Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965) was one of the most influential modern
poets, dramatist, and literary critic, who was awarded the Noble Prize for
Literature in 1948. Though he is better known for his poem "The
Waste Land," Eliot himself considered Four
Quartets his masterpiece. Besides the influence of Dante, Shakespeare, The Bible, and other Christian mystics on his thinking, Eliot was also greatly influenced by Indian philosophy
and mysticism, especially by The
Bhagavad-Gita, which is universally
acknowledged as one of the finest literary and spiritual masterpieces of the world.
His admiration for The Bhagavad-Gita is evident from his statement, the
"next greatest philosophical poem to the Divine
Comedy within my experience."
Four Quartets is easily the most perfect piece of poetry written by Eliot,
which presents the best of Eliot in both form and thought. It is a collection of
four poems"Burnt Norton" (1936), "East Coker" (1940), "The Dry Salvages"
(1941), and "Little Gidding" (1942)that represent the separate elements of
thought, time, eternity, action, inaction, attachment, and detachment, for a
philosophical solution to the immediate problems of both emotion and intellect.
A Hindu thought, as expressed in The
Bhagavad-Gita, becomes the central theme of the poem, revealing Eliot's need for finding solace through
Vedic metaphysics. George Williamson informs that the basic idea contained in
the Four Quartets is seen "analogous in both Christian and Hindu thought, in
St. John of the Cross, or The Bhagavad-Gita" (Williamson, 1970). In fact,Four Quartets closely follows The
Bhagavad-Gita in both its form and content.