What is the meaning of this statement by T.S. Eliot?  "We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first...

What is the meaning of this statement by T.S. Eliot?

 

"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time."

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The following quote was taken from T. S. Eliot's poem "Little Gidding":

"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time."

What this refers, when looking at the quote alone (out of context), to is that we are only explorers when we come into contact with things which we do not know about. Once we have come to explore, or understand something, it is no longer unknown to us and deems no further exploration.

That being said, upon exploring, if we come back to the place we began at, we are really coming to the realization of the place as it truly is known (given the first time we "visit" we do not know the place). Once we have an understanding of a place is when we actually know it.

Therefore, the first time we come to an unknown place we are only there to learn about it. After that, once we come back to where we began, we are able to "know the place for the first time" given we did not know it the first time we came.

Sounds a little confusing, almost as if Eliot is speaking in circles. By breaking it down though, one can see exactly what he is saying.

Here is an example:

Mary goes to Paris (exploring). She has never been before and does not know the city at all. After a few days, after learning (exploring) all that she could, Mary leaves. Later, Mary comes back to Paris. Give that Mary has been here before, she need not explore Paris; instead, she knows Paris. Now, Mary can know the place for the first time (given her real "first time" was spent exploring).

Sources:
etotheeyepi's profile pic

etotheeyepi | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

I have not idea, but maybe listening to more of the poem might help.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QTADe_fxpU&feature=related

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