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With the Four Quartets, TS Eliot's poetic powers trump his mysticism | Roz Kaveney

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We may find the spirituality of this great work questionable, but the humanity behind it and his continuing brilliance, is not

Eliot at his best is one of the greatest of poets, but it is impossible to divorce much of the best of his work from the most despicable or disturbing parts of his life.

We have to accept that art is alchemy, that memories, reading, love and fear fuse together, and are transmuted in the process. The rapist Byron, the whoremonger Rochester and the Stalinist quasi-plagiarist Brecht were contemptible human beings, and yet I love their work, and have been changed and influenced by it often for the better. So it is with Eliot. Even if, in the end, we turn our face away from the particular kind of mystical spirituality that in his last and greatest poems he expresses, it is not because of any thinning of his poetic powers.

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