Granted, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is quite a long poem. But stop! Don’t click away! Give me a chance to persuade you to read it anyway. I promise pictures of cats.
The poem tells the story of J. Alfred Prufrock, who is growing old and looking back on his life and loves. He wonders what the point of asking a girl out is, really.
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;
He strikes as the Humphrey Bogart type (remember him from Casablanca?): full of bitter complaints but with a soft touch. It makes you wonder what kind of hardship is going on underneath his stiff upper lip.
And in short, I was afraid.
Also: this speaker is called Prufrock. How is that not an amazing name for a literary character?
In the poem Eliot describes the fog that is curling itself around the houses in a way that is clearly that of a cat.
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
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.
I myself, being an aspiring cat lady
(not that the cats in my house are actually mine, but whatever), love it when there is a mention of such furry cuteness. Who doesn’t? Here are some cute pictures of Mulan trying to drink from the tap and then chilling in the sink, if you need any further encouragement.
Eliot writes some deep but relatable lines, that make me (as an English student) swoon in admiration of their beauty. Well, almost. Have a look for yourself:
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
I feel a crisis coming up! And worse so, a crisis that comes with loving someone:
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,
If one, settling a pillow by her head
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
That is not it, at all.”
Epigraph Spoken by Man in Hell
Eliot starts his poem with an epigraph in Italian, spoken by Guido da Montefeltro, a character in Dante’s Inferno. Da Montefeltro basically says: “No one ever gets out of Hell, so I might as well tell you why I’m here”. Unfortunately for him, this doesn’t really work out as *spoilers* Dante does get out of hell, but you get the idea.
Quite an unusual way to open a love song, isn’t it?
Have I convinced you? Are you going to read the whole poem? Come on, it’s no more than 3 pages. You can find the poem here.
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.
Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think :).