Four Quartets

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Four Quartets is a set of four poems written by T. S. Eliot that were published individually over a six-year period. The first poem, "Burnt Norton", was written and published with a collection of his early works following the production of Eliot's play Murder in the Cathedral. After a few years, Eliot composed the other three poems, "East Coker", "The Dry Salvages", and "Little Gidding", which were written during World War II and the air-raids on Great Britain. The poems were not collected until Eliot's New York publisher printed them together in 1943. They were first published as a series in Great Britain in 1944 towards the end of Eliot's poetic career.

The central focus of the Four Quartets is man's relationship with time, the universe, and the divine. Time is depicted as a binding force that prevents mankind from transcending the boundaries of the material world and hinders them from finding redemption. The overall message of the series is that only through realizing Christ's sacrifice for mankind is an individual capable of being saved. In describing his understanding of the divine with the poems, Eliot blends Christian theology with allusions to Western literature, Eastern texts including the Bhagavad-Gita, and the works of Dante.

Although many critics find the Four Quartets to be Eliot's great last work, some of Eliot's contemporary critics, including George Orwell, were dissatisfied with Eliot's overt religiosity. Later critics disagreed with Orwell's claims about the poems and argued instead that the religious themes made the poem stronger. Overall, reviews of the poem within Great Britain were favourable while reviews in the United States were split between those who liked Eliot's later style and others who felt he abandoned positive aspects of his earlier poetry.

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