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 oldviolin wrote:

 
Reminds me of Buck and the Preacher

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Posted: Jul 31, 2019 - 8:36am

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

T.S. Eliot

Intro from Dante's Inferno

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.



Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? ...

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep ... tired ... or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown



  • The epigraph of this poem is a six-line quotation from Canto 27 of the Inferno by the Renaissance Italian poet Dante Alighieri.
  • And no, Eliot doesn’t translate it out of the Italian, which is the kind of stunt that makes people think Eliot is a snob. We really can’t defend him on this charge, except to say that he was absolutely and totally obsessed with Dante and maybe he thought other people loved Dante as much as he did – enough to translate the quote for themselves.
  • Sneaky little references to Dante pop up everywhere in Eliot’s poems, but this one is more obvious – it’s a direct quotation.
  • The Inferno tells the story of how a guy (Dante) who has messed up his life badly enough to require some help from the nice folks in heaven. In order to scare him away from sin and other bad things, heaven sends another poet named Virgil to give Dante a guided tour through the horrors of Hell (known as "Inferno" in Italian). Along the way he meets a lot of evil and misguided people.
  • The quote from this epigraph is said by one of the characters in the eighth circle of Hell (which has nine circles), where some of the worst of the worst are stuck for eternity. This particular guy’s name is Guido da Montefeltro, and when Dante asks to hear his story, here’s what he says:
  • "If I thought that my reply would be to someone who would ever return to earth, this flame would remain without further movement; but as no one has ever returned alive from this gulf, if what I hear is true, I can answer you with no fear of infamy."
  • What does this quote mean? Well, Dante is really curious to know why Guido ended up so far down in Hell. But Guido is selfish. He’s afraid that people back on earth will find out about the horrible stuff he did – he’s concerned about his reputation.
  • On the other hand, Guido knows that no one has ever entered Hell and made it out again, so he figures that it's safe to tell his story because Dante is stuck here.
  • Unfortunately for Guido, Dante is the first human ever to be allowed to pass through Hell and "return to earth," so people do eventually find out about Guido’s sins…from reading the Inferno.
  • One other thing we should mention: Guido doesn’t even have a body in Hell – he’s not worthy of that – so his entire spirit is just a "flame" that "moves" when he talks. When he says, "this flame would remain without further movement," he means, "I would shut up and not talk to you anymore."
  • Last thing: What did Guido do? Essentially, Guido committed terrible atrocities in war.
  • But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that he tried to have himself forgiven before he committed these atrocities. He basically thought he could out-smart God and get into heaven despite doing things that he knew were really bad. It’s like if before you broke your mother’s favorite lamp you asked her, "Mom, if I broke this lamp right now, would you forgive me? . . . Yes? OK." CRASH!
  • (Note to Guido: You can’t outsmart the creator of the universe.)
  • Why does Eliot choose this epigraph for his poem? Well, it suggests a couple of things. First, that "Prufrock" might not be a poem about good people, but about bad ones pretending to be good. The setting of the poem is a kind of hell.
  • Second, it tells us that this fellow Prufrock, who is singing his "love song," might be concerned about his reputation like Guido. In other words, Prufrock is going to tell us things because he thinks we won’t have a chance to repeat them to other people.




    oldviolin

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    Posted: Jul 8, 2019 - 4:10pm


    oldviolin

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    Posted: Jul 5, 2019 - 11:39am


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