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· Dem Bones — T. S. Eliot Style ·

 · T. S. Eliot · I just helped edit an essay, a med-school student's. It set me to thinking here, in a roundabout sort of way, of T. S. Eliot's famous "Four Quartets." A residency application essay in orthopedics, it captured in every phrase and sentence something of the leading theme in "Burnt Norton,"

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
and time future contained in time past

and of the closing point in "Little Gidding,"

A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything).

It took as its theme my son Suave's girlfriend's rearing aboard a 65-foot ketch, happily sailing on the theme, steadily, swiftly, and simply, through eight paragraphs toward "the challenges, the hard work, and the demands of excellent service" — "all three," Savvy says, "in my salty upbringing, possibly my genes, and probably my soul."

Having seen the essay take shape, I think Eliot's lines apply:

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning. T. S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909 - 1950, New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1962, 117, 145, 144.

You might also try singing "Dem Bones" here.


"What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from."

Profound. True.

Thanks for the link. I had forgotten these lines.

Posted by Huldah Marguerite on March 2, 2004 02:39 PM

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