(Translation from the Greek)

Commented edition and translation to our language of the poetic composition of T.S. ELIOT "Four Quartets" effected by the poetess Efi Athanassiou.

The essay of Efi Athanassiou, which is included in the same volume and consists a responsible evaluation of this poem of T.S. Eliot.

The analyses which have been made on the poem, are exhaustive and sometimes advance verse by verse.

Finally, the message which this poem of Eliot includes is pointed out and its further extensions are emphasized.


A great feat has the new literary woman Efi Athanassiou shouldered attempting a ″submergence in depth″ in the most important perhaps work of a great poet of our century:″ The Four Quartets" of T.S. Eliot, a work, which as she says too, has been misapprehended in his country from his speaking the same language students.

"The poem- she writes in her essay- has remained for many, a hermetic work, because the key, that was needed for an internal and based on the essence of the work interpretation was missing. This interpretation is attempted here, with the decision not one more intellectual work to be added, to those already existing on the subject, but with the greatest simplicity, that is litotes of means, to explain, if possible, every idea that is expressed in the Quartets and composes the, outmost importance, for humanity, message of the poet, which is beyond limitations of time and space".

In this sense, no aesthetic analysis is attempted, but the weight is posed on a, as much as possible, exact translation and interpretation of the work. 

The contemporary poetic prose, with its free verse, contributes to a similar translation of the work, without a special attention to the metre, in order to preserve the exactitude of the meaning. The approach to the poetry of Eliot and its deeper meaning, is effected by Efi Athanassiou, verse by verse, word to word. I don't know how many of those who have been occupied with the hard to solve problem which is called poetry of Eliot, agree with the conclusions of his Greek translator- partly or in general. What, I , however can say is that the translation and analysis is an outcome of great love, knowledge, critical sense, tireless study, hard work and trust to the great value of the "Four Quartets", which she considers the "culmination of the evolution in Western poetry and most important poem of all time"

iterary Critic
  (NEA, NEWSPAPER 31.3.79)  


Eliot is one of the greatest contemporary poets, theatre writers and essaysts of England. In 1948 he has been honored with the Nobel prize.

Panayiotis Kanellopoulos calls him "excellent poet of our century" (History of the European Spirit). And this excellence of his poetry renders him characteristically his "Four Quartets" which were published in 1943.With the title "The most important poem of all time" as a message to the twentieth century, the poem is now given in Greek translation by Efi Athanassiou, together with an  interpretative essay.

The "Four Quartets" are, as the translator mentions, in the brief introduction for Eliot, "a message of mystic experience, where the concurrence of form and essence, give a work of great power and beauty and have the sense of the historical past and of the influence of its intellectual experience to the present and is an evolutionary march to the Transcendence which is culminated in Union with the Absolute".



 The voluminous indeed labour of the writer, which should unreservedly be praised. Her work is utmostly conscious. The whole concept of the essay shows impetus, imagination, vitality, seriousness, flexibility and mainly profundity of syllogisms, intellectual vigour, transcendental method, tracing interpretation, maturity and experience. The way she works is accurate and convincing.

(Abstract from his recommendation for the Ourani Award of Academy of Athens) 


  Efi Athanassiou poetess and painter, lives in silence and pain. Elements of creator and researcher imperishable. Contemplative essayst in the "Four Quartets" of Eliot, which with memorable translating ability renders in a restructuring interpretation of the poet of the "Waste Land", shedding light to the labyrinthine alcoves of a work of the most important.

The "Four Quartets" emerge indeed like the most essential poem of Eliot through the transcendental approachings of a high spirit that dominates in the 20th century. A century of confusion of ideas, decay of values, conventional external life, stripped of ideals.

  Crossing the landscapes that Eliot leads us, through the luminescences and shadows of symbolistic semantics, Efi Athanassiou enters to the rationality of its allegory with decisive handlings, reaching in depth the essence of a bitter and hard march, within the pitiless space of the human hypostasis, contending she as well with the Exercise and the Knowledge the prize of a "glory", which striding its earthy vanity, endangers in the consciousness of the Void, an exit to the Absolute.

  She attains so a purity and through its blaze the liberty to pass from zero to the starting point, from where the new starting of the human being is not, perhaps, without hope and the soul fearful still, but redempted exits from her deaths through new resurrections. Even if;  

 "The future without future before dawn
when time stops and time never ends"  

A positive contribution the essay of Efi Athanassiou in terrains, where the necessary elucidating surveys for the understanding of a tragic testimony, of one of the coryphaeus of Western Poetry,

                    TASOS ANAGNOSTOU


  I read and read again your book the most important poem of all centuries T.S. Eliot "Four Quartets" and I write to you these few words to express my admiration.

