I got this becuase my cassette player finally broke and I have to have a copy of Eliot reading his Quartets at hand at all times. His dispassionate reading, where the only language itself rules, is such a pleasure. Sonically, it is very soothing too. Nothing can compare to the author reading his own work, especially someone like Eliot.
For understanding who, where we are, how it is, Eliot's "The Wasteland" is as indispensable as Nietzsche's "Twilight of the Idols", Freud's "Civilization and Its Discontents", Kafka's "The Metamorphosis", Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" . . . while "Four Quartets" is a voyage, or series of them, searching for ways out of the morass, among the best, most daring poetic explorations of our age . . .
To hear the author read his own is a delight and more, far more appropriate and thrilling than hearing any other voice. As far as I know no other CD contains all of "Four Quartets" read by T.S. himself. If only this item were again available here, especially as an MP3 download. Kindly e-mail Amazon to suggest this.
To call, as above, "Four Quartets" Eliot's "whole-hearted acceptance of the Christian faith" is myopic and obstructive, a blurred view through a smudged windshield. Some excerpts from 4Q should give some idea of the expansiveness, the breaking away and opening up qualities, of these poems: "World not world, but that which is not world, Internal darkness, deprivation And destitution of all property, Desiccation of the world of sense" . . . "Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning. The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry, The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy" . . . "The sea has many voices, Many gods and many voices" . . . "I think that the river Is a strong brown god" . . . "So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna" . . .
This is not a dogmatic or reactionary or fundamentalist faith, not the popular consumer, hedonist faith of our time, not one tied tight to our rationalist faith. But one heard from and about rarely these days, having much in common with the Neo-Platonism of earlier times, expressed in these familiar lines from "The Tempest": "We are such stuff As dreams are made on; and our little life Is rounded with a sleep", and in this from John Donne: "If I an ordinary nothing were, As shadow, a light, and body must be here . . ."
Consider these lines from 4Q:
. . . 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 and the hope 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.
Thought which holds opposites, negations in a fine balance, confounds conventional narrative and logic. Modern meets ancient. Perhaps no other poetry in English matches this assimilation of what M. Arnold called "the best that has been thought and said".
In her "Life of the Mind" Hannah Arendt defines thought as conversations in the head aided by imagination or images present in the mind but not to the senses. Participating in Eliot's language and imagination (which often involves abstract or imageless images or images which stretch the boundaries of what can be imagined) can be a wonderful workout to mind.
Here's a list of track contents:
CD 1 Tracks 1-5 The Waste Land Track 6 The Hollow Men Track 7 Journey of the Magi Track 8 La Figlia che Piange Track 9 Landscapes: New Hampshire, Virginia, Usk, Rannoch by Glencoe, Cape Ann Track 10 Morning at the Window Track 11 Difficulties of a Statesman, from Coriolan Track 12 Sweeney Among the Nightingales Track 13 Whispers of Immortality Track 14 Macavity: the Mystery Cat
CD 2 Tracks 1-9 Four Quartets (tracks do not follow Eliot's divisions of each quartet into 5 parts) Tracks 1-2 Burnt Norton Tracks 3-4 East Coker Tracks 5-6 The Dry Salvages Tracks 7-9 Little Gidding
It is a recording of a couple of vinyl records and has all the pops and hisses you might expect. However, it is all spoken word so the noises do not bother me, which they would for a musical recording.