording of T.S. Eliot reading his own Four Quartets we were understandably ecstatic. Four Quartets is a sequence of four poems that were written over a six-year period, between 1935 and 1941. Eliot first wrote Burnt Norton as an independent work, in 1935, and several years later he wrote three more: East Coker, The Dry Salvages, and Little Gidding.
Four interlinked meditations with the common theme being man’s relationship with time, the universe, and the divine. In describing his understanding of the divine within the poems, Eliot blends his Anglo-Catholicism with mystical, philosophical and poetic works from both Eastern and Western religious and cultural traditions, with references to the Bhagavad-Gita and the Pre-Socratics as well as St. John of the Cross and Julian of Norwich.
The four works were joined together under the title Four Quartets by Eliot’s New York publisher, in 1943. While many critics hailed the work as Eliot’s great last work, some — including George Orwell — were put off by their overt religiousness. Of the works, Eliot told Donald Hall, in a 1959 interview:
“I’d like to feel that they get better as they go on. The second is better than the first, the third is better than the second, and the fourth is the best of all. At any rate, that’s the way I flatter myself.”