Image from the NY Times Obituary for T.S Eliot, 1965.
T.S Eliot was on the edge of the Modernist movement that began in literature as a response to the austere and professorial Victorians (like Tenneyson for example, or “Cannon to the right of them/ cannon to the left of them/ volley and thunder…”). Though born in St Louis Missouri and educated in his formative years on the US’s East Coast, Eliot self identified as an English Poet, though he did feel heavily influenced by America, and later would become a British subject.
He was noted primarily for his distinct use of imagery and symbols in his poetry and, at times, tying them to a nearly musical quality to his words. By tying these qualities of symbols to minimalistic emotions, Eliot’s use of poetry was to express things in a Romantic sense as well, conjoining style and substantive effort in his works. Eliot is best remembered for The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, and Gerontion. The Waste Land especially when viewed alongside James Joyce’s novel Ulysses and W.B. Yeats’ The Second Coming harkened in the cold, dark world of the post-war Europe, struggling in the face of severe societal change, political upheaval, and a very real sense of loss.
Of all, we may remember him the most from the end of the Hollow Men in which the lines are written:
“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”
Eliot’s influence is diverse and like his poetry oddly minimally attributed to individuals like Ted Hughes. Though his depressive and dark imagery is now nearly obligatory in its attribution to the postmodernist movements, Eliot began these images with his early works (which are by far his best).