Sunday, October 27, 2013

31 Days of Books: The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock

Today's was a last minute change.  Most of the others were planned in advance, but I thought, "this deserves a day."  And as I thought more, I realized, yes, I said "books," but we need a poem in this little anthology.  So, today's 31 post...

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Title:  The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Author:  TS Eliot

Published:  1917

Year I read it:  2012

One sentence summary:  In this profound, Modernist poem, the young Eliot personifies the aging & intensely indecisive Prufrock musing on his life and on an "overwhelming question."

Interesting fact(s):  It's not a love song.  CS Lewis hated the intro.  It's one of Eliot's few rhyming poems.  

Three reasons to read it:

  • It's much shorter, more accessible, and more delightful than The Wasteland.  I found that it was a good intro into Eliot's perspective before tackling The Wasteland.  Also, I'm not a huge poetry buff, but this one has fascinated me since the day I read it.
  • This poem was written and published during the Great War, just before Modernism exploded onto the scene.  It's very insightful into some of the frustrations and questions plaguing artists at the time.
  • You will find references.  You will want to reference it.  This is a very quotable poem.  It's like an erudite version of Dr. Seuss.  
One reason you maybe shouldn't:

  • It's far, far easier than the Wasteland, but still one of the most intertextual poems ever - so find a version with lots of explanatory notes.

Great quotes:
Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the skyLike a patient etherised upon a table;Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,The muttering retreatsOf restless nights in one-night cheap hotelsAnd sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:Streets that follow like a tedious argumentOf insidious intentTo lead you to an overwhelming question...Oh, do not ask "What is it?"Let us go and make our visit.[Opening lines]
There will be time, there will be timeTo prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet...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.
Do I dareDisturb the universe?
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 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.

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