?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Burnt Norton preamble - The Ex-Communicator

> Recent Entries
> Archive
> Friends
> Profile

March 14th, 2011


Previous Entry Share Next Entry
07:30 pm - Burnt Norton preamble
I am going to start again with a read-through of Burnt Norton by TS Eliot.

Burnt Norton is the first poem in 'Four Quartets', which as a combined work won the Nobel Prize. But it was written five years before the next in sequence, and it was not planned as part of a series, but as a stand-alone. So I think a lot of the formal features which structure the rest of the Quartets were backwards-engineered from Burnt Norton, and arose naturally within this poem, which is by far my favourite in the sequence. BTW I am going to try to stop typing 'I think that...' and just say what I think.

I try to read it as something very plain and overt, about the nature of human existence in time. I have several books about this poem, but I don't agree with them, because they read the poem as speaking obliquely, hinting at theology. Eliot said he wanted:
to write poetry which should be essentially poetry, with nothing poetic about it, poetry standing naked in its bare bones, or poetry so transparent that we should not see the poetry, but that which we are meant to see through the poetry, poetry so transparent that in reading it we are intent on what the poem points to, and not on the poetry

And that's how I want to read it.

Burnt Norton is a manor house in Gloucestershire. It burnt down, hence its name, then the rebuilt house was used as an orphanage, and then unused. So I think this house is an image of time where the past is burnt up utterly. Think of The Langoliers, who eat the past. Or The Fire Sermon
'form is burning, feeling is burning, perception is burning, volitional formations are burning, consciousness is burning'.

(10 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:teadog1425
Date:March 14th, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC)
(Link)
This is very synchronicitous! I have just come across this series of poems via a Julian of Norwich quote - I am looking forward to the discussion!
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:March 14th, 2011 08:32 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, good, what was the quote? I only know 'all manner of things shall be well'.
[User Picture]
From:espresso_addict
Date:March 14th, 2011 09:40 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Just to say I'm reading these posts with interest but I doubt I'll come up with much coherent in response. I find it very hard to put into words what I think/feel about the sequence.

I didn't know that 'Burnt Norton' was written in advance of the rest, but I agree it states the theme while the others elaborate variations.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:March 15th, 2011 07:31 am (UTC)
(Link)
Yes, I feel the others are almost commentaries on Burnt Norton. I love them but I also think he tries to hurry them towards a particular conclusion, which doesn't always convince me.
[User Picture]
From:gair
Date:March 15th, 2011 10:48 am (UTC)
(Link)
I HAVE TOTALLY BEEN TO BURNT NORTON DO YOU WANT ME TO POST PICTURES. (Sorry. I want to engage with your read-through, too, which is looking glorious so far.)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:March 15th, 2011 10:55 am (UTC)
(Link)
Pics would be great. I was thinking of visiting it myself - is it the type of place for a quick trip?
[User Picture]
From:gair
Date:March 15th, 2011 11:40 am (UTC)
(Link)
It's privately owned - our department were invited because the owners' daughter was studying here. But the owners were lovely in that very aristocratic way, and I think they do show people round/let people in on an ad hoc basis - it's quite isolated and I don't think there's much you could see from the road. They say T S Eliot was never invited and wandered in from the public footpath through the woods nearby, so that might be another strategy!
[User Picture]
From:steepholm
Date:March 15th, 2011 12:26 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I'd love to think that he'd gatecrashed a funeral!
[User Picture]
From:espresso_addict
Date:March 15th, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I'd love to see pictures :)
[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:March 15th, 2011 10:05 pm (UTC)
(Link)
YES PICTURES. Little Gidding is about an hour's drive from here. Did I ever post my pictures?

> Go to Top
LiveJournal.com