This is a good literary exegesis of a work which someone declared was possibly the greatest mystical work to emerge in the West for the last five hundred years. And there's the rub, alas : for anyone who has not undertaken - and experienced - the spiritual journey that is St. John of the Cross's Dark Nights of the Sense and of the Soul - and the author manifestly has not - the Four Quartets will remain either a closed book, or worse, one open to mere literary misinterpretation. The passage which supplies the title to the work is a particular case in point : it is a description not of a diving stuka bomber, but of a raging, inward purgatorial fire, accompanied by inexpressible, white-hot terror, that is a part of the via negativa itself. This being so, the book - as do all other works on the Four Quartets - remains a pale shadow of that which is given by Constance de Masirevich's wonderful `On the Four Quartets'. As in so much else, there is simply no substitute for experience, I'm afraid.
It starts with a foreward by a man who does not like T S Eliot, nor Eliot's friends, nor the time in which Eliot's poetry was shaped. He is also unconvincing in his support for the author Thomas Howard! Howard tries to fit the poem into a secret code of catholicism, or at least Augustinian metaphysics. This blinds him to the spiritual insights Eliot brings from Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. He is like a man who has decided a balloon is square and then forces it into a box to prove it. Howard has warmth in his writing and a genuine love of Eliot's poetry. I would love to have a pint with him so long as he left his rosary beads at home. I will be following up the suggestion of Mr Phelps and looking into Constance de Masirevich's work. My favourite so far is Roger Housden.
I am so glad that this man was never my teacher!! What a dry, pompous, arrogant attempt to interpret Eliot's Four Quartets. Nothing I have ever read on Eliot has shown such a lack of meaningful insight. Mr Howard is so in love with his own voice that any genuine analysis takes second place :.." forsooth"; "fie! fie! " ; "Pray Tell." ; "..questions that have bedeviled us mortals for eons"; " he is not holding up an ignis fatuus for us "..etc. I would like my money back..as I do not intend to read any more of this pretentious nonsense elucidating little.