Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One of my Favorite Poems

Something brought the T. S. Elliot poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock to my mind today, so I had to drag it out and read it. I like it so much I wanted to share it with you here, but I won't post the entire thing -- it is rather long --; just the lines that I especially like, and my favorites of those are in bold print.

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.
. . .

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.
. . .

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?
. . .

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.
. . .

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.
. . .

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.

. . . .

Click on the link to read the entire poem if you wish. Don't you just love Elliot's gift? The cadence of this poem is so beautiful. I love the way some of the lines roll off my tongue. Some of them can bring me to tears.

3 comments:

Gerry said...

This is indeed a poem that stands the test of time. I salute you for printing some of it again for those who may not have ever seen it and for those who were once enchanted by it as you were upon a first reading. This was a poem the young poets liked to read or quote aloud to one another back in my college days. Gerry

Beth said...

Mmm, I like that. My favorite lines:

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?


Beth

Veronica B. EDMD said...

This is great! I've read a lot of poetry and don't know that I've come across this piece. Thanks for sharing. I hope you feel better soon!

Veronica