Thursday, July 05, 2007

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

I've been cleaning up the apartment to help take in my sister's family (her husband and her most adorable baby son). They're flying in from Aussieland now- will arrive in the morning. They'll be here for 3 weeks. HM's hubby also has to do some work here for his company. (Apparently, his Malaysian-born boss found out about the trip and tho it was a great idea to combine work and holiday)....  ah... the joys of corporate life.

Anyhow, the cleaning part is not helped by "that relative" whose temporary stay over is ... exasperating me. I try to sing old Christian songs to avoid telling the said relative to "X@#! off".

But at the back of my mind, I'm reading the first lines of Eliot's poem, "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock".

Here it is: albeit not completely. Some parts of it are just pure indulgence... and is just pure self-mockery. But some parts ring true and will cling to your memory.

T.S. Eliot (1888–1965).  Prufrock and Other Observations.  1917.
1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
LET us go then, you and I,   
When the evening is spread out against the sky   
Like a patient etherised upon a table;   
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,   
The muttering retreats            5
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 …            10
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,            15
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,            20
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;            25
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;            30
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            35
Talking of Michelangelo.   
Do I dare            45
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,            50
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—            55
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?            60
  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!]   
It is perfume from a dress            65
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            70
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!            75
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?            80
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,            85
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,            90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,   
To have squeezed the universe into a ball   
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,   
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,   
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—            95
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,            100
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:            105
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.”
      .      .      .      .      .            110
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.            125
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            130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown

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