110+ TS Eliot Quotes That All Budding Poets Will Love

Moumita Dutta
Dec 12, 2023 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Jan 11, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Stamp post of TS Eliot
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Read time: 16.8 Min

Thomas Stearns Eliot, or TS Eliot, was a British poet, essayist, literary critic, and playwright.

He was born in America in September 1888. He is a celebrated literary artist who is also regarded as one of the major modernist poets of the 20th century.

He played an integral part in the advent of Modernist poetry in the English language. His poem 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' published in 1915, is considered to be a masterpiece of modernist literary art.

Some TS Eliot best poems include 'The Waste Land,' 'Ash Wednesday,' 'The Hollow Men,' and 'Four Quartets'.

He had additionally written seven other plays, with his works 'Murder in the Cathedral' and 'The Cocktail Party' being the most popularly known ones. He received the respected Nobel Prize in Literature in the year 1948, "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry."

His straightforward realist and modernist take on life had influenced many other contemporary and future writers. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1965. Here is a fascinating list of some of his famous quotes about life and from his literary works as well.

If you like our content, you can check out other articles like Virgil quotes and Tennessee Williams quotes.

TS Eliot Famous Quotes

Old books on a wooden shelf.

Eliot's ideologies and writings secured him the position as one of the major poets 20th century. He became an integral and central figure in English literature, especially in the genre of Modernist poetry.

Many writers, poets, and readers have drawn inspiration from his quotes and sayings, thereby attaining worldwide fame. Here is a classic list of some of the most famous TS Eliot quotes that any budding writer or poet will simply love.

1. "Humour is also a way of saying something serious."

–Note on James Thurber, 1951.

2. "Think not forever of yourselves, O Chiefs, nor of your own generation. Think of continuing generations of our families, think of our grandchildren and of those yet unborn, whose faces are coming from beneath the ground."

–T. S. Eliot

3. "And every moment is anew and shocking"

–'Four Quartets', 'East Coker', 1940.

4. "Only by acceptance of the past, can you alter it."

–'The Cocktail Party', 1949.

5. "Half of the harm that is done in this world

Is due to people who want to feel important."

– 'The Cocktail Party', 1949.

6. "In life, there is no time to grieve long."

–T.S. Eliot.

7. "Friendship should be more than biting Time can sever."

–Murder in the Cathedral, 1935.

8. "Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning, every poem an epitaph."

–'Four Quartets', 'Little Gidding', 1942.

9. "When a great poet has lived, certain things have been done once for all, and cannot be achieved again."

–T.S. Eliot.

10. "Our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves."

– 'The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism', 1932-33.

11. "We die to each other daily."

– 'The Cocktail Party', 1949.

12. "I want to be cured / Of a craving for something I cannot find / And of the shame of never finding it."

- 'The Cocktail Party', 1949.

13. "For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice."

–'Little Gidding', 1942.

14. "Time past and time future what might have been and what has been point to one end, which is always present."

–'Four Quartets', 'Burnt Norton', 1935.

15. "All time is unredeemable."

–'Four Quartets', 'Burnt Norton', 1935.

16. "In the life of one man, never the same time returns."

–'Murder in the Cathedral', 1935.

17. "If we really want to pray we must first learn to listen, for in the silence of the heart God speaks."

–T.S. Eliot.

18. "If one can really penetrate the life of another age, one is penetrating the life of one's own."

–'Introduction to The Selected Poems of Ezra Pound', 1928.

19. "They constantly try to escape

From the darkness outside and within

By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good."

–'The Rock,' 1934.

20. "I don't believe one grows older. I think that what happens early on in life is that at a certain age one stands still and stagnates."

–T.S. Eliot.

21. "Humankind cannot bear very much reality."

–'Four Quartets', 'Burnt Norton', 1935.

22. "So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing."

–'Four Quartets', 'East Coker', 1940.

23. "Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"

–'The Rock' 1934.

24. "Where there is no temple there shall be no homes."

– 'The Rock' 1934.

25. "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."

- 'Little Gidding', 1942.

26. "The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason."

–'Murder in the Cathedral', 1935.

27. "[Television] is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome."

- New York Post Magazine Interview, 22 September 1963.

28. "It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it than we can explain light to the blind."

- 'Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley', 1916.

Quotes About Poetry, Writing And Creativity By TS Eliot

TS Eliot was the master of creative freedom and poetry. He became one of the most iconic writers of free verse after Walt Whitman, and his poems and quotes have been very impactful in the writings of the contemporary as well as the future pots. Here are some of his best quotes about creativity and poetry writing.

29. "We learn what poetry is – if we ever learn – by reading it."

– 'The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism', 1932-33.

30. "It seems just possible that a poem might happen to a very young man: but a poem is not poetry –That is a life."

