“We shall not cease from exploration/…

…And the end of all our exploring /Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.” From Little Gidding, the last of T. S. Eliot’s *Four Quartets.

From The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910), by Rainer Maria Rilke:

And nonetheless there was something in her that reminded me of my delicate and slender mother. The longer I looked at her, the more I perceived in her face all those fine and gentle features which I had never been able to remember clearly since my mother’s death; only now, seeing Mathilde Brahe every day, did I know again what my mother had looked like; indeed, it may have been that I knew it for the first time. Only now did the hundreds and hundreds of details come together within me, making an image of my dead mother, the image that accompanies me everywhere. Later I realised that all of the characteristics of my mother’s features really were present in Miss Brahe’s face – but it was as if some unfamiliar face had been interposed among them, thrusting them apart, distorting them, leaving them unrelated to each other.”

Dr Oliver Tearle writes at interestingliterature.com:

“…let us consider the structure of each of the *Four Quartets. Indeed, all four are remarkably similar, demonstrating that Eliot was working to a pattern, or framework. (Helen) Gardner suggests we see each of the five sections of the poems as ‘movements’, continuing the musical theme…

Each of the four quartets does slightly different things with this basic pattern, but all four of them follow the pattern to some extent. But ‘Little Gidding’ took longer for Eliot to write because, in addition to writing another poem in the sequence, he had to make that final poem be a conclusion as well as a continuation.

Four Quartets is marked by a sense of circularity, of the cyclical, and haunted by notions of returns and returning. And certainly, things appear to have gone full circle in Eliot’s poetry, as they would in his life: he would be buried in the church at East Coker where his ancestral line had originated. ‘In my end is my beginning.’ ‘In my beginning is my end.’ (Note: these words adorn the memorial stone to Eliot in St. Michael’s Church in East Coker, where Eliot’s ashes are interred.)”

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