Little Gidding

This belongs to Mariel.

I am an English teacher and all of my tattoos are literary.

[This is] a photo of my back tattoo. It is from “Little Gidding” which is the last segment of T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets.” This quotation actually is from the very last portion of “Little Gidding,” of which I chose to tattoo the first four and last five lines together (I didn’t have the guts at the time to go whole hog and tattoo the entire section. I wish I had.).

I got this tattoo because my husband is in the Air Force, which requires that I move far, and often, from my home in Hawaii. What speaks to me in this text is the idea that we will all go on journeys in life, but the answers we seek will often be found at our place of origin, whether that is a physical location or not. We never know what we will find when we go back home, but we will see it with new eyes and a new understanding. The last five lines of the poem, the ones with which Eliot concludes the “Four Quartets” are also important because they speak to the ultimate fact (to use the cliche) that everything will be okay in the end, no matter what happens. These lines, which were inspired by writings of the mystic Julian of Norwich, have been crucial in helping me cope with difficulty.

Literary Tattoos: T.S. Eliot Little Gidding Four Quartets

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
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 flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

Do I dare disturb the universe?

Literary Tattoos: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock T.S. Eliot Illustrations

This was submitted by Maddie.

It’s from T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. When I first read it, this is the quote that stuck with me. Then one of my English teachers told me to go knock the universe off its axis and send it reeling. The combination of both of those ideas made me think that maybe I really could do something powerful. It made me think that I could possibly change the world and have an impact. I got it as a reminder to always be insane and creative and impulsive. The teapot is Russell’s teapot and is a testament to my Atheism. The teapot essentially disproves the idea of God because Russell said (paraphrased) that the it was just as likely that there was a teapot floating in space as it was that God existed. I’m also just really fascinated with the idea of the universe and space.

This is the graphic the tattoo is based on:

Literary Tattoos: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock T.S. Eliot Illustrations

Little Gidding

Literary Tattoos: T.S. Eliot Four Quartets

This belongs to Hayden.

The quotation is from the final movement of “Little GiddingLiterary Tattoos: T.S. Eliot Four Quartets ” by T.S. Eliot. “A Condition of Complete Simplicity Costing Not Less Than Everything.”

I have been thinking of this tattoo for two years or so. The previous three years have been the most difficult of my entire life; I have experienced an overturning of many of my most-secure beliefs. I have experienced tremendous grief, and yet in the midst of it I have acquired something very rare: self-knowledge. Things are still hard; I am not through it yet. It is for this reason that I selected this passage. At this point in my life, I am confident that the condition of complete simplicity, that arduous path to self-knowledge and wholeness of soul, costs everything. What I am not yet sure of, what I am still trying to believe, is that “all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Someday, perhaps, I will be able to add those words to those inscribed in my soul and now my body.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things 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.

-Little Gidding V, Four QuartetsLiterary Tattoos: T.S. Eliot Four Quartets , T.S. Eliot (1943)

all shall be well

Literary Tattoos: T.S. Eliot Four Quartets

This is Haley’s tattoo.

I recently got this tattoo that is meaningful to me on multiple levels. I’ve always loved T.S. Eliot and have wanted a tattoo with a line from his Four Quartets for a long time. This particular line is from my favorite part of the poem, which reads:

“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”.

Additionally, I have panic attacks and this serves as a reminder that the moment will pass and everything will again be well.

Coffee Spoons

This is Meghan’s tattoo.

I fell in love with this line the first time I read Prufrock. I can honestly say it changed how I think about life.

Literary Tattoos: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock T.S. Eliot

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

- T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Peach

This is Kristina’s tattoo:

Here is my peach. I’ve wanted it since I first read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in high school. There are so many lines in that poem that have spoken to my life, but this is what I chose. I will always eat the peach.

It was done by Josh at FATink Tattoo in Tampa, Florida.

Literary Tattoos: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock T.S. Eliot

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

- T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Love Song

Literary Tattoos: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock T.S. Eliot

This is Pilar Pedrosa Pilar‘s tattoo.

I’m having “which a minute will reverse” done on my left arm to complement this line. I like having J. Alfred all over my body.

Literary Tattoos: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock T.S. Eliot

This is Chelsea’s.

Literary Tattoos: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock T.S. Eliot

This is Emily’s.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

- T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock