The last line of “What the Thunder Said,” the last section of The Waste Land, consists of a single Sanskrit word repeated like a chant. Eliot once noted that this word, a word found at the end of the Upanishad, equates to the Biblical line “The peace which passeth understanding.” In the final stanza, which ends with this line, the speaker is the Fisher King, a figure from the Grail legends. The Fisher King is dying. The land remains arid, even though the rains have returned. The Fisher King chants “shantih” as he resigns himself to his own death.
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
“Burnt Norton,” the first of the Four Quartets, exists as a meditation on time. Here the poet describes a moment of consciousness or enlightenment, in which he dwells simultaneously in the past and the future, at rest and moving. He sees time and motion as a series of still points. He remains aware that at every still point he exists as part of a pattern far larger than himself. Eliot uses repetition and contrast to create the effect of tranquility, the feeling of being at peace and in tune with the cosmos.
Quick, now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
In the last line of “Little Gidding,” the final section of Four Quartets, the poet merges time with eternity to express a sense of well-being. The fire and the rose have ancient symbolic meanings. Fire stands for wrath, destruction, and purification. The rose represents English history, innocence, and divine love and mercy. Both the fire and the rose symbolize passion. Eliot’s final image suggests the coming of both inner peace and the kingdom of God.