Consumed by Either Fire or Fire

T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets are always hovering somewhere in me. East Coker is my favorite, but all four haunt me.

Art is a fire that redeems me from fire.

from Little Gidding, Four Quartets

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre––
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

––T.S. Eliot

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3 Replies to “Consumed by Either Fire or Fire”

  1. We have the same taste in poetry. Recommend me a volume or two to read, please? (they can be volumes you assume most people have read, because I have not read much… not near enough.)

    1. Hi Sarah:

      My favorite contemporary collections are “Book of My Nights,” by Li-Young Lee; “Blizzard of One,” by Mark Strand; “The Seven Ages,” by Louise Gluck; “What Work Is,” by Philip Levine; and “American Primitive,” by Mary Oliver.

      If you want some great classical fun, I recommend Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonis.” It’s amazing.

      Right now I’m reading the other poems of the “Sir Gawain” poet.

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