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The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock

T.S. Eliot

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Added by: Jason Power
My English teacher is wrong but I don't have time right now to explain. I guess I'll be back later.
j alfred prufrock
Added by: ed gyde
my favouriate poem of all time
it exhibits lots of ts eliot traits and themes
1. his antagonism with urbanisation - the grime and squalor and lack of rich meaning of city life
2. Obessesion with getting old and not having achieved anything or found a different dimension
3. Reference to numerous but failed relationships with the fairer sex

a sad but enjoyable text
Added by: Jenny
I love this poem so much that it breaks my heart to have to study it in class. It's like walking over beautiful tapestries with muddy boots or something. This is a poem you can completely drown in, but I'm not going to add any of my specific thoughts about its meaning because it would spoil it. Truly a masterpiece, and one you have to read by yourself, at least until you know it like an old friend.
Added by: Kara
I completely agree with Jenny. This is a very personal poem; you have to really feel the entire thing. I've memorized it and those were some well spent hours. Any attempt to break it down with cold-hearted analysis is blasphemy. Let it breathe...
italian translation
Added by: Rachel Mykkanen
in case anyone was wondering, the opening lines are from Dante's Inferno, Canto 27 and can be translated as:

"If I thought that my reply would be to one who would ever return to the world, this flame would move no more; but since no one has ever returned alive from such depth, if what I hear is true, I will answer without fear of being further disgraced."
Supposed cold-heartedness...
Added by: Gerard
Analysis does not have to be cold-hearted; it can allow for a deeper appreciation of a piece. Cold-hearted is not capitalizing praise for a truly wonderful poem; cold-hearted is turning a blind eye to depth so you can coo at a far-away violet.

See Cervo, Nathan A. EXPLICATOR 57:4, 1999.
See Levy, Eric. YEATS ELIOT REVIEW 13:1-2, 1994.

I could go on, but you've probably already moved on to coo elsewhere.
Added by: Leslie
The Lovesong is my absolute favorite poem. It is the anthem for young people with old souls (Eliot was a youthful 20 something when he wrote this) and ironic nonconformists. This peom is so full of ironies: it isn't a song, it isn't about love, it's not even about J. Alfred Prufrock. Some would say that 42 is the answer to life, the universe, and everything, but I prefer Prufrock.

Lovely sounds. Tactically sound free verse. Internal and external rhyme. Wonderful. Just bliss to read.
Added by: Kara

Ouch. I didn't mean that all analysis is cold-hearted. What I did mean is that many high school teachers kill this poem for their students by dragging them through the depth before they've even skimmed the surface and grasped any inkling of Eliot's musical beauty and great images. Possibly because they've never taken the time to know it for themselves. I still agree with Jenny--at least for me, understanding and knowing the poem on the surface before delving deeper has been essential.

And btw, I don't make cooing a habit.
Added by: Jenny
Perhaps I was too brief to convey my meaning properly - I was certainly not 'turning a blind eye to depth' (note use of word 'drown'), and if there's one thing I'm not it's an intellectually lazy cooer, as Gerard seems to have concluded.

What I am annoyed - no, angered - by is not analysis per se, but the kind of attempts at analysis that go on in too many classrooms. The kind that barely even tries to scratch the surface of a poem because it is too concerned with, for want of a better term, 'plot'. The kind that assumes students are stupid and cannot cope with a proper multi-level discussion.

I would not love this poem if I had not discovered its depth. But I did (and continue to do with each reading) this slowly and in my own head. Sometimes it's better not to wear shoes - you can feel the earth under your feet.

Hope this clarifies my position, sorry if it doesn't (I haven't slept in a while), look forward to hearing what everyone else has to say.
Added by: Andrew Mayers
I often feel that life is too short to bother much with Eliot and any attempts to engage with him once more seldom get beyond rereading this poem. It’s always enough to convince me though that I ought to revisit the others even if,
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow.

So I run out of best intentions. Still, I’ve just had another look at it and remembered my own attempts to make sense of it twenty or so years ago. Without analysis I would not have been able to make any sense of it, but it’s the gut feeling reactions that I remember most and the same lines jump out at me now.
No doubt we’ve all felt a chip of ice melt in our blood at the realisation that we’ve measured out our lives with coffee spoons. I also remember feeling intense sympathy for Prufrock when he admits,

“I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.”

He simply isn’t important enough.

I laughed when, in ‘Love and Death’, there is a scene with would-be-poet Woody Allen composing in his notebook, “I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas,” then deciding, as he throws it onto the fire, “Nah, too sentimental”. The most unsentimental lines for me, however, are “I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, / And in short, I was afraid.” It’s that word, ‘snicker’, divesting death of any sense of awe and endowing it instead with an infantile and petty malice. Not that it is thereby rendered less fearsome and chilling.

It does seem very convenient to advocate the ‘unanalysable’ essence of a poem as justification for not analysing it. Is some of the above really very different from, “I don’t know much about Art, but I know what I like”? Eliot himself had no problem with critical analysis of poetry. If you read some of it, you will see that it wasn’t particularly motivated by the desire to share his perceptions of why a particular poem had moved him. Like the rest of us, he likes to demonstrate a skill that is so revered by those whose opinion we think counts. Having said that, showing off brings only momentary pleasure and the best readings for me are those which sharpen my awareness of what it is to be alive. As George Steiner comments in ‘Grammars of Creation’:

“[H]uman exultation and sorrow, anguish and jubilation, love and hatred, will continue to demand shaped expression. They will continue to press on language which, under that pressure, becomes literature. The human intellect will persist in posing questions which science has ruled illicit or unanswerable. Though perhaps condemned to ultimate circularity, this persistence is thought made urgent, which is to say, metaphysical…
We have long been, I believe that we still are, guests of creation. We owe to our host the courtesy of questioning.”

Poetry is one of the more interesting ways of questioning, so please don’t reduce it to something at best nebulous and at worst the literary equivalent of complimenting parents on the cuteness of their baby. “It breaks my heart” belongs in the lyrics of pop songs and does nothing to help a reader understand anything about the poem. The School of Charm and Whimsy are out in force and I’d better be careful where I put my muddy boots if I am not to be accused of promoting cold-hearted analysis. Bertrand Russell said that “most people would die rather than think” and most people do. Analysis of a poem requires thought and thinking about a poem involves analysis. Or we could instead, of course, dispense with both processes and hide our lack of having anything to say by claiming that saying anything would be blasphemous. Is the point of this site only to inform one another of what we like. Isn’t the 'why?' rather important too if we are to share our insights as well as our enjoyment?
Some of you have some very strange ideas about poets and poetry. There seems to be the belief that they are both other-worldly. For a corrective to this view, have a look at Thomas Blackburn’s ‘An Invitation’ on this site. And if you think I am utterly wrong, then have a look at my comments on R S Thomas’s poem, ‘A Peasant’. If, after that, you still feel that analysis serves no purpose, then I’ll admit defeat.
If I’ve annoyed anyone, tough. Poetry is too replete with value to allow it to be appropriated by those trying to establish their own sensitive, artistic credentials by indiscriminately praising what they have been told is good. As Bellow says, in the old stories treasure was always guarded by dragons. That’s how you knew it was valuable.

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