Different kind of failure

Page 163, about Eliot’s conversion:

“For in poetry, belief need play no part; and, within Eliot’s own work, the structure of orthodox faith and the language or devotion are broken apart in order to make room for something much stranger and more tenuous, like the sound of someone crying in an empty church.”

From the Four Quartets:

So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years–
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres
Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it…

And here one can still make an attempt at a beginning. Old men can still be explorers, and this was a truth Eliot came to understand: in one’s beginning is one’s end, as one’s death is necessary for rebirth, and in one’s end is one’s beginning, as one makes a start from the ashes of an old life.


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