Love Songs [annotated]


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“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

More Info. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy. The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock A Poem by T. Eliot Study Guide. Cummings Guides Home.. Contact This Site. Explanation of Title. Type of Work. Translation of the Epigraph. Text With Explanations. Use of Repetition.


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  • J. Alfred Prufrock: Study Guide.

Figures of Speech. Year of Publication. Study Questions. Essay Topics. S'io credesse che mia riposta fosse A persona che mai tornasse al mondo, Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse. Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo Non torno vivo alcun, s' i'odo il vero, Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo. Translation : If I thought my answer were to one who could return to the world, I would not reply, but as none ever did return alive from this depth, without fear of infamy I answer thee.

Translator and Quotation Source : G. Harrison et al.

Major British Writers. Shorter ed. New York: Harcourt. But Prufrock is in a hell on earth—a hell in the form of a modern, impersonal city with smoky skies.


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The quotation also points out that Prufrock, again like Count Guido, can present his feelings "without fear of infamy. Until recent times, physicians used ether — a liquid obtained by combining sulfuric acid and ethyl alcohol—to render patients unconscious before an operation. The imagery suggests that the evening is lifeless and listless.

The speaker and the listener will walk through lonely streets—the business day has ended—past cheap hotels and restaurants with sawdust on the floors. Sawdust was used to absorb spilled beverages and food, making it easy to sweep up at the end of the day. The shabby establishments will remind the speaker of his own shortcomings, their images remaining in his mind as he walks on. They will then prod the listener to ask the speaker a question about the speaker's life — perhaps why he visits these seedy haunts, which are symbols of his life, and why he has not acted to better himself or to take a wife.

Allusion , o verwhelming question line 10 : Eliot appears to have borrowed this phrase from James Fenimore Cooper's novel, The Pioneers , one of five novels that make up The Leatherstocking Tales , about life on the frontier in early America. When he was a youth, Eliot read and enjoyed The Pioneers. In the novel, one of the characters, Benjamin, asks a series of questions ending with the "overwhelming question. Prufrock may wonder how they could possibly be interested in him when they are discussing someone as illustrious as Michelango.

Allusion , The Women. Michelangelo lines : Eliot borrowed most of this line from the Uruguayan-born French poet Jules LaForgue Here is the loose translation: In the room the women go and come while speaking of the Siennese painting masters. Michelangelo : Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , Renaissance sculptor, painter, and architect and one of the greatest artists in history.

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Peter's Basilica, also in Vatican City. The haze is like a quiet, timid cat padding to and fro, rubbing its head on objects, licking its tongue, and curling up to sleep after allowing soot to fall upon it. The speaker resembles the cat as he looks into windows or into "the room," trying to decide whether to enter and become part of the activity. Eventually, he curls up in the safety and security of his own soft arms — alone, separate.

What this stanza means is that Prufrock feels inferior and is unable to act decisively.


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He consigns himself to corners, as a timid person might at a dance; stands idly by doing nothing, as does a stagnant pool; and becomes the brunt of ridicule or condescension the soot that falls on him. There will be time to decide and then to act — time to put on the right face and demeanor to meet people. There will be time to kill and time to act; in fact, there will be time to do many things. There will even be time to think about doing things — time to dream and then revise those dreams — before sitting down with a woman to take toast and tea.

Allusion, there will be time line 23 : This phrase alludes to the opening line of "To His Coy Mistress," by Andrew Marvell : "Had we but world enough, and time. Allusion, works and days line 29 : Works and Days is a long poem by Hesiod, a Greek writer who lived in the 's B. The poem, addressed to Hesiod's brother, was intended to instruct readers, stressing the importance of hard work and right living and condemning moral decay. He feels like turning back. After all, he has a bald spot, thinning hair, and thin arms and legs. Moreover, he has doubts about the acceptability of his clothing.

What will people think of him? Does he dare to approach a woman?

He will think about it and make a decision, then reverse the decision. So how should I presume? They all even sound the same.

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So why should he do anything? Evenings, Mornings, Afternoons : This phrase, as well as others focusing on time, refers obliquely to the philosophy of Henri Bergson , author of a revolutionary and highly influential work, Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness. In this work, he argued that the mind perceives time as a continuous process, a continuous flow, rather than as a series of measurable units as tracked by a clock or a calendar or by scientific calculation.

It is not a succession, with one unit following another, but a duration in which present and past are equally real. Ordinarily, we think of a day as consisting of morning, evening, and afternoon — in that order. But, since time is a continuous flow to Prufrock, it is just as correct to think of a day as consisting of morning, afternoon, and evening as a single unit. Allusion , dying fall line 52 : Phrase borrowed from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Here is the passage in which the phrase appears: If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die.

That strain again! How will he be able to explain himself to them — the ordinariness, the mediocrity, of his life? Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.

Analysis of Poem: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot

And should I then presume? And how should I begin? Why is he thinking about them? Perhaps it is the smell of a woman's perfume. Arms that lie along table line 67 : This phrase echoes line 3. He should have been nothing more than crab claws in the depths of the silent ocean. Should the speaker sit down with someone and have dessert — should he take a chance, make an acquaintance, live? Oh, he has suffered; he has even imagined his head being brought in on a platter, like the head of John the Baptist.

Of course, unlike John, he is no prophet. He has seen his opportunities pass and even seen death up close, holding his coat, snickering. He has been afraid. Modernist poets and writers believed that their artistry should mirror the chaotic world that they lived in; seldom is meaning, in the real world, parcelled up and handed over in whole parts. But in pieces. This is why the poem is so significantly argued over: the very fragmentation that Eliot wrote for it is the wealth of a seemingly inexhaustible source of reasonings.

One can take almost any approach, any assignation of meaning, to J. Prufrock and his world. 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. Note again the very same process of fragmentation providing a broken-in society, a patchwork view of humanity that only serves to populate the poem with more emptiness.

The sense of time, time, time, presses upon the reader, and the repetition of the world in fact makes the reader more conscious of the passing of the minutes, rather than less. It can be therefore read as the hasty rush of daily life, that no matter how much time there is, no matter how one thinks about it, there is always going to be enough. While it also serves to remind the reader of the setting, this phrase stops the poem in mire. Despite the fact that time is rushing in the last stanza, here time has slowed down; nothing has changed, nothing is quick.

It could certainly be seen as another idea to the you-I schism. This line also serves to enforce the idea of keeping conversation light, airy, and without feeling. Thus, Prufrock alone seems to have feelings, thoughts; Michelangelo, here, is used as a placeholder for meaningless things. It could have been replaced with a hundred other things, and the effect would have still been the same: Prufrock is external to the conversation, external to the world, and the conversation therefore is reduced to nothing more than a word.

In a minute there is time For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. It is interesting to know that Prufrock himself is fragmented: we do not have a complete image of him, but a half-image of his morning coat, and the collar buttoned to his chin, a modest necktie, and thin arms and legs.

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