Time Present and Time Past

Up early this morning to set off for the airport. No time for a proper post until I get to Copenhagen so I thought I’d just put this up, as it popped into my mind after I’d written yesterday’s item. I’m a bit reluctant to post a bit of a poem, rather than a whole one, but here goes.  This is the opening passage from Burnt Norton, the first of the Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot. If you haven’t read the whole thing, you should.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.

4 Responses to “Time Present and Time Past”

  1. I tried to use this as an epigraph for my book, but apparently it’s hard to get the rights for even small bits of poetry.

  2. telescoper Says:

    Shhh! Don’t tell anyone I posted it here.

    I’ve always asked permission when I’ve posted contemporary poems – more often than not it’s refused, usually by publishers rather than poets – but I’ve always thought Eliot would be out of copyright….

  3. Anton Garrett Says:


  4. stringph Says:

    Alas, Eliot’s not thoroughly enough decomposed by far not to be a profitable source of revenue. And as for Joyce …

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