Carrol Cox wrote:
> "En ma fin est mon commencement": On chair of Mary Queen of Scots. Cf.
> In my beginning is my end. In succession
> Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended. . .
(This is from marginal annotations in my old text of the _Four
Quartets_: they may have been my own 46+ years ago but they are probably
from Austen Warren's lectures in his class in Major American Writers in
the fall of 1955)
The tattered arras was that of Mary of Scotland -- the passing of Mary
enacting the passing of material glory as caught up in the tattered
condition of the arras now. The whole passage (first two verse
paragraphs of East Coker) probably also invokes Sir Thomas Elyot, the
Renaissance humanist and at least a hypothetical ancestor of Eliot (or
at least can be such on the page). So we have Eliot's beginning in what
was itself a beginning (the Renaissance): Age of Sir Thomas a beginning,
the end of which was WW2 -- the end revealed as implicit in the
beginning. The End (purpose) is knowledge of the Divine, & the Divine is
the source of Man. In temporal terms, "thou art dust and unto dust thou
shalt return." Poem weaves two interpretations of theme. The dance which
concludes the first section reflects both human harmony and the rhythm
The following comment I know was Warren's. Re the lines
In the middle, not only in the middle of the way
But all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of the grimpen, where is no secure foothold ...
Warren commented that the source is relevant in the first line,
irrelevant in the second. Part of the import of the lines is that they
come from Dante, but that the second comes from Sir Conan Doyle adds
nothing to the poem.
P.S. The FQ are growing on me again as I reread them, but they still are
not in the same league with Milton, Pope, or Pound. The latter three
have the power Pound's John Adams attributed to Cicero:
Exercises my lungs, revives my spirits opens my pores
reading Tully on Cataline quickens my circulation