I think, actually, the Irish image fits very well:
as far as I can find Preludes was written around the time of the Easter
Rebellion. Eliot was acquainted with Yeats at this point in his life, no?
The image of the soiled workers living in a city is a little beyond the
American 1910s -- at least the Urban areas Eliot was concerned with -- if this were
Boston or New York, the sentiment expressed in "the grimy scraps of withered
leaves" would reemerge in "the palms of both soiled hands" (i.e. "soiled"
would be better "grimy"). Also, it is far more likely that a British Isle is the
location of this poem, as the rampant pollution spread into the countryside
far more than in America at this point -- there weren't that many parks in the
major American cities (Eliot/Fitzgerald's "waste land" comes to mind here) for
leaves to be blown around from.
So it is a British/Irish poem.
This comes across most evidently in the final stanza:
Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh:
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in ancient lots.
One would wipe one's mouth after a good fight (vid: Sandburg's "Chicago"
[also dealing with laughter] or "Fight Club")
One should laugh (instead of crying) as the situations are so similar in the
battling nations (this could of course spill onto the Continent but not much
of this poem is Continental)
And the worlds are so similar that they are picking coal from the same lot --
think about this image -- a general coexistence based upon mutual need that
flares up when the coal runs out.