High Coo – Sept 26 – Happy Birthday T.S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot (b. 9/26/1888 d. 1/4/1965) photo from HuffPost

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Thomas Stearns (T. S.) Eliot moved to England at the age of 25 and became an English citizen at 39 thus renouncing his American citizenship.

“During an interview in 1959, Eliot said of his nationality and its role in his work: ‘I’d say that my poetry has obviously more in common with my distinguished contemporaries in America than with anything written in my generation in England. That I’m sure of. … It wouldn’t be what it is, and I imagine it wouldn’t be so good; putting it as modestly as I can, it wouldn’t be what it is if I’d been born in England, and it wouldn’t be what it is if I’d stayed in America. It’s a combination of things. But in its sources, in its emotional springs, it comes from America.'” (See  Hall, Donald (Spring–Summer 1959). “The Art of Poetry No. 1” (PDF). The Paris Review. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 October 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2009.)

Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948, (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Nobel_Prize_in_Literature), Eliot was known as one of the most famous and influential poets of the last century. Among many others, he is credited for his influence on Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Bob Dylan and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Note the musical Cats is based on Eliot’s book of poetry Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939) and the movie Tom and Viv recounts his life with his first wife. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._S._Eliot)

His most famous poems include The Waste Land, Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday and Four Quartets. However, my current favorite of his is Journey of the Magi which is a short 43-line poem. This poem recounts the original trip to the Bethlehem manger and it’s last 8 lines are:

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.


Here is my humble haiku response: Happy Birthday T.S. Eliot

Bridging two countries,

two lives, two wives and two deaths –

this is that and that

Blue plaque, 3 Kensington Court Gardens, Kensington, London, home from 1957 until his death in 1965

8 thoughts on “High Coo – Sept 26 – Happy Birthday T.S. Eliot

  1. Dr B

    I remember “studying” some of the poetry of Elliot when I was at school in the early 1960s. Somehow it had been “inserted” into the English Literature curriculum, ….. probably with a crowbar! Apparently The Waste Land is some sort of allegory (is that the right word?) for WWI and the aftermath, but I didn’t “get it” as a bright young 16 year old and I still don’t get it now 60 education packed years later. Maybe I’m not as literate or intelligent as I’m often given credit for, but I wish the man and his followers no harm at all. So Happy Birthday TSE, if you’re up there with other poets could you ask old Norman Nicholson how he’s doing?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Patrick Cole Post author

        Thank you for the reference and the background information on his poem Windscale. Wow! This poem means so much more now. Perhaps, this childhood experience led to your choice of profession? Perhaps, “better living through chemistry” is not always guaranteed?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s