Friday, November 17, 2006

A Little Poetry for You: Eliot

"Prufrock" was my favorite poem when I was a teenager. I knew big chunks of it by heart, though I don't think I ever knew it cold from start to finish.

For some reason, I drifted away from it after college. Decided that it was old and boring. Overdone. Then today I took another look, wondering if I could bring myself to like it enough for Poetry Friday. And what happened?

I love it again. Or still. I look at any 4 lines in this poem and immediately feel the urge to read them aloud. However I do not feel the urge to listen to Eliot himself read them out loud. I think he spoils it, oddly enough. But if you want to hear him, click here.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

(skipping the epigraph, which is from Dante's Inferno, and basically says, if I thought you might carry my tale back to others, I'd never tell it)

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.

Oh, but don't stop there. Some of the best parts of the poem are yet to come!

Click here for the rest of the poem, a brief biography of the poet, and a few footnotes.

Susan has the Poetry Friday round-up today over at Chicken Spaghetti. Head on over and check out the wonderful buffet of poetry.


mjd said...

Ahh, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", this brings back memories. We spent may days dissecting this poem in high school. Another poem from my past is "Evangeline"; my eighth grade English class studied this poem for 4 months. "This is the forest primeval..."

c_spaghetti said...

Was Liz the rounder up? I started it, but she can always grab the roundees from my blog later. Consider yourself rounded.

I studied Evangeline, too, for a long time in eighth grade. We even took a field trip to Cajun country, in Louisiana. Very memorable! I remember well about the forest primeval!

Michele said...

I prefer Eliot's Four Quartets myself !

I was wondering who was rounding up today - neither Kelly nor Liz have posted anything for PF yet - which rather surprised me...

Liz B said...

Just got in from work and began viewing the sites to do the rounding up ; CS, I'm halfway thru so I'll finish up what I've got.

Nancy said...

We read Evangeline in 8th grade too!

Michele I think I always avoided The Four Quartets. One day I'll take a look again.