An Overview of Eliot

Have you ever wanted to understand T.S.Eliot’s poetry? I’ve written an overview of his works here at The Imaginative Website.

From his earliest years as a poet Eliot revered Dante, considering him to be the great master. In a speech to the Italian Institute in 1950 he said, “I do not think I can explain everything [about my debt to Dante] but I regard his poetry as the most persistent and deepest influence upon my own verse.”

Dante’s progress through the Inferno, the purgation of Mount Purgatorio and the final bliss of Paradise is reflected in the complete oeuvre of Eliot. The poetic pilgrims’s progress was conscious in Dante. He created a complex, structured, three-tiered universe representing not only a Christian cosmology, but a map of the individual Christian soul-journey. As Dante leaves this world in a dark wood to travel down into the dark, so the true start of the soul’s journey is into the dark. Then realizing our need for purification we move through the purgatorial fires to find a final peace.

I am really enjoying writing for TIC each week. It gives me a chance to re-visit some of my enthusiasms which are not specifically related to being a Catholic priest, but which overlap and amplify my vocation.

I remember first coming across T.S.Eliot as a child reading our set of those green and white World Book Encyclopedias. What a shame the internet has done away with encyclopedias! I spent hours reading through our set and learning, learning learning. For some reason I was drawn to the page on Eliot. I liked his dour face, his  dapper suit and the fact that he went to live in England!

Why was it even as a child of ten I was drawn to England and to Eliot? I also remember reading a story about a girl who went to London. I wanted to ride a red double decker and see Big Ben and go to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. There must have been some sort of draw of destiny. Anyway–I’ve studied Eliot’s life and work my whole life, and this article explains the overview of his poetry–suggesting that his oeuvre might be seen as a kind of Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker

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