– 'A Note on War Poetry', 1942.

31. "If you haven't the strength to impose your own terms upon life, then you must accept the terms it offers you."

–'The Confidential Clerk', 1953.

32. "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 emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things."

–'Tradition And The Individual Talent', 1919.

33. "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different."

– 'Philip Massinger', Times Literary Supplement, 27 May 1919

34. "There is no method except to be very intelligent."

- 'The Perfect Critic', 1920.

35. "When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for its work, it is constantly amalgamating disparate experiences."

–'The Metaphysical Poets', 1921.

36. "Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate."

–'The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism', 1932-33.

37. "Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood."

–'What Dante Means To Me, To Criticize the Critic', London, 1965.

38. "The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all."

–'Tradition And The Individual Talent', 1919.

39. "Poetry is not an assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more fully real to us."

–Written in 1930.

40. "Poetry should help, not only to refine the language of the time, but to prevent it from changing too rapidly."

–'Milton II', 1947.

41. "Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves."

–'The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism', 1932-33.

42. "The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality."

–'Tradition And The Individual Talent', 1919.

43. "There is no such thing as a Lost Cause because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause."

– 'Frances Herbert Bradley', 1927 essay.

44. "Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers."

– 'A Personal Memoir,' T. S. Eliot: The Man and his Work, ed. Allen Tate, 1967.

Quotes About Love By TS Eliot

TS Eliot's perception of love is revolutionary in its very own realist and crude way that just makes sense. Here are some of the most influential and relevant TS Eliot quotes about love.

45. "You are the music while the music lasts."

–'Four Quartets', 'The Dry Salvages', 1941.

46. "It's strange that words are so inadequate. Yet, like the asthmatic struggling for breath, so the lover must struggle for words."

–'The Elder Statesman', 1959.

47. "Love is most nearly itself when here and now cease to matter."

–'Four Quartets', 'East Coker', 1940.

48. "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."

–'Four Quartets', 'East Coker', 1940.

49. "There's no vocabulary for love within a family, love that's lived in But not looked at, love within the light of which All else is seen, the love within which All other love finds speech. This love is silent."

–'The Elder Statesman', 1959.

50. "We know too much, and are convinced of too little. Our literature is a substitute for religion, and so is our religion."

– 'A Dialogue on Dramatic Poetry', 1928.

51. "Not less of love, but expanding of love beyond desire, and so liberation From the Future as well as the past."

– 'Little Gidding', 1942.

52. "To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man 's life."

–'The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism', 1932-33

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

– 'Burnt Norton' (1935).

54. "Not less of love, but expanding Of love beyond desire, and so liberation From the Future as well as the past."

–'Little Gidding', 1942.

55. "Love compels cruelty To those who do not understand love."

-'The Family Reunion', 1939.

56. "To men of a certain type The suspicion that they are incapable of loving Is as disturbing to their self-esteem As, in cruder men, the fear of impotence."

–'The Cocktail Party', 1949.

57. "I am glad you have a Cat, but I do not believe it is So remarkable a cat as My Cat."

- The Letters of T. S. Eliot Volume 5: 1930-1931.

TS Eliot Quotes About Success And Life

TS Eliot is considered one of the most celebrated poets in the world. His writings make sense in our lives. Here are some of the best life quotes about success by TS Eliot, including 'there is only the trying' quote, that will hold a lot of relevance in your life.

58. "We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!"

- 'The Hollow Men,' 1925.

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

- 'Preface to Transit of Venus,' a 1931 book of poems by Harry Crosby.

60. "We read many books, because we cannot know enough people."

- 'Notes towards the Definition of Culture', 1948 (treatise).

61. "If you haven't the strength to impose your own terms upon life, then you must accept the terms it offers you."

–'The Confidential Clerk', 1953.

62. "When a Cat adopts you ... there is nothing to be done about it except to put up with it and wait until the wind changes."

–Letter to Polly Tandy, 9 December 1937.

63. "The Nobel is a ticket to one's own funeral. No one has ever done anything after he got it."

–1948 remark to poet John Berryman after Eliot won the prize.

64. "The only wisdom we can hope to acquire Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless."

–'Four Quartets', 'East Coker', 1940.

65. "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."

– Address by T. S. Eliot, 1906, to the Class of 1933, 17 June 1933

66. "The old should be explorers, be curious, risk transgression, and explore oldness itself."

-T.S. Eliot.

67. "To become what you are not, behave as you do not."

-T.S. Eliot.

68. "The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down."

- 'The Calloused Hand,' Time, 23 October 1950.

69. "It is not enough to understand what we ought to be, unless we know what we are; and we do not understand what we are, unless we know what we ought to be."

-T.S. Eliot.

70. "If you do not push the boundaries, you will never know where they are."