  This book of yours is a product of love and toil; but above all, it is a glow of a high culture and great poetic sensitivity. I think that you have managed to penetrate to the depth of the soul of the great poet and bring to light the high symbols of his poetic inspirations.  Being evidently related to the constitution of the spirit of Eliot, you have managed to decode and make accessible to the reader the plexus of his ideas and the nuances of his sentiments.

  I think - without flattering you - that you have achieved a real feat.



  Before we comment the excellent translation and essay work of the poetess Efi Athanassiou , for the Four Quartets of Eliot, we shall express two basic aspects. First that the New Greek literature has been and continues to be a type of "beautiful mulatto". A mixture of age-old currents and of various European influences. What best has given us was born from periodical and sudden thrusts it has accepted ( but also seeked, perhaps unconsciously) looking admiredly at the great European models. Our literature cannot be understood as something outside of the general European education and culture in order to give much to the interior, it gets more from abroad.

  Those that have an historical surveyance of our literature from Solomos up to the present, should know when these stationlike thrusts have been marked which caused renewals and fertilized talents.

  Solomos and Kalvos cannot be understood without the great Italian, English and German poets of their time, without the idealism of the European liberalism, Palamas cannot be understood without Victor Hugo and Souly Prudom, the romanticism, the parnassism and symbolism, Sikelianos without Dannuncio and Whitman, Kavafis without Baudelaire and Symbolism(see the study of Papanoutsos), Karyotakis without the French "phantaisist", Seferis without Valery and Eliot, Elytis without the surrealism and Elyar. However, this dependence of our literature should not be regarded a slavery or fruitless imitation, we would say that it is a need, which with the contribution of the richest local elements, the didactic dependence from the foreign maturity, emancipates it to creative independence, giving it, in many cases, not only "intensively Greek" europality, but also something universal.

  On the other hand the inferiority of our language (a language spoken only by a few million people) as also the almost unexistance of a systematic literary education, have made indispensable the need of good translations and the writing of serious and enlightening essays about subjects and figures of the great foreign literature. The only thing is that these works should be effected and see the light in their time. If they appear before it they have no effect, no influence on the present, which is always of the first importance. They might, perhaps be later from the literary historians regarded as works precociously innovating. If they appear after their time, the most probable is that they will not be noticed, or they will be regarded as something self-understood. They will not surprise and as a sequence they will not bear fruits. Now, which is this "proper hour"? We would look for it, in that brief always but splendid period, that a great foreign writer (mainly poet) is discovered in Greece, as the Alpha and Omega of poetry. And influencing many and various idiosyncracies, incubates talents, forms personalities, creates schools and situations.

  We shall stand to one only example. Eliot. In 1925, Takis Papatsonis, always well informed to the foreign intellectual and poetic things, translates and publishes in the "kyklos" periodical the "Waste Land" of Eliot. This translation passes unobserved. But from the time that the "Waste Land" will reappear in our language, translated from Seferis, in 1937, Eliot seems to have acquired the Greek poetic nationality and will start to influence our poetry with an influence that still lasts .The translation of Seferis except its value and the fact that a wonderful introduction to the "difficult" poetry of Eliot was accompanying it, had come in its time. Because an atmosphere of "new poetry", a demand for "new poetry" had been formed by Seferis himself of the "Strofi", the "Sterna" and the "Mythistorima" and from surrealism with Empiricos, Elytis and Nikitas  Randos. Tendencies, achievements and poetic personalities different, aspiring, however, to the same ideal. Within one decade happened what we know as "new poetry". Since then have passed forty years.

  During this time, how many of the "new", have not been forgotten, how many have not been surpassed, how many of these we do not live as a lawful custom, often so boring! And how many of those that happened in our youth (we mean in the poetry area) we don't yearn that they would happen again! For instance I would yearn that Eliot would shock me, as when I red for the first time the hellenized "Waste Land". But is it possible that the same thing could be twice discovered? I do not speak only personally, I also consider that which we call "a whole" or an "epoch". And now, I conclude to the aspect that cases as that of Eliot (and that of Baudelaire before) function like renovating wonders, in their country and the foreign literatures, only for one epoch. However that does not exclude that some younger one, at any moment, could discover them. So Eliot after Seferis, had also other admirers and transplanters, in Greece. The poet G. Sarantis who translated "gerontion" and again the "Waste Land"(however without any impression from his translations), the poet A. Decavalle, who very young, twenty years before, transcribed the "Four Quartets" accompanying them with analyses and information, Merope Economou, who three years ago, I think, enriched the Greek "eliotism" with a volume of translations of his poems, enlightened with precious comments and information. Nevertheless no one of these works, that however each one has its objective value, can be regarded a station. They are normal sequential of two estuaries in one person : of the already permanent poetic status quo which eliotism constitutes in our poetry and the admiration that some one is natural to feel, at times, for a poet like Eliot, who may not surprise as when first appeared, however his poetry continues to last. And the living (and not that of a museum)duration of a poet is something deeper and more spiritual from the often, transient phantasmagoria of the surprise which causes a new poetic appearance.                  

