T. S. Eliot

(From Four QuartetsEast Cocker)


0 dark, dark, dark

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,

The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,

The captains, merchant bankers (1), eminent men of letters,

The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers (2). Distinguished civil servants (3), chairmen of many committees, Industrial lords and petty contractors (4), all go into the dark,

And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha .

And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors (5),

And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.

And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,

Nobody's funeral, for there is no one to bury.

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you

Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,

The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed

With a hollow rumble of wings (6), with a movement of darkness on


And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama

And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away

Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations

And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence

And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen

Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;

Or when, under ether (7), the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing –

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love

For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.

The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,

The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy

Not lost, but requiring (8), pointing to the agony (9)
Of death and birth.


You say I am repeating

Something I have said before. I shall say it again.

Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,

To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not.

  You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.

In order to arrive at what you do not know

  You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.

In order to possess what you do not possess

You must go by the way of dispossession.

In order to arrive at what you are not

             You must go through the way in which you are not.

And what you do not know is the only thing you know

And what you own is what you do not own

And where you are is where you are not.

(from: Four Quartets – East Cocker)


I merchant bankers: uomini d'affari

2 rulers: governanti

3. distinguished civil servants: alti funzionari statali

4. industrial... contractors: grandi industriali e piccoli imprenditori

5. Directory of Directors: la guida delle società commerciarli

6. with a hollok... wings: con un cupo rumore di quinte

7.  under ether: sotto l'effetto dell’etere

8. requiring: invitante

9 pointing to the agony: che richia­ma all’agonia

 The passage quoted is the third part of East Coker. Echoing Milton’s Samson Agonistes, it opens with the words "O dark, dark", an idea which often recurs in the passage. The image conveyed is one of death: our civilization is going to die, and the long list of prominent people all ending in a "silent funeral" (l. 10) sounds like an ironic comment ­on the emptiness of our society, where the funeral is indeed “nobody’s” (l. 11), since there is no real man to bury. The only way out of darkness is for the "soul" to "be still" (l. 12) and humbly submit to it ("let the dark come  upon you ", l. 12) since, paradoxically, it is darkness that will lead to light.

"The darkness of God" (l. 13), presented as transitory experience is exemplified through the use of a three-fold simile:

 a) the theatre, when "the lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed" (l. 14);

b) the train in the tube, when it "stops too long between stations

 c) the mind "under ether" (l. 22).

Man is aware that something is being taken away ("rolled away”) and is afraid of having "nothing to think about" (l. 21).

To face this condition, the soul has once more to be still and wait, even ­without hope and love, because hope and love are also limited in time and therefore imperfect. Faith, too, like hope and love, is all in the waiting. So we must learn to "wait without thought" (l. 27). If we accept it with humility­ "the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing " This new condition is also suggested by the images that follow: “whispers of running streams ", "wild" plants "unseen ", a "garden " (ll. 29-31) reminiscent of the rose garden already present in other poems, which is the most significant objective correlative of Eliot's moment of revelation, the deep instantaneous intuition of all time concentrated in one single luminous point. It is the basis of a new conception of time and its relation to eternity". [1] These images appear like flashes, sudden illuminations that "echo" moments of "ecstasy", which are not "lost" but real, provided we, remember that they cannot be parted from the "agony" of "birth " (or rather "rebirth ") that will follow "death" (ll. 31-33).

The last part of section three sums up, in the tradition of the mystics and,­ through the use of paradoxes, the doctrine of the Negative Way of St. John of the Cross, of which it is almost a paraphrase, i.e.: what we know and

own is something earthly, material and impermanent, which stands between our temporal limited world and the timeless life of the spirit. If we­

want to possess the only thing that really matters, we must choose the negative way, and give up all that prevents eternal transcendence since, if we want our spirit to live, we must die to the world.