-T.S. Eliot.

71. "Our difficulties of the moment must always be dealt with somehow, but our permanent difficulties are difficulties of every moment."

–'The Idea of a Christian Society', 1939 (treatise).

72. "I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope, For hope would be hope for the wrong thing."

–'Four Quartets', 'East Coker', 1940.

73. "My greatest trouble is getting the curtain up and down."

–'Mr. Eliot,' Time 6 March 1950

74. "It's not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them."

–'The Art of Poetry', 1959 (interview with Donald Hall).

75. "Success is relative:

It is what we can make of the mess we have made of things."

- 'The Family Reunion', 1939.

76. "War is not a life: it is a situation, One which may neither be ignored nor accepted."

- 'A Note on War Poetry',942.

77. "This is one moment,

But know that another

Shall pierce you with a sudden painful joy

When the figure of God's purpose is made complete."

– 'Murder in the Cathedral,' 1935.

78. "Home is where one starts from."

–'Four Quartets', 'East Coker', 1940.

79. "Distracted from distraction by distraction"

–'Burnt Norton' (1935).

80. "For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."

–'Four Quartets', 'East Coker', 1940.

TS Eliot Death Quotes

TS Eliot had an interesting take on the concept of death. Here are some of his celebrated quotes about death.

81. "The communication of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living."

–'Little Gidding', 1942.

82. "I had seen birth and death but had thought they were different."

– 'Journey of the Magi', 1927.

83. "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."

–'Little Gidding', 1942

84. "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.

85. "Birth, and copulation, and death; that's all the facts when you come to brass tacks."

–'Fragment of the Agon,' Sweeney Agonistes

86. "It takes so many years to learn that one is dead."

–'The Family Reunion', 1939.

87. "It is worth while dying, to find out what life is."

–'The Elder Statesman', 1959.

88. "My life is light, waiting for the death wind, Like a feather on the back of my hand."

–'A Song for Simeon', 1928.

89. "Webster was much possessed by death And saw the skull beneath the skin."

–'Whispers of Immortality', 1915-1918.

90. "Death has a hundred hands and walks by a thousand ways."

– 'Murder in the Cathedral', 1935.

91. "There is no end of it, the voiceless wailing"

- 'The Dry Salvages', 1941.

92. "In my beginning is my end."

–'Four Quartets', 'East Coker', 1940.

93. "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper."

-'The Hollow Men', 1925.

TS Eliot 'The Wasteland' Quotes

'The Wasteland' by TS Eliot is a revolutionary poem that has massively impacted modern writers. It is one of the most celebrated poems of the 20th century in the field of modernist poetry. Here are some of the most impactful quotes from the poem.

94. "April is the cruelest month, breeding

lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

memory and desire, stirring

dull roots with spring rain."

-'The Wasteland', 1922.

95. "My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.

'Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.

'What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

'I never know what you are thinking. Think."

-'The Wasteland', 1922.

96. "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."

-'The Wasteland', 1922.

97. "He who was living is now dead

We who were living are now dying

With a little patience."

-'The Wasteland', 1922.

98. "For you know only a heap of broken images"

-'The Wasteland', 1922.

99. "Unreal City,

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many."

-'The Wasteland', 1922.

100. "Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not

Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither

Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,"

-'The Wasteland', 1922.

'The Lovesong Of J. Alfred Prufrock' And 'Four Quartets' Quotes

'Prufrock' (1915) and the 'Four Quartets' (1943) are the other two important works of Eliot. 'Prufrock' is one of the mystical love poems by TS Eliot. Here are 'The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock' quotes, and TS Eliot' Four Quartets' quotes, for your TS Eliot quote exploration. These are a few quotes from TS Eliot most famous poems.

101. "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."

-The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.

102. "Do I dare

Disturb the universe?"

-The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.

103. "I grow old … I grow old …

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled."

- The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.

104. "And I have known the arms already, known them all—

Arms that are braceleted and white and bare"

- The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.

105. "In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo."

- The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.

106. "After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,

Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me."

- The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.

107. "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons."

- The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.

108. "And time yet for a hundred indecision,

And for a hundred visions and revisions."

- The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.

109. "There are three conditions which often look alike

Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:

Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment

From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference..."

-  'Four Quartets', 'Little Gidding', 1942.

110. "What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present."

- 'Four Quartets', 'Burnt Norton', 1935.

111. "For our own past is covered by the currents of action,

But the torment of others remains an experience

Unqualified, unworn by subsequent attrition.

People change, and smile: but the agony abides."

- 'Four Quartets', 'The Dry Salvages', 1941.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly quotes for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for T.S. Eliot quotes, then why not take a look at Keats quotes, or William Wordsworth quotes?

Main Image Editorial credit: Roberto Lusso / Shutterstock.com

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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