Thursday, May 08, 2008

Little Gidding

Jacopo Caraglio (Printmaker; c.1500 - 1565)
The Pentecost 1520-1539
Engraving on paper 380 millimetres x 265 millimetres
The British Museum, London

“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 of 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.”

--Section IV, Little Gidding, “Four Quartets”, by T. S. Eliot

Written primarily in the first half of 1941, the poem was both aided and hindered by the German air raids on London.