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TSE  April 2006

TSE April 2006

Subject:

Re: 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'

From:

Dunja Seselja <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Sun, 30 Apr 2006 06:26:34 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (279 lines)

--- cr mittal <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> All right, Dunja, as you say in your next post, let
> tomorrow
>   take care of itself. A night like this never
> visits again --- so
>   let's, like TSE, keep the hours awake with our
> vigil.

Ahh, seems I went to bed too early, I would have loved
to keep the hours awake in this way. (Scroll down to
see  my comments on your thoughts)
    
>   Your observation -- So maybe we have here the
> "self" which is (trying to be) over and above this
> distinction, and yet, does it dare? and yet, it is
> not
> Hamlet... -- touches the pulse of the poem.
>    
>   Prufrock is at war with himself, indeed.
>   He's a prophet who sees through the veneer of
>   hypocrisy and vanity of these women who are
>   one of a set. They are unaware of their state
>   of sinfulness. Prufrock, though himself only
>   an aspirant of a higher and more perfect state
>   of being (as that of the mermaids), has been a
>   spiritual failure, despite his fasting, weeping
>   and praying. All the same, he sets out to awaken
>   these earthly mermaids to the truth of their
> "lust"
>   (which they deny: that's not it at all).
>    
>   There're two allusions in the poem to
>   authenticate this position:
>    
>   1. To Lazarus. In the Biblical story, Lazarus,
> before
>   being committed to hell for the sin of lust, seeks
> permission
>   to visit the earth so as to warn his family of the
> dreadful 
>   suffering in hell that awaits the lustful.
>    
>   In the poem, Prufrock observes that these women
> are 
>   so oblivious of the truth of their lustulness,
> that even if
>   he were to enter into a physical union with one of
> them
>   (if only to substantiate his point) and then tell
> them he
>   is not a living being but Lazarus come from hell
> to apprise
>   them of their sinfulness, they would still deny it
> saying: 
>   That is not it, at all.
>    
>   2. To John the Baptist whose head was brought in
>   upon a platter for his impudence in daring to
> censure
>   king Herod for his sin of lust. Prufrock is afraid
> that in 
>   case he musters all his strength and exposes these
>   women for what they are, he'll meet the fate of
> the 
>   prophet. He admits lack of moral courage.
>   He's acutely aware he's not made into
>   the mould of a Hamlet, as you point out.

Your interpretation sounds very very interesting. But
I must say I can't accept it completely. I can't
accept that Prufrock is striking against the lust,
against the life in this sense; the whole poem is so
full of passion, and to give Prufrock a role of a
"moral teacher" or of the "voice of conscience" would
do the unjust to the poem. The lines that make me say
this, are first those where he says "That is not what
I meant at all. That is not it, at all." Now, I don't
think this negation is simply something what Prufrock
expects as a potential answer to his "disturbing of
the universe"; it is also what he himself agrees with
- that all these possible "warnings" cannot simply
squeeze the universe into a ball, as that is not it at
all. 
I think lust is one of those things belonging to "this
world", the world of everyday life, and it falls under
the things Prufrock would like not to criticize, but
to subject to the burden of time. When he says that
there will be time to wonder "Do I dare?", he tells us
two things:
1) we all the time stand in front of the point which,
if crossed, we start daring (that's why the second
reflective questions "and, 'Do I dare?'" - dare to act
against this everyday life, to put questions, to
question the time itself and the entire meaning of
life;
2) the question of daring shows that Prufrock isn't
afraid of lust (to dare is, in a way, a lustful
action, it's a way of stepping over the borders of
what is simply given)
Prufrock knows there's something wrong with this
usual, unreflected living, but he is, on the other
hand, uncertain if questioning it would make any
sense, if it would bring anything or just miss the
point. He knows in the end he wouldn't be satisfied
("And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat,
and snicker,And in short, I was afraid." - afraid of
not knowing the sense of everything, of life, of love,
of lust, of time, of finiteness, of death).
I wouldn't say that motives of Lazarus and John the
Baptist are directly referring to lust and sin (but
thanks a lot for explaining them!); lust is here more
a symbol for something mortal, human, which cannot be
understood by a simple reflection, cause "this is not
it at all". 
As for the mermaids, maybe here Peter is right in
calling upon Ulysses: Prufrock maybe wants to say that
he's too far in his thoughts in order to be able to
hear the song of enchantment; he can see them and hear
them, but he remains outside of their game. He has
been among them, has played the games of love and
passion, until human voices - our thoughts,
reflections (Peter!) -  wake him and he drowns. 
>    
>   I must leave it here, Dunja, for now!
>   A classroom lecture can go on for hours --
>   one has only to wag one's tongue.
>   But typing is a laborious job.
>    Your pardon, madam.

