The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

For the first time since I’ve started blogging I have to take a break for a little over a week. Actually, taking a break usually means that we stop laboring and start enjoying ourselves. In my case, it’s exactly the opposite. I have to stop doing something I enjoy tremendously and go on laboring. I am leaving Tartous on a business trip. I haven’t been on the road (working) for a while and it’s high time I take this “regular” journey in my line of work. Although my laptop is always near or on my lap, I don’t think that I would be able to read, post or comment on any of my favorite or even my blog.
I shall return Inshallah on Saturday 11/11/06. Until then, what can I leave on my blog for all to read and may be come back to re-read? I could only think of one piece of writing, a masterpiece, my favorite all-time poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by Thomas Stearns Eliot. The American (later naturalized British) T.S. Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri on September 26, 1888. He is considered to be the most influential realist poet of the twentieth century. He won the Noble Prize for literature in 1948. He died in London on January 4, 1965.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, 1910-1911 starts with a quotation from Dante’s Inferno (XXVII, 61-66) in ITALIAN. For your reference, I have added the translation at the end of the poem. I didn’t want to include it in the body of the poem itself in order to avoid any fiddling with the original work.
I will not be able to reply to your comments until early next week but I would love to read your thoughts and reactions concerning this poem.

From T. S. Eliot

S’io credesse che mia risposta 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.

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
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!]
It is 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 toward 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.

Translation of Dante’s quotation

If I thought my answer were given
to anyone who would ever return to the world,
this flame would stand still without moving any further.
But since never from this abyss
has anyone ever returned alive, if what I hear is true,
without fear of infamy I answer you.


Anonymous said…
Hi Abu Fares,
Lovely poem. Good luck on your business venture, can't wait to see you back.
Best regards
Syrianita said…
abu fares have a safe trip we will miss you.

as for the poem well we've talked about it some time ago :)

take care
Anonymous said…
All the best on your trip. Have to admit, could not go through all the poem (yet), but I am sure it is a nice peice of work!!
Hope you can get rid of this person placing ads on your blog, and I hope none of your readers will visit the website
Abu Abdo
Karin said…
It is REALLY a great piece of art, no question about that - thanks so much for sharing!
Have a successful business trip and return safely!
Chet said…
No question about that. It was a great piece of art. God be with you on your business trip.

Thank you for the pictures! Excellent photos.
Ascribo said…
Hi Abufares,

I was happy your trip came in this timing, since I don't have much time to go online recently...

That poem is really lovely! It's the first time I read such a thing...

By the way, you've been tagged! Check my blog for details...

All the best
Ingrid said…
Abu fares, I have to admit, it's much too late to read this long post but I wanted to drop by and share how much more relieved I feel re. politics. Imagine, Rumsfeld resigned and the Democrats have taken over control of the House and the Senate and hopefully, some intelligent people will decide to engage in straight talks with Syria and Iran re. Iraq. I'm going to post on that tomorrow I hope. This war is far from over but at least I don't feel there's an imminent war with Iran coming up with the crazy neocons out of the way (well, for the most part, we're not out of the woods yet)..phew. I hope you had a safe business trip and I'm sure your family will be happy to see you back home,
Abufares said…
Hi Dubai Jazz, Soraya, Abu Abdo,Karin, Chet, Ascribo and Ingrid
I'm back. I look forward to posting and reading all of your wonderful blogs again.
I came to my office in the morning (Sunday) to find that there was no internet connection. Luckily it has just came back.
Thank you for dropping by while I was away. I have some catching up to do in the next few days.
Anonymous said…
Hi Abufares
Welcome back! can't wait for your next post. Just to let you know, in case you do not go over your previous posts, that Joumana wrote a comment on your "Waiting for the Eid" post!!
Abu Abdo
Abufares said…
Hi Abu Abdo
I saw and replied to Om Abdo's comment. I will get down to the business of posting as soon as I manage the stacks of paperwork on my office.
Thank you for dropping by.

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