T.S Eliot (Pic: AP Photo)
T.S Eliot (Pic: AP Photo)
T.S Eliot (Pic: AP Photo)

As an American with such a strong affection for the U.K. (and the Anglican church) that he emigrated to London at the age of 25, and took British citizenship at the age of 39, T.S. Eliot is a perfect model for a mindset that should be very familiar to readers of this blog.

So, on what would have been the 126th birthday of this Nobel Prize winning Modernist master-poet (September 26), playwright and author of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, here are some of his finest words of wisdom. Particularly those that may be helpful if you’re in a pinch:

• “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.”

• “The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”

• “If you haven’t the strength to impose your own terms upon life, then you must accept the terms it offers you.”

• “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”

• “Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”

• “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”

• “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

• “Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.”

• “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

• “Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm. But the harm does not interest them.”

• “People to whom nothing has ever happened cannot understand the unimportance of events.”

• “Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.”

• “It’s not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them.”

• “It’s strange that words are so inadequate. Yet, like the asthmatic struggling for breath, so the lover must struggle for words.”

• “It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it than we can explain light to the blind.”

• “No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written: He may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing.”

• “O Lord, deliver me from the man of excellent intention and impure heart: for the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.

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

• “Whatever you think, be sure it is what you think; whatever you want, be sure that is what you want; whatever you feel, be sure that is what you feel.”

And possibly the most philosophical of them all:

• “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

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Filed Under: Poetry, Quotes, T.S. Eliot
By Fraser McAlpine