50 TS Eliot Quotes (Author of The Waste Land)

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T.S. Eliot was one of the most influential and respected poets of the 20th century. Born into a prestigious family in St Louis in 1888, he was well educated throughout his childhood and studied at Harvard University.

With this head start in life, he went on to have a varied and interesting career. He spent a year as a Philosophy assistant following his graduation, and also worked for a short time as a French teacher before becoming a publishing house director at the modern-day Faber & Faber.

He was also employed as an international accountant at a bank and became a book critic in his later years. All the while, he was penning his own inspirational and influential works.

Eliot is often hailed as the father of the modernist poetry movement. His first major work was his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” which was published in 1915. He then went on to write “The Waste Land,” “The Hollow Men,” “Ash Wednesday,” and the poetry compilation “Four Quartets,” all of which received international acclaim. During this time, he was also penning numerous essays and plays.

The Complete Poems and Plays by T.S. Eliot

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T.S Eliot became such a giant in the modernist poetry world that he went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

So it’s no surprise that such a celebrated poet has some incredibly inspirational and unforgettable quotes. Today, T.S. Eliot would be 132 years old, but his words are still as poignant and powerful as ever. Below, you’ll find my favorite 50 TS Eliot quotes.

Best TS Eliot Quotes

“This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.”

― T.S. Eliot

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.”

― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

“To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man’s life.”

― T.S. Eliot, The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”

― T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

― T.S. Eliot

“Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough.”

― T.S. Eliot

“We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.”

― T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party

“Do I dare

Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”

― T.S. Eliot

“April is the cruelest month, breeding

lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

memory and desire, stirring

dull roots with spring rain.”

― T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

“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 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.”

― T.S. Eliot

“For I have known them all already, known them all—

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

― T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Others

“Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”

― T.S. Eliot

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”

― T.S. Eliot

“What is hell? Hell is oneself.

Hell is alone, the other figures in it

Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from

And nothing to escape to. One is always alone.”

― T.S. Eliot

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

― T.S. Eliot

“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”

― T.S. Eliot

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

― T.S. Eliot

“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”

― T.S. Eliot

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

― T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

“Unreal friendship may turn to real

But real friendship, once ended, cannot be mended”

― T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

“There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.”

― T.S. Eliot

“Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow”

― T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

“You are the music while the music lasts.”

― T.S. Eliot

“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, and I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, and in short, I was afraid.”

― T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Other Poems

“Books. Cats. Life is good.”

― T.S. Eliot

“We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

Or rats’ feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,

Paralysed force, gesture without motion;”

– T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men”

“If you haven’t the strength to impose your own terms upon life, then you must accept the terms it offers you.”

― T.S. Eliot

“Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.”

― T.S. Eliot

“Whatever you think, be sure it is what you think; whatever you want, be sure that is what you want; whatever you feel, be sure that is what you feel.”

― T.S. Eliot

“Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened, into the rose garden.”

― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

― T.S. Eliot

“Where does one go from a world of insanity? Somewhere on the other side of despair.”

― T.S. Eliot.

“We don’t actually fear death, we fear that no one will notice our absence, that we will disappear without a trace.”

― T.S. Eliot

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity”

― T.S. Eliot

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

― T.S. Eliot

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”

― T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land and Other Poems

“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotion know what it means to want to escape from these.”

― T.S. Eliot

“We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us… and we drown.”

― T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Other Poems

“The purpose of literature is to turn blood into ink.”

― T.S. Eliot

“And would it have been worth it, after all,

Would it have been worth while,

After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,

After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor –

And this, and so much more? -“

― T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Other Poems

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”

― T.S. Eliot, The Sacred Wood

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, remembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for

But heard, half-heard, in the stillness

Between two waves of the sea.”

― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

“Distracted from distraction by distraction”

― T.S. Eliot

“For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

― T.S. Eliot

“A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water. Only

There is shadow under this red rock,

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),

And I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

― T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future

And time future contained in time past.”

― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

“Success is relative. It is what we make of the mess we have made of things.”

― T.S. Eliot

“Love is most nearly itself

When here and now cease to matter.”

― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

“It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous.

Resign yourself to be the fool you are…

…We must always take risks. That is our destiny…”

― T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party

“I learn a great deal by merely observing you, and letting you talk as long as you please, and taking note of what you do not say.”

― T.S. Eliot

I hope you enjoyed reading these incredible quotes from the famous poet T.S Eliot. Which was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

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