Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
*East Coker. English village in Somersetshire where Eliot’s ancestors originated and where Eliot himself is buried. Again, the specific place is valued only because it stands for a general, universal process of dying and regeneration. This poem is about the idea of origin and destination and ironic redemption. A key to understanding Eliot’s detachment from actual place is seeing the essentially paradoxical nature of place: “where you are is where you are not.” For Eliot, setting is essentially metaphysical, a part of a moral endeavor. That moral process values the dissociation from place; he favors union not with place but with state of being. Eliot’s inclination is to escape the world’s increasing strangeness through love. Time and place decline in importance so love can increase.
*Dry Salvages. Group of rocks, with a beacon, off the coast of Cape Anne, Massachusetts. This third part of Four Quartets relies on water symbolism and the play between relative stability of rock or earth and changeability of sea as they relate to the themes of variation and timelessness. The only American place in the “Quartets,” the Dry Salvages is paradoxically both a place symbolic of guidance and a place of wreckage, a place of concealment and of revelation. As with the other places mentioned in Four Quartets, the Dry Salvages is important as a metaphoric backdrop for a philosophical or moral process: the ways time and experience wash over human beings, the ways moments or occurrences guide people by being monuments or beacons. The refrain of the poem, “fare forward voyagers,” suggests the sea as the place for travel; however, the course covered by travel is not as important to Eliot as the process itself of faring. Similarly, the experience of place is valuable only as a prompt toward meaning.
*Little Gidding. Religious community established in England’s Huntingdonshire by Nicholas Ferrar in 1625. This culminating quartet implies the value of creating a religious community in times of political and religious upheaval. Like the other quartets, it is essentially a call for exploration: Besides exploring time and place, this poem suggests that the power of immediate love for one’s own fields develops into the extended love of country. Despite this attachment to field and land, for Eliot all spirits are “unappeased and peregrin”; human beings are all between oppositional worlds, worlds that can be variously conceived as time and place, immediacy and generality, or earth and heaven.