  All of what we have said, is perhaps an excessive, but for us necessary exposition of explanatory points in order to justly weigh or even partly justify, the perhaps delayed work of Mrs Athanassiou about Eliot. Mrs Athanassiou will be right if she tells us(as she stresses emphatically in her book) that an other is the Eliot of the "Waste Land" and quite opposite the Eliot of the "Quartets", which moreover had been written after the "Waste Land". The first Eliot is the lost one within the decay of the Western civilization, the presenter and bitter commentator of a decay. The second is one who discovered the church of Christ and in its Apocalypse found the salvation, depicting in a way surprisingly original but hermetic his march towards the redeeming apocalypse. So we have two different poets? Certainly not, because the expressive power of Eliot though graduated and differentiated from his first to the last verses, the same poet and above all the same master shows.

  To us, at least, in a similar way Eliot appeals with his first poems and with the "Waste Land". We would, moreover, say that the "Quartets" kept us a little farther from Eliot (as they kept Seferis too, who as he confesses, has proclaimed them untranslatable, at least by him) up to the moment that the detailed convincing and around a limpid core structured analyses of Mrs Athanassiou, have cleared up them, verse by verse, image to image, symbol to symbol, their hermetism and their all kind successive secrets. A permanent orientation of this core is a deep spiritual mysticism, almost religious, which is intended towards one from inside "an innermost spiritual apocalypse of the Absolute", as Mrs Athanassiou continuously emphasizes it and of the Supreme Knowledge, which are not but other names of God.

  According to her God inspired thought, the" Four Quartets" syntheses wholly symbolic and allegorical, reshape the sensible experiences of Eliot, the absolutely individualized, which are connected, with his infantile age, so absorbing of the metaphysical English scenery, the mysterious, the "dreamy" mingled with elements of the hard dantic theologism and of the oriental mystic religions- they remodel them into evocative and insinuating symbols, well-knit with musical harmony between them to end to a faith to the Absolute Knowledge, that is the only one that alone can save us from the weathering pessimism, the mortuary atmosphere and the psychosomatic, corruption of the "Waste Land".

  One admires the relative studies and researches that Mrs Athanassiou has effected, her analytical skill that not a moment she departs from the texts of the "Quartets". She clears up with absolute conviction all the symbolic images and the partial and general messages of Eliot. And one wonders in parallel, this most keen passion, the faith of her to the Absolute and the Supreme Knowledge, which is not a definitely proved reality, a world tangible, but an innermost condition of divine apocalypse.

  That who has the power and that who has prepared himself to accept it, as Eliot, and perhaps more than Eliot, his Greek officiator and interpretress, should have by-passed or solved all the tormenting problems of the existence. And having taken roots fast, within Faith, to savour blissfully the experiences of the present and the past tangible world and see them perceptively as crystalline reflections of the Divine Reality. The slightest, in our epoch and elect minority of mystics and devout has this grace that finally Eliot acquired too. For this there is no doubt and even more as Mrs Athanassiou interpreted the "Quartets". Eliot like an other Dante, epic lyric and philosophical, putting parts together of the shattered world within the" Waste Land" of his modern world, passing from the Inferno flames and the expiations of the Purgatory, has arrived to this paradisiacal summit where he has been able to face his own Saint Triad "Rose-Beatrice-Virgin" and create the cameo of the deductive word of the "Quartets":

Quick now, here, always-
A condition of perfect simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All maner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in -folded
In to the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

  This Eliot has Mrs Athanassiou drawn out from the Quartets and stood him in front of us, unified and mystic, like a prophet that, in the form of one super civilized contemporary poet, escaped from the Bible and came to submit the message of salvation. We, believing that to accept, somebody, any one message, it is a matter clearly personal, we stand with devotedness and suspicion in front of this Supreme Knowledge and the Absolute, though the need to exist is pervading us. And moreover we adopt it when a poetry like that of Eliot transmits it to us: this so precious and rare "condition of perfect simplicity that does not cost less than everything".

