T. S. Eliot

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What concept of poetry is implied by Eliot's vision of spiritual redemption in "Little Gidding"?

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The concept of poetry implied is religious because the end of Eliot's “Little Gidding” features several references and allusions to Christian beliefs and figures.

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The description of the end of “Little Gidding” as a “vision of spiritual redemption” implies that T. S. Eliot is embracing a religious concept of poetry. The notion that poetry can bring about a purifying, spiritual, religious experience has been expressed by various poets in different ways. The English poet Francis Thompson argued that poetry’s primary purpose was to “see and restore the Divine idea of things, freed from the disfiguring accidents of their Fall.” Thompson was an English mystic from the nineteenth century. The American poet Wallace Stevens declared, “Poetry is the supreme fiction.” Stevens was an insurance executive who lived in Connecticut and wrote most of his poems in the twentieth century. Before Thompson and Stevens, there was John Milton. A seventeenth-century English poet, Milton used poetry to justify the ways of God to ordinary humans.

While the concluding stanzas of Eliot’s last quartet aren’t as explicit as the declarations of Thompson, Milton, or Stevens, they, as mentioned, contain a fair amount of spiritual power. The idea that one will arrive where one started seems to allude to the Garden of Eden. The “unremembered gate” and the “apple-tree” reinforce the promise of a return to this heavenly garden. The phrase “All shall be well” comes from the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich. Finally, the flame imagery suggests a cleansing of the universe and the defeat of sin.

Eliot’s religious conception of poetry pertains to his personal life. As Eliot aged, he became increasingly drawn to Christianity. Shortly before he turned forty, Eliot chose to be baptized into the Anglican Church.

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