Dylan read Eliot for the most part not at school. Voluntarily, the best way to go. As I understand it, Dylan read lightly and not deeply, as he did with the Bible. It reminds me of Bono with U2, his Bibilical references sound more out of Bartlett’s Quotations than from the actual text. Whatever.
With both writers there is a fascination with word play and imagery and symbols. You don’t necessarily have to go too deep with Eliot to enjoy many of his references. And, in many cases, Eliot is so brilliant that he can sometimes put an incredibly complex thought into a sentence you can grasp without grasping your Spark notes. Look at the metal sculpture of classic Ferraris or the sculpture of the Greeks. Even if you can’t sculpt, you can appreciate the form. Similarly, as writers, we can appreciate great allusions and turns of phrases by themselves if need be.
As for me, I like the Book of Revelation in the New Testament for its imagery, where the writer is trying to describe how Heaven looks as a physical place, using every kind of language to describe a location in the next world which is more probably a glimmering, somewhat opaque thought of God. In writing on such an impossible subject, the writer does invoke a sense of majesty which is undoubtedly the best one can hope for.
I think the New Jerusalem Bible, first edition, is the best version to have. Hard to find, look for it. Only the first edition! It was a product of Vatican II in the 1960s, with the authors determined to continue the poetic writing style of the King James with the scholarship derived since that was written, especially the findings produced after the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered shortly after World War II.
I have many posts on Eliot at this site. Prufrock and the Wasteland are two favorites. Search and ye shall find.
Great poetry often leaves questions, cryptic remarks meant for each reader to divine their own answers. Commentators suggest Eliot may have been referring to the holy fire on the Day of the Pentecost, when the Lord fulfilled and enabled the early Christian church. Perhaps.
These are just a few lines from “Little Gidding,” the last part of his larger “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, unremembered 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.
Full text here: