A key source for many of the images that appear in “Burnt Norton” is Eliot’s childhood and his experience at Burnt Norton. Other sources include Stéphane Mallarmé’s poetry, especially “Le Tombeau de Charles Baudelaire” and “M’introduire dans ton histoire” and St. Augustine’s Confessions. Likewise, many of the lines are fragments that were removed from his earlier works.

Structurally, Eliot relied on The Waste Land to put together the fragments of poetry as one set. Bernard Bergonzi argued that “it was a new departure in Eliot’s poetry, and it inevitably resulted in the presence of the manipulatory will that [C. K. Stead] has observed at works in the Quartets, and in the necessity for low-pressure linking passages. As I have previously remarked, Eliot was capable of expressing the most intense moments of experience, but had little capacity for sustained structure.”