Study Guide

Four Quartets The Dry Salvages, Section 4

By Eliot, T.S.

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The Dry Salvages, Section 4

Lines 561-565

Lady, whose shrine stands on the promontory,
Pray for all those who are in ships, those
Whose business has to do with fish, and
Those concerned with every lawful traffic
And those who conduct them.

  • In Section 4 of "The Dry Salvages," the speaker invokes a prayer for some "Lady," whom we might be able to assume is the Virgin Mary. He asks this woman, "whose shrine stands on the promontory" (like a cliff or outcropping) to pray "for all those who are in ships." This could be a literal request to pray for fishermen, but in all likelihood, the speaker's asking this Lady to pray for all of us who are fishermen sailing on the vast sea of life. Again, you just have to keep the context of this passage in mind. 
  • The speaker asks this woman to pray for us because our "business has to do with fish." Fishing is also a powerful symbol of Christianity (since Jesus was referred to as a "fisher of men," insofar as the guy went around trying to bring people into Christianity like a fisherman catches fish). 
  • The speaker especially wants the Lady to pray for people who act well in their lives and are "concerned with every lawful traffic." These people are the ones who follow the rules in life and who are humble, since egotistical people tend not to respect rules and do whatever they want.

Lines 566-570

    Repeat a prayer also on behalf of
Women who have seen their sons or husbands
Setting forth, and not returning:
Figlia del tuo figlio
Queen of Heaven.

  • The speaker also asks the Lady to say a prayer for all the women who've watched their husbands and sons go out to sea and not come back. The line "figlia del tuo figlio" translates as "Daughter of thy son," which comes from Dante, and is a way of saying that the Virgin Mary was the "daughter of her own son" insofar as her son (Jesus) was actually the son of God. So he is the Father of all people (even Mary). It's tough to wrap your head around, but there it is. The Virgin Mary is probably the same figure as the "Queen of Heaven."

Lines 571-575

    Also pray for those who were in ships, and
Ended their voyage on the sand, in the sea's lips
Or in the dark throat which will not reject them
Or wherever cannot reach them the sound of the sea bell's
Perpetual angelus.

  • Finally, the speaker asks the Lady to pray for all of the people who've died lost at sea, falling deep into the "dark throat which will not reject them." This image seems to refer to all of the people who've spent their entire lives spiritually wandering and who have never found the peace the speaker wants us to find. In their lives and in their deaths, they were never able to hear the bell that was supposed to call them home. Now instead of just signifying death, the speaker's bell has come to represent a sense of spiritual home that is lost to people who die without ever knowing peace, like sailors lost out on a vast sea.

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