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  • BBC Radio 4 broadcast a reading today of T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets".

    These are lovely mystical poems and if you don't know them, give them a read. But if you want find a copy on the internet, go here. Not here, despite the poster's claim of "An accurate online text" for in this version of the fourth poem "Little Gidding", the line written by Eliot as "Through the unknown, remembered gate" is rendered as "Through the unknown, unremembered gate".

    Rather altering the meaning.

    But beyond that, it's a rather apt commentary on the spread of information through the internet itself. Inaccuracies and falsehoods are propagated unchecked and unverified and should you not wish to explore beyond the first couple of entries brought up by a Google search, you might well find yourself getting a wholly erroneous idea. Whatever that idea may be.

    Strong argument, I would say, for the concept that the acquisition of knowledge is never easy and requires an outlook that is willing to look beyond and behind whatever is presented to you. A lesson that is certainly not encouraged by the simplistic reductions that pass for news or much of what is taught in schools these days.

    Eliot's poems, of course, fit that mold of intellectual complexity perfectly. So much so, that it seems impossible to truly understand them without a deep knowledge of the world's cultural and religious traditions, not to mention the ability to read Ancient Greek, Latin, French, and German. It was this assumption of so much learned background that initially put me off Eliot's work. It seemed too cerebral. A secret language only for the very wise.

    Paradoxically it was the move to Eliot's birthplace, St. Louis, that unlocked my appreciation. Underpinning Eliot always, even after decades of residing in England and the assumption of as English an identity as he could contrive, is the great brown Mississippi River. The massive river that overwhelms all British waterways unless you stand on the sea's edge by the Thames Estuary or the Bristol Channel and hovers, visibly or invisibly, over Eliot's poetry.

    I love the Mississippi. And through that love came the appreciation of the work of one so deeply influenced by its magic.
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