  In this so difficult achievement of" perfect simplicity", is grounded the artistic construction of the poetry of Eliot. And to be sincere, this "difficult simplicity", that so much differs from the easy familiarity (Ritsos) and that in Greece only Seferis has poetically understood, is more interesting for us than the specific message of the "Quartets". Because only with this "difficult simplicity" can any message be transubstantiated and poetically transmitted- with the danger, of course, to be acceptable even the most permicious message, as for instance the messages of Kavafis and Karyotakis.

  There are certainly other ways of poetic transmissions. But this "perfect simplicity that costs as much as everything" our age, that is so distrustful to every sumptuousness, is seeking. This age of ours that while it builds skyscrapers and raises them provokingly towards the divine, at the same time is turning its back to them, searching with nostalgia the lands of the God, where "we were ascending to the tree to pass the summer". But then, we did not know about God. We where only sensing him diffused everywhere. Now, with the "Quartets" we can approach Him. This possibility  makes even easier the thorough and also passionate analysis of Mrs Athanassiou. And she is so absolute in her faith, so that as subtitle of her book does not hesitate to write with daring (some would characterize critical naivety) the exaggeration that the "Four Quartets" is the most important poem of all time as a message to the twentieth century". Mrs Athanassiou should not forget that centuries before had been raised in the West the enormous and unrivalled cathedral of the "Divine comedy". However, this exaggeration -if it is really, an exaggeration- and if, as a message, it is not possible to influence, but slightly not the inexisting for the spirit masses, but the people and mainly, the younger, of the thinking men, reveals fervent mystic nature of Mrs Athanassiou. The initiated being, who regards as her mission the initiation of others through poetry, but who primarily admires it in Thomas Eliot.

  For the translation of the "Quartets" we do not think that we have a better in our language. There that Seferis declared inability, Mrs Athanassiou dared. Not being able to communicate with the original, we are confined to judge it as a Greek text. We find it faultless, clear, eloquent, comprehensible, limpid, warm, and harmonic. A poetic text that is transmitted. When the remarkable poet Antony Decavalle translated the "Quartets" was still very young. And we suspect that if Seferis declared his inability to translate the Quartets he did not do it as he believed, because he did not find our language capable, for an adequate transfer to our own, but because their mystical content kept him away and the dark density of the symbols, that their natural ambiguity we know how much makes difficult the finding, of corresponding and in particular exact expressions and words in other language. But Mrs Athanassiou, that with so much stability has made the course of the "Quartets" from the form to the content and from the content(after its spiritual conquest)to the cloudless now form, seems to have surmounted all the relative difficulties.

  As far as the "Quartets" are concerned, beyond their central message which the essay of Mrs Athtnassiou clarifies, have so much poetry, that even if we dettachly read them (as it usually happens with the long verse poems, new vistas of nature, of life, of time of memory and especially of the poetic art are open which so much occupied Eliot and his verses in his admirable essays.

Here then the (if we say) delayed appearance of this work for Eliot , is redeemed by the insurmountable, as also by a more recent expressive, "poetic" of it. 

    Literature Critic



  The most complete work has been given to us by the poetess Efi Athanassiou , who achieved to analyse verse by verse the "Quartets" in order to reach their central meaning and their final teaching, which is a "teaching quintessence" .

  Literature Critic



  The essay of Efi Athanassiou, on the "Four Quartets" of T.S. Eliot ,brings something new in the area of essay in the Greek letters, a weight of essence and truth, that has entirely ignored the philological concept. It is an original work of exceptional importance, not only for the Greek but also for the English letters.

  It has its sources in the deepest understanding of this most important work of the poet and it is mostly a communication.

  With daring overturns almost the greatest part of the existing criticism and bibliography on the work revealing, with substantial philosophical probing the real meaning of this poetical work and as a sequence of the whole of the remaining work of the poet, because the" Four Quartets" is the quintessence of his offer to  literature and also his important message.

  With deepest, perhaps unique, for this work, capability of intrusion, daring, sincerity and simplicity it interprets its most polyhedric meanings and symbols and as with some key opens this poetry which had been regarded strange and hermetic, because the revealing of its meaning had not been achieved.

  The essay constitutes of four parts: Excellent translation, introductory interpretation of the work, main body of the translation and clarifying of the attitude, the influences and the direction of the poet, epilogue.

  The introductory interpretation with unshakable comparative and analytical documentation proves the origin, the importance and the meaning of the work and places it in the whole of the poets work, clarifying the relationship of evolution and poetic weight with his previous works.

  The skilful translation renders the measure of the understanding of the translator, as also its range and its calibre for conveying, this of so great demands, poetry in the Greek language and it has retained, so remarkably for a translation, the poetry and atmosphere of the work, while it has, in parallel retained the maximum exactitude.

