The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

by T. S Eliot

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma percioche 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 etherized 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!)
Is it 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 towards 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.

Summary of The Long Song

Popularity: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a dramatic narrative poem by T. S Eliot, first written between 1910-1911 and was published in June 1915 and again in 1917. The poem reflects the thoughts of a person searching for love in an uncertain world. Despite knowing what to say and how to express his love, he is hesitant. In his mind, he goes further in his relationship and observation. However, physically he remains in the same place as he continues to talk to another person through his monologue. The poem has gained immense popularity since its publication due to its pseudo-romantic tone.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – as an Anti-love Poem: Although the title of the poem suggests that its content is enchanting about the ripe memories of love, the situation is quite contrary. The poem captures the unexpressed love and fragmented thoughts of the narrator.  The narrator of the poem is a middle-aged man, who is in love with a lady but lacks the courage to express his feelings for her. The expressions of confusion and lack of courage remain at the core of the poem. Through his regret of aging and frustration of unfulfilled desires, the narrator also expresses that the time does not wait for anyone.

Major Themes: The poem comprises thoughts of a middle-aged man whose life is beset in confusion and does not allow him to act according to his will. His subconscious mind asks questions that have deep philosophical meanings and is also afraid of rejection. He considers himself unworthy of women, as he continues to worry about the reaction of the people. The poem reflects modern delusional thought’s through Prufrock on how the ancient society forced people to live meaningless lives and allow other’s opinion to dominate their thoughts. This fear of being judged leaves a person broken, and as he/she becomes old, they regret their decision and become depressive as seen in the poem.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Literary devices, a significant part of any literary piece, are used to highlight hidden meanings.  These devices also help in bringing clarity and uniqueness. T.S. Eliot has also used various literary devices such as metaphors, similes, personification, and irony in this poem. The analysis of some of the literary devices is given below.

  1. Personification: Eliot has used a personification that means to use emotions for inanimate objects. He has personified trees and other objects in the poem. The phrase “the tree waved as I walked by” shows the trees as humans, and they wave at him. He has also personified “Yellow fog” as a lurking cat or even a dog.
  2. Metaphor: There are various metaphors used in the poem. “Hollywood” stands for the entertainment Similarly, “the man” and “Washington” are metaphors of government during that period.
  3. Simile: A simile is a device used to compare two different objects to understand meanings by comparing these object’s qualities. “The streets that follow like a tedious argument” is one of the examples of simile used in the poem. Perhaps the people or the crowd talking across the street sounded like an argument to the narrator. In the second example “While streets the evening is spread out against the sky, Like a patient etherized upon a table…” the evening is compared to death.
  4. Irony: Irony is a figure of speech that states the opposite meanings of the situation being discussed. Prufrock, in the poem, thinks he has a lot of time, but in reality, he is running out of time.
  5. Epigraph: It refers to a quote, statement or poem that is set at the beginning of the document before the actual poem or a literary piece begins. Eliot has used a stanza from Dante’s “Inferno” before starting the actual poem.
  6. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of the same consonant sounds in the same lines such as the use of /f/ sound in “fix you in a formulated phrase”

This analysis of literary devices shows that Eliot excels in using literary devices to grab the reader’s attention. It also shows that the effective use of these devices helps readers understand Eliot’s message.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Although poetic devices are the same as literary devices, some are specifically used in poems. T. S. Eliot has used following poetic devices in his poem to make it appealing.

  1. Stanza: The structure of the stanza varies as the poem progresses.  Stanzas of two, seven and twelve verses have been used throughout the poem.
  2. Rhyme Scheme: S. Eliot has used simple rhyme pattern in this poem. In the first two lines, the poet has used rhyming couplet. The rhyme pattern also changes between rhymed and unrhymed lines as the poem progresses.
  3. Repetition: There is a repetition of the phrase “let us go” in line one, four and twelve. The line fifteen and sixteen also start with “the yellow” and ends with “window-panes.” Similarly, the words “do I dare” have also been repeated in the poem. The repetition of these phrases has enhanced the musical impact of the poem.
  4. Refrain: The lines repeated at some distance in the poems are called refrain. The phrases such as, “the yellow” “window-panes” and “let us go” have been repeated. Therefore, they have become a type of refrain.

In the final analysis, it can be stated the use of these poetic devices has brought musical quality hard to find in such free verse poems. Eliot has successfully blended poetic devices with literary devices and further with his message to show that he understands the art of poetry and uses this art to convey his message effectively.

 Quotes for Usage from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

These lines can be quoted while speaking about or delivering a lecture on an adventure undertaken to an unknown place where one finds strange things that make him curious. This can also be used in a dialogue about personal experiences.

“Oh, do not ask, “What is it?

Let us go and make our visit.”