The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot

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.

 

by T. S. Eliot


Fun Facts:

Like many of Eliot’s poems, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” makes numerous allusions to other works, which are often symbolic themselves.

  • In “Time for all the works and days of hands” (29) the phrase ‘works and days’ is the title of a long poem – a description of agricultural life and a call to toil – by the early Greek poet Hesiod.
  • “I know the voices dying with a dying fall” (52) echoes Orsino’s first lines in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
  • The prophet of “Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter / I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter” (81–2) is John the Baptist, whose head was delivered to Salome by Herod as a reward for her dancing (Matthew 14:1–11, and Oscar Wilde’s play Salome).
  • “To have squeezed the universe into a ball” (92) and “indeed there will be time” (23) echo the closing lines of Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’. Other phrases such as, “there will be time” and “there is time” are reminiscent of the opening line of that poem: “Had we but world enough and time”. Marvell’s words in turn echo the General Prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, “whil I have tyme and space”.
  • “‘I am Lazarus, come from the dead'” (94) may be either the beggar Lazarus (of Luke 16) returning for the rich man who was not permitted to return from the dead to warn the brothers of a rich man about Hell, or the Lazarus (of John 11) whom Christ raised from the dead, or both.
  • “Full of high sentence” (117) echoes Chaucer’s description of the Clerk of Oxford in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales.
  • “There will be time to murder and create” is a biblical allusion to Ecclesiastes 3.
  • In the final section of the poem, Prufrock rejects the idea that he is Prince Hamlet, suggesting that he is merely “an attendant lord” (112) whose purpose is to “advise the prince” (114), a likely allusion to Polonius — Polonius being also “almost, at times, the Fool.”
  • “Among some talk of you and me” may be a reference to Quatrain 32 of Edward FitzGerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (“There was a Door to which I found no Key / There was a Veil past which I could not see / Some little Talk awhile of Me and Thee / There seemed — and then no more of Thee and Me.”)
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Journey Of The Magi by T. S. Eliot

‘A cold coming we had of it.

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.’

And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces.

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

 

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.

 

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation,

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky.

And an old white horse galloping away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

But there was no information, and so we continued

And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

 

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

 

by T. S. Eliot (1885-1965)

from Ariel Poems

Landscapes III. Usk by T. S. Eliot

Do not suddenly break the branch, or

Hope to find

The white hart behind the white well.

Glance aside, not for lance, do not spell

Old enchantments. Let them sleep.

‘Gently dip, but not too deep’,

Lift your eyes

Where the roads dip and where the roads rise

Seek only there

Where the grey light meets the green air

The hermit’s chapel, the pilgrim’s prayer.

 

by T. S. Eliot

from Minor Poems

Landscapes II. Virginia by T. S. Eliot

Red river, red river,

Slow flow heat is silence

No will is still as a river

Still. Will heat move

Only through the mocking-bird

Heard once? Still hills

Wait. Gates wait. Purple trees,

White trees, wait, wait,

Delay, decay. Living, living,

Never moving. Ever moving

Iron thoughts came with me

And go with me:

Red river, river, river.

 

by T. S. Eliot

from Minor Poems

Landscapes I. New Hampshire by T. S. Eliot

Children’s voices in the orchard

Between the blossom- and the fruit-time:

Golden head, crimson head.

Between the green tip and the root.

Black wing, brown wing, hover over;

Today grieves, tomorrow grieves,

Cover me over, light-in-leaves;

Golden head, black wing,

Cling, swing,

Spring, sing,

Swing up into the apple-tree.

 

by T. S. Eliot

from Minor Poems

Marina by T. S. Eliot

“Quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga?”

 

What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands

What water lapping the bow

And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog

What images return

O my daughter.

 

Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning

Death

Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning

Death

Those who sit in the style of contentment, meaning

Death

Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning

Death

 

Are become unsubstantial, reduced by a wind.

A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog

By this grace dissolved in place

 

What is this face, less clear and clearer

The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger –

Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the eye

 

Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet

Under sleep, where all the waters meet.

Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.

 

I made this, I have forgotten

And remember.

The rigging weak and the canvas rotten

Between one June and another September.

Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.

The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking

This form, this face, this life

Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me

Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,

The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.

