Wednesday, April 11, 2012

For the Love of Prufrock

I do, I do. I love The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I've never analyzed it (either the poem or my love for it). I've never written a paper on it. I don't particularly care about the layers of hidden meaning or the allusions to other works of literature. I just like the way the words sound, the way it makes me feel, the certain phrases (I have measured out my life in coffee spoons). This is the source of the poetry I embroidered on my jeans (I have heard the mermaids singing).

I think I love it so because I came to it at around the same age Eliot wrote it. The voice in the poem seems that of an older man, and I was surprised to learn recently that Eliot was in his early 20s when he wrote it, but when I thought about it, it made sense to me. For some reason, some reason that seems irrational and illogical and probably dramatic from my nearly-40 vantage point, the early 20s are so tiring. Maybe it's just the way I did it, and the way most of my friends did it, working mind-numbing jobs none of us needed our college degrees for, because that's all we could find, going along paycheck to paycheck, wondering when would life start and had it started already and could we be doing more or was this all it was? When we were sober enough to think, that is. Inside, I probably felt like middle-aged Prufrock (I do not think that they will sing to me). At about the same time in my life, I was listening to Dave Matthews singing: Twenty-three and so tired of life...could I have been anyone other than me? (Dancing Nancies)

What is it about the early 20s?

So there you go, for the first time, I've partially analyzed my love for Prufrock. It's too long, I think, to post in its entirety here, so I've included a snippet. Follow the links to read it all for yourself.

From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
By T. S. Eliot

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.

***
Do I dare? Do I? Do you?

6 comments:

Suburban Correspondent said...

The rhythms of this poem grab me, too - I discovered it in high school. I remember writing a parody, the only part of which I can remember is this: In the office, the secretaries come and go, talking of the Late, Late Show...

I can't even remember the original words to that part.

I love "Like a patient etherized upon a table..." and "The mermaids singing each to each." Each to each...so awesome...

iamrushmore said...

give me my early 40's ANYDAY over my early 20's. I was intolerable. Have never read this one in it's entirety. gonna go click through.

Rose Red said...

I'm a fan of this one too, although I have to admit I don't know it well. There's just something that grabs me about "I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear my trousers rolled".

Donna Lee said...

From the ripe old age of 54, 20 is so very young. I remember thinking that now that I had graduated college, I knew everything I needed to know and I could have a life.

Oh my. How ignorant 20 year olds are.

Michelle said...

I don't know how we all made it out of our 20s.

He had me at the title. I've always been fascinated with this one, and there's something about how the title rolls off the tongue. It's in a book on my side table . . . gonna have to reread it today.

Bells said...

yes yes yes. I did study it and I don't think it spoke to me all that much at the time - although when you highlight some of the lines they come flooding back and I can picture the room where we sat in a tutorial discussing it - all in our early 20s.

The 20s are exhausting. Twenty years on I'm filled with recollections of it not being the happy time it could have been - which then makes me think what will I make of my late 30s, twenty years from now. Will I be 'old'?