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.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always –
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
The above is an extract taken from the very end of the last of T.S.Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’, called ‘Little Gidding’. Little Gidding itself is a small Anglican community in Huntingdonshire, England, and was established there in the 17th century. just before the English Civil War, during which the community was broken up and scattered.
‘The Four Quartets’is a series of 4 poems which discuss time, perspective, humanity, and salvation. It was first published in September 1942 after being delayed for over a year because of the air-raids on Great Britain during World War II and Eliot’s declining health.
The poem uses the combined image of fire and Pentecostal fire to emphasise the need for purification and purgation. According to the poet, humanity’s flawed understanding of life and turning away from God leads to a cycle of warfare, but this can be overcome by recognising the lessons of the past.
Little Gidding focuses on the unity of past, present, and future, and claims that understanding this unity is necessary for salvation. In Eliot’s imagery the resolution of mankind’s turmoil will be achieved by the coming together of the fire and the rose.