Title Image - Quotes by Author T. S. Eliot

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Wikipedia Summary for T. S. Eliot

Thomas Stearns Eliot (26 September 1888 – 4 January 1965) was a poet, essayist, publisher, playwright, literary critic and editor. Considered one of the 20th century's major poets, he is a central figure in English-language Modernist poetry.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a prominent Boston Brahmin family, he moved to England in 1914 at the age of 25 and went on to settle, work, and marry there. He became a British citizen in 1927 at the age of 39, subsequently renouncing his American citizenship.

Eliot first attracted widespread attention for his poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in 1915, which was received as a modernist masterpiece. It was followed by some of the best-known poems in the English language, including "The Waste Land" (1922), "The Hollow Men" (1925), "Ash Wednesday" (1930), and Four Quartets (1943). He was also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935) and The Cocktail Party (1949). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948, "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry".

Moving between the legs of tables and of chairs, rising or falling, grasping at kisses and toys, advancing boldly, sudden to take alarm, retreating to the corner of arm and knee, eager to be reassured, taking pleasure in the fragrant brilliance of the Christmas tree.

--T. S. Eliot

Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm, but the harm that they cause does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.

--T.S. Eliot

Accident is design
And design is accident
In a cloud of unknowing.

--T.S. Eliot

Either everything in man can be traced as a development from below, or something must come from above. There is no avoiding that dilemma: you must be either a naturalist or a supernaturalist.

--T.S. Eliot

Truth on our level is a different thing from truth for the jellyfish.

--T.S. Eliot

This love is silent.

--T.S. Eliot

Every moment is a fresh beginning.

--T. S. Eliot

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.

--T.S. Eliot

The only wisdom we can hope to acquire Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless. The houses are all gone under the sea. The dancers are all gone under the hill.

--T.S. Eliot

Poetry is not an assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more fully real to us.

--T.S. Eliot

They don't understand what it is to be awake, To be living on several planes at once Though one cannot speak with several voices at once.

--T.S. Eliot

We can at least try to understand our own motives, passions, and prejudices, so as to be conscious of what we are doing when we apeal to those of others. This is very difficult, because our own prejudice and emotional bias always seems to us so rational.

--T.S. Eliot

Paint me the bold anfractuous rocks Faced by the snarled and yelping seas.

--T.S. Eliot

My mind may be American but my heart is British.

--T.S. Eliot

Never commit yourself to a cheese without having first examined it.

--T.S. Eliot

The darkness declares the glory of light.

--T.S. Eliot

No artist produces great art by a deliberate attempt to express his own personality.

--T.S. Eliot

I am moved by fancies that are curled, around these images and cling, the notion of some infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing.

--T.S. Eliot

It is generally a feminine eye that first detects the moral deficiencies hidden under the 'dear deceit' of beauty.

--T.S. Eliot

War is not a life: it is a situation, one which may neither be ignored nor accepted.

--T.S. Eliot

Artistic inevitability lies in the complete adequacy of the external to the emotion.

--T.S. Eliot

The lot of man is ceaseless labor, Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder.

--T.S. Eliot

Art serves us best precisely at that point where it can shift our sense of what is possible, when we know more than we knew before, when we feel we have -- by some manner of a leap -- encountered the truth. That, by the logic of art, is always worth the pain.

--T.S. Eliot

Do I dare Disturb the universe?

--T.S. Eliot

Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment.

--T.S. Eliot

Of lovers whose bodies smell of each other Who think the same thoughts without need of speech.

--T.S. Eliot

We understand the ordinary business of living,
We know how to work the machine.

--T.S. Eliot

A book is not harmless merely because no one is consciously offended by it.

--T.S. Eliot

We took up
our positions, in obedience to instructions.

--T.S. Eliot

A prose that is altogether alive demands something of the reader that the ordinary novel reader is not prepared to give.

--T.S. Eliot

All art emulates the condition of ritual. That is what it comes from and to that it must always return for nourishment.

