T.S. Eliot is quite the polarizing figure. He was kind of a jerk. He badly mistreated his (admittedly difficult) first wife before abandoning her to an insane asylum; worse, along with his friend Ezra Pound, he traded in the basest, most pernicious anti-Semitic stereotypes. One doesn’t have a sense of him as a warmhearted person.
He was also a bit of a priggish Anglophile. Born and raised in St. Louis, he moved to London, converted to Anglicanism, and took British citizenship at the first opportunity. I’m a bit of an Anglophile myself, but these things ought to have limits.
But was he any good as a poet? I don’t see how you can argue that he wasn’t. He’s certainly among the many literary idols with feet of clay, but the work itself is quite peerless for its milieu.
Because their work is so “difficult,” Eliot and other modernists are often accused of leaving behind middlebrow literary readers (who could warm to a Tennyson far more readily than an H.D., for example) and thereby circumscribing an already-small audience for “serious literature.” I find this a reasonably compelling argument, but I suspect I’ve got fairly middlebrow tastes myself. On the other hand, most contemporary readers don’t find “footnoted” Eliot all that much of a slog compared with Shakespeare or Chaucer; Eliot’s work is at least in a contemporary idiom.
The following poem should not present difficulties to anyone with a passing acquaintance with the Christmas story. I’m all about seasonal appropriateness.