Throughout his numerous literary critical and theoretical essays, T. S. Eliot frequently discussed the relationship between a poet's belief—particularly, religious belief—and the sensibility informing the poet's work. Eliot contended that if a poet's belief is truly significant to his poetry the significance should be evident not simply through inclusion or reference to certain dogmatic formulae or symbols but, more profoundly, in how the poet sees and receives the world: belief should have a palpable effect on the sensibility that readers encounter in the literary work.
Now, of course, one of the most conspicuous facts of Eliot's own career is his acceptance, in middle age, of Christian belief. And Eliot's poetry after his conversion is often drenched in Christian motifs and images. But to what extent can Eliot's Christianity be said to have transformed his poetic sensibility?
This paper first rehearses Eliot's theoretical position and then employs that position in considering poems and plays Eliot wrote after he had accepted the Christian witness of faith. The conclusion is that Eliot, in his poetry did not fully achieve the “orthodox” sensibility he posited as the Christian poet's ideal.