 

What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers

And woodthrush calling through the fog

My daughter.

 

by T. S. Eliot

First published September 25, 1930 in Ariel Poems.

The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race 2015

The Oxford-Cambridge boat race. Big day. The women’s team, for the first time in the history of the event, not only row the same course as the men’s team but also on the same day. This is reported as if some great achievement has been made but it only serves to demonstrate how backwards these elite academic institutions are and how they indoctrinate the best and brightest of each generation into maintaining the old, if now ancient, status quo of conservative mentality. Other events had made such changes for equality decades ago but these icons of prestige now expect to be congratulated and lauded on having finally done this rather than offhandedly informed it was about time so they know their place.

The announcer at one point, after Cambridge’s loss, declares something to the effect that he couldn’t think of anything worse than this loss they have suffered. Cancer. Acknowledging you will never achieve your dreams. Death of a loved one. Witnessing first-hand the decline of someone mentally day after day until no glimmer of hope is left that they will be the person you knew and all you are left with is a stranger you are responsible for. Death of a child you raised. Knowing that you will never belong anywhere no matter how much effort you make. Loss of hope. Racism. War. Ignorance. Elitism. Prejudice. Wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. No there is nothing worse than losing this boat race which in no way affects the careers of the people involved. What they suffered was a momentary tarnishing of pride. The announcer reiterates that they have been studying and exercising. If only we lesser mortals had such dedication to improvement but alas we are but the lesser order concerned with base matters of surviving day to day unaided by the wealth accumulated by our ancestors nor the grants offered by government which often are gone within the first few weeks as students prioritise establishing social connections (which ultimately will serve them far better than their academic achievements) than budgeting and establishing their tuition.

It is mourned that the women’s team has had to make do with a lean-to in which to practise. This is stated over footage of them sat in a row on top-of-the-line rowing machines practising in synchronised motions within the confines of a well-lit, immaculate, gym. Truly there is no humanity that they are forced to train in such inadequate conditions. At such a rate some common person with wooden shovels tied together, just doing the motions of rowing while sat on their council flat floor as the mould clinging to the windows and water stains, brown like diarrhoea, descending the wall may have a chance at competing with them. Neptune, Poseidon, all gods of the waters will you not aid your daughters in their hour of need? Rather than those in true need let us raise alms unto this sisterhood forged in rowing! Let not one moment more pass in which they strain unnecessarily emitting sweat using the obsolete equipment which had led their predecessors onto victory and achievement previously in less enlightened times. Let carbon fibres be formed, let electronic readouts herald their speed and calories burned. But let not the effort of training show upon their brows, for lo, are they not but women? Do they not know their place and now expect to be considered equal unto their menfolk? Truly a lean too is less than inadequate to these goddesses of galoshes, these muses of the mind, these Amazonians of academia! Give them their custom built training resort and let the lesser people of weak flesh rot for only those of perfection in form and figure should be made into living gods cascaded with a cornucopia of offers and made not to suffer the indignity of we lesser beings. No do not entertain that the disabled, the poor, those unfamiliar with the proper order of things need more aid and this allotted money could ease their desperate burden. Nay I say and nay again! Those who excel, even amongst those who already are proving themselves amongst the best of us, should only be given more and more than expected to endure the strain of physical training and suffer the indignity of hard work as might be expected of others when training. Where is the ever present medical staff? Where is the cool chamber so they may train more efficiently? The masseuse? The dietician? The personal assistants? Man cannot live on bread alone and these paragons of virtue cannot be expected to train hard to achieve, as the lesser orders would, but should have every boon money may buy so not an ounce of their effort is wasted.

The captain of the victorious Oxford men’s team ascends the stage. A blonde giant of a man, legs like tree trunks, chest like a barrel, mounts the stage as if it was a step and holds the gigantic trophy as though it were a baby’s feeding cup. Sir Steve Redgrave, 6 foot 4 inches, 36th greatest Briton ever according to the BBC, 5 time gold medal winner, Britain’s greatest Olympian and a rowing demi-god made flesh stands next to this successor of his legacy, cup in hand ready to hand over the reins unto the captain ceremonially. The announcer declares the captain a meek man as he speaks in booming, confident, tones that echo across the river’s waves and can be heard by those upon the other shore without the aid of microphones. As the fountain of champagne his team mates douse him in cascades off his form, the likes of which ancient Greek sculptures would immortalise and poets celebrate, truly there can be no lesser an image of modesty and restraint as he lifts the trophy aloft and casts it carelessly aside to one of his lesser team mates as the midget cox man looks lovingly if not longingly up, from the monolithic shadow drowning him, at his captain’s Herculean visage is framed, in shiloette, by the sun’s light. This is no rowing captain. This is a saint in the flesh whom we should all aspire to be akin to. Including the ill-fitting wellies.


