Reading time: 3 minutes

“Home is where one starts from.” ~ T. S. Eliot

I was recently challenged by a homeowner who received a Kindred SF postcard promoting my new listing. (I’m fond of sprinkling literary or historical quotes and allusions into my marketing efforts, simply because it entertains me.)

This careful reader asked whether or not T. S. Eliot actually wrote those words about home. She was pretty certain she’d never seen them in any of his works (and she knows what she’s talking about).

At first, I was delighted to learn that someone had read my postcard and noticed the quote. Then I began to panic. I’ve been throwing that quote around willy nilly for years, just assuming that I had it right. “Home is where one starts from” on blog posts. “Home is where one starts from” on websites. Next thing you know there will be “Home is where one starts from” on mousepads, mugs and water bottles.

I’m absolutely certain that T. S. Eliot would NOT approve.

So I quickly rushed to my bookshelf and leafed through my book of Eliot’s complete poems and plays. “Please,” I wished, “don’t let me be the peddling real estate agent who is just making stuff up for profit.”

Happily, I discovered that the quote indeed belongs to Eliot. Although it was never meant to adorn a postcard proclaiming the virtues of a 3 bedroom condo in the Richmond district, I’m grateful to be queried by a reader about its pedigree and I’m certainly going to be more careful in future.

That line by Eliot is found in Stanza V of Four Quartets / East Coker. Treat yourself and look up the whole poem and read it. Meanwhile, I’m pasting the first part of Stanza I here. Because houses are its central metaphor. And because the language is a luscious liquid I want to serve up in a brandy snifter. Enjoy!

In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die: there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field-mouse trots
And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto.

Photo Credit: David Brooks

Author and RealEstateTherapy curator Cynthia Cummins has been devoted to homeowners and homebuyers for three decades and counting. Visit KindredSFhomes.com for more information on San Francisco real estate.