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About this poet

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri,  on September 26, 1888. He lived in St. Louis during the first eighteen years of his life and attended Harvard University. In 1910, he left the United States for the Sorbonne, having earned both undergraduate and masters degrees and having contributed several poems to the Harvard Advocate.

After a year in Paris, he returned to Harvard to pursue a doctorate in philosophy, but returned to Europe and settled in England in 1914. The following year, he married Vivienne Haigh-Wood and began working in London, first as a teacher, and later for Lloyd's Bank.

It was in London that Eliot came under the influence of his contemporary Ezra Pound, who recognized his poetic genius at once, and assisted in the publication of his work in a number of magazines, most notably "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in Poetry in 1915. His first book of poems, Prufrock and Other Observations, was published in 1917, and immediately established him as a leading poet of the avant-garde. With the publication of The Waste Land in 1922, now considered by many to be the single most influential poetic work of the twentieth century, Eliot's reputation began to grow to nearly mythic proportions; by 1930, and for the next thirty years, he was the most dominant figure in poetry and literary criticism in the English-speaking world.

As a poet, he transmuted his affinity for the English metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century (most notably John Donne) and the nineteenth century French symbolist poets (including Baudelaire and Laforgue) into radical innovations in poetic technique and subject matter. His poems in many respects articulated the disillusionment of a younger post–World War I generation with the values and conventions—both literary and social—of the Victorian era. As a critic also, he had an enormous impact on contemporary literary taste, propounding views that, after his conversion to orthodox Christianity in the late thirties, were increasingly based in social and religious conservatism. His major later poetry collections include Ash Wednesday (1930) and Four Quartets (1943); his books of literary and social criticism include The Sacred Wood (1920), The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933), After Strange Gods (1934), and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1940). Eliot was also an important playwright, whose verse dramas include Murder in the Cathedral, The Family Reunion, and The Cocktail Party.

He became a British citizen in 1927; long associated with the publishing house of Faber & Faber, he published many younger poets, and eventually became director of the firm. After a notoriously unhappy first marriage, Eliot separated from his first wife in 1933, and remarried Valerie Fletcher in 1956. T. S. Eliot received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. He died in London on Janurary 4, 1965.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Collected Poems (1962)
The Complete Poems and Plays (1952)
Four Quartets
(1943)

Burnt Norton (1941)
The Dry Salvages
(1941)
East Coker (1940)
Ash Wednesday (1930)
Poems, 1909–1925 (1925)
The Waste Land (1922)
Poems (1919)
Prufrock and Other Observations
(1917)

Prose

Religious Drama: Mediaeval and Modern (1954)
The Three Voices of Poetry (1954)
Poetry and Drama (1951)
Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1949)
The Classics and The Man of Letters (1942)
The Idea of a Christian Society (1940)
Essays Ancient and Modern (1936)
Elizabethan Essays (1934)
The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933)
After Strange Gods (1933)
John Dryden (1932)
Thoughts After Lambeth (1931)
Tradition and Experimentation in Present-Day Literature (1929)
Dante (1929)
For Lancelot Andrews (1928)
Andrew Marvell (1922)
The Sacred Wood (1920)

Drama

The Elder Statesman (1958)
The Confidential Clerk (1953)
The Cocktail Party (1950)
The Family Reunion (1939)
Murder in the Cathedral (1935)
The Rock (1934)
Sweeney Agonistes (1932)
 


Multimedia

From the Image Archive

 

Sweeney among the Nightingales

T. S. Eliot, 1888 - 1965
Apeneck Sweeney spreads his knees	
Letting his arms hang down to laugh,	
The zebra stripes along his jaw	
Swelling to maculate giraffe.	
 
The circles of the stormy moon
Slide westward toward the River Plate,	
Death and the Raven drift above	
And Sweeney guards the horned gate.	
 
Gloomy Orion and the Dog	
Are veiled; and hushed the shrunken seas;
The person in the Spanish cape	
Tries to sit on Sweeney’s knees	
 
Slips and pulls the table cloth	
Overturns a coffee-cup,	
Reorganized upon the floor
She yawns and draws a stocking up;	
 
The silent man in mocha brown	
Sprawls at the window-sill and gapes;	
The waiter brings in oranges	
Bananas figs and hothouse grapes;
 
The silent vertebrate in brown	
Contracts and concentrates, withdraws;	
Rachel née Rabinovitch	
Tears at the grapes with murderous paws;	
 
She and the lady in the cape
Are suspect, thought to be in league;	
Therefore the man with heavy eyes	
Declines the gambit, shows fatigue,	
 
Leaves the room and reappears	
Outside the window, leaning in,
Branches of wistaria	
Circumscribe a golden grin;	
 
The host with someone indistinct	
Converses at the door apart,	
The nightingales are singing near
The Convent of the Sacred Heart,	
 
And sang within the bloody wood	
When Agamemnon cried aloud,	
And let their liquid droppings fall	
To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot

Born in Missouri on September 26, 1888, T. S. Eliot is the author of The Waste Land, which is now considered by many to be the most influential poetic work of the twentieth century.

by this poet

poem

"Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi
in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Σιβυλλα
τι θελεις
; respondebat illa: αποθανειν θελω."

For Ezra Pound
il miglior fabbro.

 

poem

     S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
     A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
     Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
     Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
     Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
     Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo

poem
Miss Helen Slingsby was my maiden aunt,	
And lived in a small house near a fashionable square	
Cared for by servants to the number of four.	
Now when she died there was silence in heaven	
And silence at her end of the street.
The shutters were drawn and the undertaker wiped his feet—	
He was aware that this sort