The boat race was a nice event despite my vitriol. It was more about the mindless ramblings of the announcers making out everything was such a great struggle when this boat race is more about friendly completion between the two academic institutions than being a serious sporting event. Everyone seemed to have fun although Cambridge lost they seemed to take it in good their stride. A ‘nice day out’ sort of gentlemanly event. It is just unfortunate that because the BBC were reporting on it for so long prior to the event they ended up having to fill the air time with ill informed rambling and supposition. Inevitably it becomes a lot of didactic rhetoric embellishing any minute piece of known information rather than being able to give concise, enlightening, information in preparation of the event. The competitors are not professional athletes with established, recorded in detail, careers to comment on admittedly so perhaps, as it is a once a year event, they could have discussed the history of the race or some better form of preparation for the announcers to fill the time would have been adviseable rather than rely on them to fill it on their own with small talk. Everyone seemed to have had fun though so overall it was good coverage with all the technical aspects of it being performed exceptionally.


Walked 2 circuits equating to 12 km in one uninterrupted walk. It wasn’t as far as I thought as I hadn’t done it in a while. The air was cold and there was a stiff breeze and so not at all taxing so I should have kept going and just kept doing curcuits all day until I could walk no more. At least I mixed it up a bit and went down one or two alternative, but parallel routes and found some random religious graffiti. I could have easily kept walking but I wanted to see a film. Later I ooked at an online calorie calculator and it seemed as if it was nothing. I couldn’t even afford to have a soft drink according to the calculator…

Watched some films. Watched Saturday night television. Watched some Welsh programmes. Wrote blog. Wrote other things. Read. Had a nap. Went to bed early. Had tried to talk to someone about one or two things but ultimately that was pointless.

I can tell how things will progress now and know who will be awarded what… as the elite of Oxford-Cambridge learn: Work smart not hard. Make sure people notice every little achievement and bit of effort you make. Social skills are far and away more important than merit. We do not living in a meritocracy. Meritocracy was the basis of the Soviet/Communist system and quickly became corrupted within years so that the old order of keeping the elite and the lower classes separate was reinstated. The faces changed but the attitudes remained. It’s just human nature as a social animal.

It hasn’t worked. It is just that way…The darkness encroaches and you are expected to put up and shut up and not be a burden to others. ‘Do unto others as you would have done unto you’ is a lie. Survival of the fittest and most capable of adapting is the only rule that is true. T. S. Eliot, in The Waste Land, considered April to be the cruellest month. Maybe he was right albeit obviously he was talking about post World War 1 where an entire generation had been lost. To see the renewel of things, new life and potential and the abandonment of the old which is soon forgotten. That which is no longer of use to people is cast aside without hesititation. Spring cleaning for both one’s house and life.

Woke up frequently during the night with pain in my ear as the cat watched over me from the window sill pulled by by his paw. Not an infection but something has happened to the external part… Maybe Ican apply heat or cold to amend it I do not know.

My cat goes in and out the window today. He wanted access to the outside but now seems to have quickly grown bored of it. He destroyed his fishing line toy and now brings me the soft toy bird shaped ‘lure’ to throw for him. He is becoming a dog…

I was hoping to do something today but the ear thing has put me off. I may have done another few circuits but I will leave it for tomorrow and just try to not eat more than I need today. I already eat 4 doughnuts this morning so that has already failed… Everyone would be better off with me removed from the equation. All people want is happy stories and to be surrounded by positive people even if they do nothing but speak negatively of others in order to forge an alligiance through shared opposition. So is life. Just accept your lot in life. Don’t aspire. Don’t complain. If you wanted it enough you would put more effort in even if it broke you. Its just how life is…

This was suprisingly long for something I hadn’t planned to write.