Little Gidding

Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart’s heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year.
T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

Well it wasn’t midwinter, but it may as well have been. Some violent north winds (remnant of Hurricane Barney, I believe) brought relative cold and absolute sun, and winter arrived. There is nothing to make you feel less sempiternal than a wind from the north, although November does seem to go on forever, once you are fairly in it.


T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (published individually 1941-42), of which Little Gidding is the last, are locally specific. The Dry Salvages, for example, is a group of rocks (les trois sauvages) off Cape Ann on the New England coast, where Eliot used to go sailing as a boy (I was on Cape Ann just a few miles from the dry salvages in October); East Coker is in Somerset, in the South West of England; Burnt Norton, the first of the set, is a manor (Norton Manor), located in Gloucestershire, which burnt down in 1741; and Little Gidding is a village just up the road from Cambridge, just beyond Huntingdon.

This weekend would have been an ideal one to visit it, except that there wasn’t enough windless cold. Perhaps at midwinter…


St. John’s Church, Little Gidding