Thank you, CR, very much for this! Although I disagree
at some points with you, your post helped me see some
symbols which I haven't seen before. And as I already
once said, I don't think it is possible to put such a
poem in the frame of only one interpretation. But it
is wonderful to discuss its possible meanings!

Dunja

>    
>   Good night.
>    
>   ~ CR
>   
> 
> Dunja Seselja <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>   Thanks for the reply, CR! I like your
> interpretation
> of that bit. It seems to be that the poem contains
> two
> opposite moments: one one hand, there is an everyday
> life, everyday language, everyday faces, everyday
> yellow smoke. On the other, there is this
> metaphysical
> burden of time and finiteness. It is interesting
> that
> the motive of Michelangelo serves as an opposition
> to
> the first "world" and at the same time it is an
> opposition Prufrock himself (according to your point
> on masculine figures). So maybe we have here the
> "self" which is (trying to be) over and above this
> distinction, and yet, does it dare? and yet, it is
> not
> Hamlet... Ahh, this is such a complex poem (and
> that's, I guess, what makes it so great) - no matter
> where you try to catch it, it always slips away (for
> example, I can't figure out this motive of
> mermaids).
> 
> Cheers!
> 
> Dunja
> 
> 
> --- cr mittal wrote:
> 
> > Thanks for your comments, Dunja. I answer you
> first.
> > Your pardon, Marcia. Dunja's is an easier
> > question. 
> > 
> > I take the poem to be an internal monologue --
> > the poet talking to his own self.
> > 
> > As for Michaelangelo being the topic of
> > conversation 
> > among the women, please consider the lines:
> > 
> > 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. 
> > 
> > You will observe that the ambience of the place
> > depicted here
> > hardly indicates a place where artists, or
> > art-minded people, 
> > would meet and discuss art. It underscores the
> > cheapness
> > of the place.
> > 
> > The talk about Michaelangelo (as glib as that of
> > Chopin,
> > the Polish music maestro in 'Portrait'),
> > therefore, is nothing
> > more than a sop to seduce a customer. 
> > 
> > Yes, there's an ironic dimension to this repeated
> > harping on
> > "Michaelangelo". (The italian sculptor made
> > masculine figures 
> > of enviable virility and strength.) It's an ironic
> > dig at Prufrock's 
> > emasculated body. No wonder, he becomes too
> > self-conscious 
> > and suffers the shame of "wriggling on the wall"
> > like a worm. 
> > 
> > ~ CR
> > 
> > 
> > Dunja Seselja wrote: Hm,
> > interesting, CR. I don't know if I could agree
> > with that completely, have to think about it
> > first...
> > What confuses me a bit is the fact that the poem
> > brings with "Let us go then, you and I..." - that
> > line, as well as the last one, brings in the story
> > another person... so I've always had a feeling the
> > poem is related to the love between two persons,
> but
> > in the light of an "overwhelming question" - our
> > finiteness and time. 
> > By the way, what do you think about the lines "In
> > the
> > room the women come and go/ Talking of
> > Michelangelo"?
> > I guess this has an ironic flair (or maybe I'm
> > wrong?), but why exactly Michelangelo?
> > 
> > D.
> > 
> > --- cr mittal wrote:
> > 
> > > Thanks, Dunja, for raising what I believe to be
> > the
> > > core and crucial questions vis-a-vis this poem.
> > > Here're my perceptions:
> > > 
> > > why is the poem called "the love song of j. a.
> > > prufrock"?
> > > It's a love song of _J. Alfred Prufrock_,
> > > implying thereby that it is "his" love song,
> > > and it's not like a conventional romantic love
> > > song we're used to hearing.
> > > 
> > > what sort of love is that?
> > > It's not human love (love of a man or woman) in
> > > the conventional sense that he has in mind. His
> > love
> > > is "love of God" -- love of the Absolute Good --
> > of
> > > being in harmony
> > > with that principle of goodness and divinity
> that
> 
=== message truncated ===


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