The complete poems and plays, 1909-1950

by T. S. Eliot

Hardcover, 1952




New York : Harcourt, Brace, [1952]


This collection contains the following: Collected Poems 1909-62 Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats Poems Written in Early Youth Murder in the Cathedral The Family Reunion The Cocktail Party The Confidential Clerk The Elder Statesman

Media reviews

Early in her novel Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor describes protagonist Hazel Motes, leader of the Church without Christ, by the silhouette he casts on the sidewalk. “Haze’s shadow,” she writes, “was now behind him and now before him.” It’s a strange way to situate a character — skulking between his shadows — but it’s not unprecedented. In The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot’s narrator refers to “Your shadow at morning striding behind you/Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you.” Coincidence? Nobody can say for certain. But in the rare case of a critic linking O’Connor and Eliot, Sally Fitzgerald (O’Connor’s close friend) wrote that “it was Eliot and his Waste Land who provided for her the first impetus to write such a book as Wise Blood.”

User reviews

LibraryThing member elenchus
Best to read Eliot's poetry several times over a leisurely timeframe. Meaning arises only after the piece is somewhat familiar, the first few encounters establish mood & setting, and perhaps voice. Allow these elements to coalesce of themselves, initially enjoy the cadence and phrasing, maybe tease out his allusions.

Daniel Schwarz writes that Eliot sees verse as "the means of working out his most compelling personal dilemmas", but also "a way of putting it" for an audience. Even before reading this take (and it is but one opinion), Eliot's verse didn't seem pretentious so much as careful: he is writing for himself, worrying at something personally significant, important to put down properly. Unsurprising that so much of it isn't immediately apparent to me or anyone else.

The poems almost all employ quotation or an epigraph in Greek, Latin, French; several of his early poems are entirely in French. There are no translations, and in several cases no indication of the source being quoted. Yet many of his poems are a pleasure even when inscrutable: I'm immediately drawn to "Prufrock" or The Waste Land, for example, even though I'm hardpressed to discern even partial meaning from them on first or second reading, and some like "Gerontion" are stubbornly opaque and lack the shape or wordfeel to reward me on those merits alone.

As difficult as these poems are, they've entered the culture and literature, music, other poetry. I recognise lines first encountered elsewhere, and that is a primary aspect of my appreciation. Eldritch is detectable in several places, lifting lines & phrases, and I wonder now if his approach (personal meanings nested in songs meant for a listening public, crafting new pieces built around allusions) is modeled deliberately after Eliot.

This edition has no commentary save Eliot's notes to The Waste Land (at publisher request to add pages, later rued by Eliot). Worth reading commentary on specific poems and revisiting regularly.


2012 reading of verse, omitting the plays (which apparently are written as dramatic verse). Paired with the Wagner-Martin critical anthology. Look into Eliot's essays, perhaps starting with The Sacred Wood.
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LibraryThing member ryvre
A great collection of poetry. Eliot wrote in an amazing variety of styles, from the literary allusions in the Wasteland to the whimsy of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.
LibraryThing member jkepler
I haven't read all of it, but Eliot is one of my favorite poets. I especially enjoy his poems, "The Magi" and "Gerontion", and the play, "Murder in the Cathedral." I first discovered Eliot in an English class in high school.
LibraryThing member amandacb
One of my favorite books full of poems by my favorite poet. When I first got it about 12 years ago, I started to dog-ear each poem I liked. I stopped doing that about halfway through since I was dog-earring the whole book. I also like this book's footnotes.
LibraryThing member antiquary
I'm afraid for me Eliot's greatest works are Murder in the Cathedral and Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. The Wasteland leaves me cold; I respect Four Quartets
LibraryThing member wyclif
Superlative. It's easy to forget today that Eliot's poetry was innovative in both technique and subject matter when originally written. I can do no better than to quote "Tradition and the Individual Talent", an essay from the poet himself: "What happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art that preceded it." Such is the relationship of Eliot's poetry to the canon.… (more)
LibraryThing member jmcdbooks
Rated: B+
The New Lifetime Reading Plan: Number 116

I love T. S. Elliot. You have to understand British culture and London life of the 1900's to appreciate some of his works. But his words, his twist of a phrase are memorable.

I re-read this book almost 24 years after my first reading. Old the old favorites still rang true but I enjoy his plays more this time. His classic poems (Prufrock, The Wasteland, The Hollow Men) have great lines and imagery. I was drawn to "Choruses from 'The Rock'" now more than before.

Perhaps his most fun work, made famous by Andrew Lloyd Webber, are his collection of poems "Old Possum's Book fo Practical Cats" on which the musical "Cats" was based.
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LibraryThing member JuliaBoechat
Last part of the Hollow Men:

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
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LibraryThing member aulsmith
My edition of this book (Harcourt, Brace and World, 1952) has no notes, a most unfortunate omission.




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