Four Quartets: Burnt Norton - مكتبة المعرفة

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الأربعاء، 15 مارس 2017

Four Quartets: Burnt Norton

 Burnt Norton
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Four Quartets: Burnt Norton

Summary
The first of the quartets, “Burnt Norton,” is named for a ruined country house in Gloucestershire. This quartet is the most explicitly concerned with time as an abstract principle. The first section combines a hypothesis on time—that the past and the future are always contained in the present—with a description of a rose garden where children hide, laughing. A bird serves as the poet’s guide, bringing him into the garden, showing him around, and saving him from despair at not being able to reach the laughing children. The second section begins with a sort of song, filled with abstract images of a vaguely pagan flavor. The poem shifts midway through the section, where it again assumes a more meditative tone in order to sort out the differences between consciousness and living in time: The speaker asserts, “To be conscious is not to be in time,” for consciousness implies a fixed perspective while time is characterized by a transient relativity (around the fixed point of the present). However, this statement does not intend to devalue memory and temporal existence, which, according to the poem, allow the moments of greatest beauty. The third section of “Burnt Norton” reads like the bridge section of a song, in which the key changes. In this section, Eliot describes a “place of disaffection”—perhaps the everyday world—which allows neither transcendence (“darkness”) nor the beauty of the moment (“daylight”). The fourth, very short section returns to a sort of melody (some of the lines rhyme) to describe the unattainable, fictional point of fixity around which time is organized. This point is described as surrounded by flowers and birds; perhaps it can be found in the rose garden of the first section. The final section of this quartet returns to reality: Despite the apparent vitality of words and music, these must die; the children’s laughter in the garden becomes a mocking laughter, scorning our enslavement to time.
Form
Eliot is much less experimental with rhyme and meter here than he is in his earlier works. Instead, he displays a mature language consciousness. Through the repetition of words and the use of structures like chiasmus and pastiche, he creates a rhythm not dependent on previous poetic forms. It is as if the mere meaning of the words is not enough to express the philosophical concepts Eliot wants to explore, as they “decay with imprecision”: He must exploit the physical properties of the words themselves. The repetition and circularity of language that are this poem’s hallmarks highlight the infinite circularity of time: Just as past, present, and future cannot be separated with any precision, neither can the words used to describe them. Rather than exploiting bizarre combinations of images or intricate formal devices, Eliot uses the gravity of terms like “past” and “present” to create a beautiful monument of ideas.

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