  If should be, characteristically, mentioned, that Seferis realizing the unsurmounted, for him, difficulties of transferring, this poetry, to our language, declares, in the comments of the translation of the "Waste Land", that the Greek language is not adequately ripe for this transfer. Perhaps only this is enough to give the measure of the achievement of the essay of Efi Athanassiou.

  The third part, the meaning, which is entirely new and original, shows the entire intrusion of the writer to the meaning and experience of the poet and restores the work from the innumerable misunderstandings that have happened to it, within its exceptionally extended bibliography.

  It combines exactitude and going deeper that clarifies what seems dark even to the properly equipped reader.

  The fourth part summarizes the importance of the work, the attitude, the position and the influences of the poet and gives a lively image of its importance within the contemporary age and the present evolutionary phase of humanity. The essay is written with a unique, for the kind and the Greek letters, simplicity which shows clearly the disposition to escape from every form of philology, remaining in the essence, to reveal and highlight with the simplest means the importance and the meaning of the work of the poet.

  In this work it is even evident an ability of philosophical correlation which elucidates basic, for the understanding of the work of the poet, relations of philosophy and religion and the meaning of symbols and archetypes.

In this essay there is also an ability of deep intrusion to the human condition, a research which has settled down , a maturity that tends to wisdom, which are indispensable elements in order to give all the realistic optimism and finally all the wisdom which is included in the last and most important work of the poet. 

   Professor of the University of Athens

(Proposal during the judgement of the book for the award of Ourani Institution of Athens  Academy)

  I thank you very much for the" Four Quartets" you were so kind to send me. I don't know English, so that looking at the poem, by itself, like a language to communicate to me the shiver and its deeper meaning. Because except many others, I believe that the poetic language is, by itself a bearer of ancestral and diachronic messages, if of course the other languages function like the Greek. The language is similar with the genetic code: except of the temporal, the past and the ancestral, includes the tomorrow and the posterity and who knows what else enscribed.

  On this side, your exhaustive, enthusiastic, oracular interpretative essay has initiated me to this masterly poem. It revealed to me some of its deepest cores, as the meaning of time(it brought me again very close to our prosocratic Skithinos) and to the universal "moving-still", which was first formed by the Heracletian and Parmenidian word, and which was integrated, as an allegory from the genius of Zinon.

  I have also marked your optic corner of the mystic meditation (what a pity than we are obliged to use finite terms), of the allegory, the symbol, the transcendence, the meditation, the meaning of time etc.

 To congratulate you is not enough. I prefer to thank you. 



  I have completed the reading of your book on the "Four Quartets" of Eliot- if I can call it reading, because what your book needs it is the sinking in the many and deep meanings it contains, which create your exemplary comments- and i write you to express my sincere appreciation of this work of yours, with the multiple form and meaning.

  First of all your translation- a Seferis justly confessed his fears to attempt something analogous- is an achievement. Its greatest merit is that it can stand by itself as if it was an original text and not a translation. The language is robust as it literally renders, with the free verse of the poetic prose the difficult nuances of the original, attractively clear and balanced.

The labyrinthine thought of the poet, with the mystical meanings which are hidden at the back of successive symbols and associations comes to reveal with clarity and in a way not in the least tiresome your comment, which is based on a breath of knowledge, philosophical above all, but others too, with philological power that methodically intrudes to his thought, that the poet himself never wanted to explain, leaving the others to be all at sea, in the flood of the meanings of the transcendental way he selected and believed.

 Your interpretative intervention, decisively useful and responsibly grounded constitutes a contribution to our letters and an element of reference to the understanding of the work of this great poet.

With thanks. 


 Having a great experience in the area of the book, as translator, poetess and essaysts, the writer Efi Athanassiou attempts to approach, through the poetic word, a new way of writing the spiral writing.

 As she mentions in the introductory note which precedes the poem, the reasons which led her to this experimentation are two: The first is the aspiration to bring the reader in a more direct contact with the text, obliging him to participate more actively, since the reading of the objectively peculiar way that is written, requires more concentration, that is more effort and sentimental contact with the poem. The second reason is to symbolize in the most direct way, the march of all the living beings, from the still centre-symbol of the world and of the eternity, in their evolution towards energy fields that is life in its infinite essence.

 The "Cyclic poem" which recently circulated from the editions Pyrinos Cosmos, written wholly in the aforementioned spiral writing, reflects, therefore, the effort of Efi Athanassiou to indulge and analyse the mystery of the Universal function through the recycling.

"Third eye" periodical, no 46



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