This line comes from the last of Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” and it is a sometimes terrifying poem, full of fiery images like this striking one:

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

But he sees the flames as purifying, as a place to begin again. And perhaps this year more than many others, we can hope that the purifying fire is behind us, and we can come together in a new year, awaiting a new voice.

Most popular articles from Nieman Foundation

Show comments / Leave a comment