Poetry: T. S. Eliot - The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock - Portrait of a Lady - Links

Posted by Ricardo Marcenaro | Posted in | Posted on 0:08

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

       S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
       A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
       Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
       Ma perciocche 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 doors 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 toward 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
     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.


Portrait of a Lady

       Thou hast committed—
       Fornication: but that was in another country
       And besides, the wench is dead.
       The Jew of Malta.


     Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon
     You have the scene arrange itself—as it will seem to do—
     With "I have saved this afternoon for you";
     And four wax candles in the darkened room,
     Four rings of light upon the ceiling overhead,
     An atmosphere of Juliet's tomb
     Prepared for all the things to be said, or left unsaid.
     We have been, let us say, to hear the latest Pole
     Transmit the Preludes, through his hair and finger-tips.
     "So intimate, this Chopin, that I think his soul
     Should be resurrected only among friends
     Some two or three, who will not touch the bloom
     That is rubbed and questioned in the concert room."
     —And so the conversation slips
     Among velleities and carefully caught regrets
     Through attenuated tones of violins
     Mingled with remote cornets
     And begins.

     "You do not know how much they mean to me, my friends,
     And how, how rare and strange it is, to find
     In a life composed so much, so much of odds and ends,
     (For indeed I do not love it... you knew? you are not blind!
     How keen you are!)
     To find a friend who has these qualities,
     Who has, and gives
     Those qualities upon which friendship lives.
     How much it means that I say this to you—
     Without these friendships—life, what cauchemar!"
     Among the windings of the violins
     And the ariettes
     Of cracked cornets
     Inside my brain a dull tom-tom begins
     Absurdly hammering a prelude of its own,
     Capricious monotone
     That is at least one definite "false note."
     —Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance,
     Admire the monuments
     Discuss the late events,
     Correct our watches by the public clocks.
     Then sit for half an hour and drink our bocks.


     Now that lilacs are in bloom
     She has a bowl of lilacs in her room
     And twists one in her fingers while she talks.
     "Ah, my friend, you do not know, you do not know
     What life is, you should hold it in your hands";
     (Slowly twisting the lilac stalks)
     "You let it flow from you, you let it flow,
     And youth is cruel, and has no remorse
     And smiles at situations which it cannot see."
     I smile, of course,
     And go on drinking tea.
     "Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall
     My buried life, and Paris in the Spring,
     I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world
     To be wonderful and youthful, after all."

     The voice returns like the insistent out-of-tune
     Of a broken violin on an August afternoon:
     "I am always sure that you understand
     My feelings, always sure that you feel,
     Sure that across the gulf you reach your hand.

     You are invulnerable, you have no Achilles' heel.
     You will go on, and when you have prevailed
     You can say: at this point many a one has failed.

     But what have I, but what have I, my friend,
     To give you, what can you receive from me?
     Only the friendship and the sympathy
     Of one about to reach her journey's end.

     I shall sit here, serving tea to friends...."

     I take my hat: how can I make a cowardly amends
     For what she has said to me?
     You will see me any morning in the park
     Reading the comics and the sporting page.
     Particularly I remark An English countess goes upon the stage.
     A Greek was murdered at a Polish dance,
     Another bank defaulter has confessed.
     I keep my countenance, I remain self-possessed
     Except when a street piano, mechanical and tired
     Reiterates some worn-out common song
     With the smell of hyacinths across the garden
     Recalling things that other people have desired.
     Are these ideas right or wrong?


     The October night comes down; returning as before
     Except for a slight sensation of being ill at ease
     I mount the stairs and turn the handle of the door
     And feel as if I had mounted on my hands and knees.

     "And so you are going abroad; and when do you return?
     But that's a useless question.
     You hardly know when you are coming back,
     You will find so much to learn."
     My smile falls heavily among the bric-à-brac.

     "Perhaps you can write to me."
     My self-possession flares up for a second;
     This is as I had reckoned.

     "I have been wondering frequently of late
     (But our beginnings never know our ends!)
     Why we have not developed into friends."
     I feel like one who smiles, and turning shall remark
     Suddenly, his expression in a glass.
     My self-possession gutters; we are really in the dark.

     "For everybody said so, all our friends,
     They all were sure our feelings would relate
     So closely! I myself can hardly understand.
     We must leave it now to fate.
     You will write, at any rate.
     Perhaps it is not too late.
     I shall sit here, serving tea to friends."

     And I must borrow every changing shape
     To find expression... dance, dance
     Like a dancing bear,
     Cry like a parrot, chatter like an ape.
     Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance—
     Well! and what if she should die some afternoon,
     Afternoon grey and smoky, evening yellow and rose;
     Should die and leave me sitting pen in hand
     With the smoke coming down above the housetops;
     Doubtful, for quite a while
     Not knowing what to feel or if I understand
     Or whether wise or foolish, tardy or too soon...
     Would she not have the advantage, after all?
     This music is successful with a "dying fall"
     Now that we talk of dying—
     And should I have the right to smile?

Poetry: T. S. Eliot - The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock - Portrait of a Lady - Links

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