--T.S. Eliot

You must not on any account give me credit for being penetrating. I have impressed people that way before, and the result is always disaster.

--T.S. Eliot

Every moment is a new and shocking transvaluation of all we have ever been.

--T.S. Eliot

Here between the hither and the farther shore
While time is withdrawn, consider the future
And the past with an equal mind.

--T.S. Eliot

I say to you: Make perfect your will. I say: take no thought of the harvest, But only of proper sowing.

--T.S. Eliot

Signs are taken for wonders. 'We would see a sign!' The word within a word, unable to speak a word, Swaddled with darkness.

--T.S. Eliot

A tradition without intelligence is not worth having.

--T.S. Eliot

The remarkable thing about television is that it permits several million people to laugh at the same joke and still feel lonely.

--T.S. Eliot

Tradition: how the vitality of the past enriches the life of the present.

--T.S. Eliot

A good deal of confusion could be avoided, if we refrained from setting before the group, what can be the aim only of the individual; and before society as a whole, what can be the aim only of the group.

--T.S. Eliot

And would it have been worth it, after all, Would it have been worth while, After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets, After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor -- And this, and so much more? .

--T.S. Eliot

Yeats was the greatest poet of our times ... certainly the greatest in this language, and so far as I am able to judge, in any language.

--T.S. Eliot

It is not necessarily those lands which are the most fertile or most favored in climate that seem to me the happiest, but those in which a long struggle of adaptation between man and his environment has brought out the best qualities of both.

--T.S. Eliot

It seems just possible that a poem might happen to a very young man: but a poem is not poetry -That is a life.

--T.S. Eliot

Today, you're halfway to 100! Here's to optimism, whether it is realistic or not. Happy 50th birthday!

--T.S. Eliot

Those who talk of the bible as a monument of English prose are merely admiring it as a monument over the grave of Christianity.

--T.S. Eliot

Anecdote: It is by no means self-evident that human beings are most real when most violently excited; violent physical passions do not in themselves differentiate men from each other, but rather tend to reduce them to the same state.

--T.S. Eliot

Genuine blasphemy, genuine in spirit and not purely verbal, is the product of partial belief, and is as impossible to the complete atheist as to the perfect Christian.

--T.S. Eliot

I was too slow a mover to be a boxer. It was much easier to be a poet.

--T.S. Eliot

To each individual the world will take on a different connotation of meaning-the important lies in the desire to search for an answer.

--T.S. Eliot

Poets in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult...The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into its meaning.

--T.S. Eliot

Every nation, every race, has not only its own creative, but its own critical turn of mind; and is even more oblivious of the shortcomings and limitations of its critical habits than of those of its creative genius.

--T.S. Eliot

Gradually we come to admit that Shakespeare understands a greater extent and variety of human life than Dante; but that Dante understands deeper degrees of degradation and higher degrees of exaltation.

--T.S. Eliot

If you start with a bang, you won't end with a whimper.

--T.S. Eliot

We see the light but see not whence it comes. O Light Invisible, we glorify Thee!

--T.S. Eliot

Think not forever of yourselves, O Chiefs, nor of your own generation. Think of continuing generations of our families, think of our grandchildren and of those yet unborn, whose faces are coming from beneath the ground.

--T.S. Eliot

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be: am an attendant lord, one that will do to swell a progress, start a scene or two, advise the prince.

--T.S. Eliot

Longer Version:

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do To swell a progress, start a scene or two, Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool, Deferential, glad to be of use, Politic, cautious, and meticulous; Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse; At times, indeed, almost ridiculous-- Almost, at times, the Fool.



Teach us to care and not to care.

--T.S. Eliot

Art is the escape from personality.

--T.S. Eliot

The purpose of a Christian education would not be merely to make men and women pious Christians: a system which aimed too rigidly at this end alone would become only obscurantist. A Christian education must primarily teach people to be able to think in Christian categories.

