Friday, October 23, 2009

Poetry: TS Eliot - The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock

Second submission for West in New England's Great American Local Poem Genealogy Challenge

T.S. Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1888, where he lived until 1905. From 1905-1914 he was in Boston and Cambridge, MA furthering his studies at Milton Academy and Harvard University (Except for 1910-1911, which he spent in Paris). In 1914 he moved to London where he spent most of his adult life. [source]

Since most of my paternal ancestors were residing in St. Louis from 1890-1905, and since the rest were in London, and since I have maternal English ancestry as well, I think Eliot definitely qualifies as a poet from an ancestral region.

Excerpt from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock - by TS Eliot

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.

Full poem

Many have suggested that the yellow fog in these stanzas was directly inspired by the factory smoke that filled the St. Louis atmosphere at the turn of the century.I believe this is the most direct reference Eliot makes to St. Louis in any of his poetry, though some have identified the "Brown God" in his The Dry Salvages as the Mississippi river.

As I also mentioned back in February of 2008, Eliot said regarding the William Prufrock Furniture company that was present in St. Louis during his youth:
"I did not have, at the time of writing the poem, and have not yet recovered, any recollection of having acquired this name in any way, but I think that it must be assumed that I did, and that the memory has been obliterated."
At the moment I have one more submission in mind. I've found a collection of Polish poetry in translation, but I have yet to select a specific poem.

1 comment:

T.K. said...

John, is there anything more delicious than listening to a reading of this poem in Eliot's own voice? I think not! It's on youtube... but of course you'll want to close your eyes and not be distracted by the slide show:
http://youtu.be/NhiCMAG658M

And then, quite by accident, I caught this take-off... or put-on... or send-up... call it what you will, it was pretty funny, if a bit too long:
http://youtu.be/IxOrg6mwZ9Y

What a lovely distraction from what I should be doing right now! Thanks, John!