40 Quotes By T S Eliot That Reflect Fragments of His Curious Mind

The journey, not the arrival matters!

Sanjana Iyengar

Dec 20, 2020|7 min read


Macavity, Jellicle Cats, Murder in the Cathedral and many more! All of us have ventured into fascinating stories written by him while growing up. He is not only a poet but also a playwright, literary critic and editor; He is none other than Thomas Stearns Elliot.

In his time, he proved to be a leader of the Modernist movement in poetry through his works The Waste Land (1922) and Four Quartets (1943).

Eliot exercised a strong influence on Anglo-American culture from the 1920s until late in the century. His experiments in diction, style, and versification revitalized English poetry, and in a series of critical essays, he shattered old orthodoxies and erected new ones.

This legendary poet was born to a New England schoolteacher and a St Louis Merchant on 26 September 1888. TS Eliot notebook and manuscript poems reveal that he began to measure his life by the divine goal as far back as 1910 and 1911, during his student days. 

The turning point came not with his conversion in 1927 but in 1914 when he first explored the motives, ordeals and achievements of saints. After experimenting with various writing styles, he adopted the one that uses stream-of-consciousness to show the chaos in the modern man's thinking. 

Besides, he uses many techniques such as imagism, repetition, fragmentation and other modernist techniques. This led him to win the Nobel Prize in Literature for his commercially and critically acclaimed collection of poems - The Four Quartets.

After having read briefly about this prodigy, I’m sure it would have only made you more curious about him. TS Eliot quotes are modern, progressive, inspirational and motivational.  Here are a few of his words that reflect fragments of his mind.

1) Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go

This is one of the most popular TS Eliot quotes where he shares his perspective of life and tells one to keep pushing and never give up. No one can know his/her potential unless they keep trying and exploring on their journey.

2) Everyone gets the experience. Some get the lesson

Through this quote, Eliot throws light on the fact that it is very important to learn from your mistakes and grow to become a better version of yourself.

3) To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man’s life.

4)  Tradition: how the vitality of the past enriches the life of the present

This quote yet again talks about how our past experiences affect our life at present. 

5) Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

6) For last year's words belong to last year's language And next year's words await another voice.

This TS Eliot quote lyrically brings about the concept of new beginnings. It is essential to move on in life and is never too late to start afresh. We need to be willing to accept certain consequences and have the courage to learn from our past experiences and grow as a person.

7) For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

Once again TS Elliot’s quote emphasizes the importance of hard work and dedication. He wishes to convey that if the required effort is put in the results will come along with it and the journey will be fruitful. 

8) Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions 

9) Whatever you think, be sure it is what you think; whatever you want, be sure that is what you feel.

TS Eliot tells us to get motivated and inspired by our own thoughts and beliefs and aim at fulfilling our dreams, not of others. We must not lose our personality, interest and beliefs just to impress someone else. Instead, we need to be firm minded and set goals for ourselves and work towards achieving it.

10) Humans cannot bear much reality.

11) If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?

TS Eliot quotes talk about determination and perseverance. If we don’t push ourselves and try harder every day, we shall not know of our full potential and capabilities.

12) Survival is your strength, not your shame.

TS Eliot quotes are powerful and hold important lessons for each one of us. The above quote emphasises on the value of surviving in this world. After all, only the fittest beings stay in this world till the end.

13) To make an end is to make a beginning.

This is one of the most philosophical and inspiring, out of all the TS Eliot quotes wherein, he conveys that with the end of every journey, a new one begins from right there.

14) The end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started.

15) Finding a way to live the simple life is one of life’s supreme complications.

16) Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough. 

TS Eliot quotes focus on the fact that we must possess the trait of being passionate in order to achieve our goals. 

17) When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom, the work is likely to sprawl.

18) Love is most nearly itself When here and now cease to matter.

19) Success is relative. It is what we make of the mess we have made of things.

20) We do not pass through the same door twice Or return to the door through which we did not pass.

21) What do we live for; If it is not to make life less difficult for each other.

TS Eliot quotes are deeply rooted in modern and progressive ideologies. In our life, all of us need to help one another in every way we can. Only then do we fulfil our purpose as a part of the human population.

22) Unreal friendship may turn to real But real friendship, once ended, cannot be mended.

23) Only by acceptance of the past, can you alter it.

TS Eliot quotes motivate us to learn from our past and look forward to a beautiful journey that lies ahead, awaiting us.

24) Only through time time is conquered.

25) Let's not be narrow, nasty, and negative.

26) All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance.

27)  Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity. 

Thomas Eliot has poetically put forth the concept that a certain level of creativity amongst seems to fuel our artistic growth. It's not always pleasant. We don't know where this disquietude will take us, only that it seems necessary. We intuit that if it were easy, the result would be unsatisfactory

28) If we really want to pray we must first learn to listen, for in the silence of the heart God speaks.

29) Turn things you've always wanted to do, into things you've done.

30) If you start with a bang, you won’t end with a whimper.

TS Eliot quote once again throws light on effectiveness and grit or determination. When we begin on a journey, we must give it 100% and at all times during our quest for success, the force we are putting to push ourselves must be the same, we must not lose hope or become overconfident. Only then, our journey shall be fruitful. 

31) Humility is the most difficult of all virtues to achieve; nothing dies harder than the desire to think well of self

32) I don't believe one grows older. I think that what happens early on in life is that at a certain age one stands still and stagnates.

33) We shall not cease from exploration. And at the end of all our exploring, we will arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.

34) The lot of men is ceaseless labour, Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder. 

35) Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison.

TS Eliot personifies the prison to our mind: we're each trapped within our prisons, and in thinking of the key, we confirm that we are trapped in it. T.S Eliot quotes and poems are known for their meaningful and poetic personification.

36) I like not only to be loved but to be told I’m loved.

37) I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

The above-mentioned TS Eliot quote can be explained by citing an old European tradition. In European funerals it is common to sprinkle or pour a handful of dust on a coffin, it’s done to remind those in attendance that from dust, you came to dust you shall return. It can be seen as having fear of death or someone pouring dust over your coffin.

38) Your burden is not to clear your conscience But to learn how to bear the burdens on your conscience

39) Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.

40) This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper. 

TS Eliot has never failed to impress anyone with his fantastic writing and his impressive quotes. He is an inspiration to many young writers and readers and his peculiar writing style surely does leave all of us in awe. His modernist and progressive thoughts, intense poetry and critically acclaimed bestsellers made him the legend that we remember him as today.

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Sanjana Iyengar

Passionate writer. Find what you love and let it kill you ~ Charles Bukowski



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