--T.S. Eliot

It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous. Resign yourself to be the fool you are... ...We must always take risks. That is our destiny.

--T.S. Eliot

I am an Anglo-Catholic in religion, a classicist in literature and a royalist in politics.

--T.S. Eliot

History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors and issues.

--T.S. Eliot

In spite of all the dishonour, the broken standards, the broken lives, The broken faith in one place or another, There was something left that was more than the tales Of old men on winter evenings.

--T.S. Eliot

Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand.

--T.S. Eliot

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

--T.S. Eliot

Longer Version:

Shall I part my hair behind Do I dare to eat a peach I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me.


A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

--T.S. Eliot

When a great poet has lived, certain things have been done once for all, and cannot be achieved again.

--T.S. Eliot

I grow old … I grow old … I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

--T.S. Eliot

Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal.

--T.S. Eliot

If you want it you must obtain it by great labor.

--T.S. Eliot

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone.

--T.S. Eliot

Longer Version:

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead.


Where does one go from a world of insanity? Somewhere on the other side of despair.

--T.S. Eliot

The naming of cats is a difficult matter.

--T.S. Eliot

There is no such thing as a lost cause, because there is no such thing as a gained cause.

--T.S. Eliot

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices in the lost lilac and the lost sea voices and the weak spirit quickens to rebel for the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell quickens to recover.

--T.S. Eliot

I love reading another reader's list of favorites. Even when I find I do not share their tastes or predilections, I am provoked to compare, contrast, and contradict. It is a most healthy exercise, and one altogether fruitful.

--T.S. Eliot

All dash to and fro in motor cars. Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.

--T.S. Eliot

The hippopotamus's day Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts; God works in a mysterious way- The Church can sleep and feed at once.

--T.S. Eliot

Fading, fading: strength beyond hope and despair climbing the third stair. Lord, I am not worthy Lord, I am not worthy but speak the word only.

--T.S. Eliot

It has frequently been said that we never desire what we think absolutely inapprehensible: it is however true that some of our sharpest agonies are those in which the object of desire is regarded as both possible and imaginary.

--T.S. Eliot

I hate university towns and university people, who are the same everywhere, with pregnant wives, sprawling children, many books and hideous pictures on the walls ... Oxford is very pretty, but I don't like to be dead.

--T.S. Eliot

A people without history

Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern

Of timeless moments.

--T.S. Eliot

Desire itself is movement

Not in itself desirable;

Love is itself unmoving,

Only the cause and end of movement,

Timeless, and undesiring

Except in the aspect of time

Caught in the form of limitation

Between un-being and being.

--T.S. Eliot

The only hope, or else despair

Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre -

To be redeemed from fire by fire.

--T.S. Eliot

There are three conditions which often look alike Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow: Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference, ... .

--T.S. Eliot

Words move, music moves Only in time; but that which is only living Can only die. Words, after speech, reach Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern, Can words or music reach The stillness.

--T.S. Eliot

Not less of love, but expanding Of love beyond desire, and so liberation From the Future as well as the past.

--T.S. Eliot

Only through time time is conquered.

--T.S. Eliot

And right action is freedom From past and future also.

--T.S. Eliot

Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened, into the rose garden.

--T.S. Eliot

A philosophy can and must be worked out with the greatest rigour and discipline in the details, but can ultimately be founded on nothing but faith: and this is the reason, I suspect, why the novelties in philosophy are only in elaboration, and never in fundamentals.

--T.S. Eliot

The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end.

--T.S. Eliot

If we really want to pray we must first learn to listen, for in the silence of the heart God speaks.

--T.S. Eliot

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, and I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, and in short, I was afraid.

--T.S. Eliot

For I have known them all already, known them all-- Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.

--T.S. Eliot

Not only every great poet, but every genuine, but lesser poet, fulfils once for all some possibility of language, and so leaves one possibility less for his successors.

--T.S. Eliot

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