T.S. Eliot, Dante, and the European Tradition: An International Symposium
January 19th - 25th , 2008
  Promoted by:
Romualdo Del Bianco Foundation
Palazzo Coppini Via del Giglio, 10
50123 – Florence (Italy)


Author : Mr. Didac Llorens-Cubedo

"Dantean Inspiration of Two Images in T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets: The Still Point and Midwinter Spring"

Dídac Llorens Cubedo (Universitat Jaume I de Castelló, Spain)

The imagery of Four Quartets makes Eliot’s indebtedness to Dante’s poetic imagination evident. Among the images of Dantean inspiration, the Still Point and Midwinter Spring effectively express the concept of an eternal present, central to Eliot’s poetic sequence.
In the Quartets, glimpses of eternity are imagined to impose stillness on the constant movement of “the turning world”, momentarily stopping the time in which this movement becomes perceptible. Moments of illumination happen at “the still point”, where movement and stillness meet and where “past and future are gathered”. In Paradiso, God appears as a point of dazzling light (XXVIII) and Dante converses with his ancestor Cacciaguida ¾ one among the heroic Christian warriors in the Sphere of Mars. Dante has Cacciaguida foresee his exile from Florence and attributes his predicting power (which also causes past and future to gather) to the vision of the point of light (Par. XVII. 16-18).
“Midwinter spring” is said to be “suspended in time, between pole and tropic”. It represents the non-spatial circumstance of spiritual fulfilment and its depiction can be assumed to echo St Benedict’s words in canto XXII of Paradiso. About the Empyrean, the last of the Ten Heavens and Dante’s final destination, the saint says that “non è in loco, e non s’impola” (Par., XXII. 67).
Both the Still Point and Midwinter Spring hint at the same referent (eternal present, or the timeless) and show that Eliot’s fascination with the philosophical concept of time combines with his admiration for Dante’s powerful imagination.

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