Spread eagled even?
Like the typist even?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ken Armstrong" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, April 24, 2010 5:45 AM
Subject: Re: through eliot's kaleidoscope
Rickard A. Parker wrote:
> Ken, I think you misunderstand me. I may have left something out or
> wrote about it poorly.
Thanks, but no, I just disagree. My take on those opening lines is
different from yours. Eliot is out front skewering romantic cliches in
Prufrock, and it seems to me that is obvious from the get-go. The
epigraph is the big alert if not the title itself. Walking through
Boston with Prufrock or touring Hell with Virgil, our expectations are
front-loaded and we shouldn't take the ENORMOUS cliche of the evening
spread out against the sky as the opening of a pleasant experience.
> Imagine the poems being read to you for the first time, slowly with a
> longish pause between the lines. Can you picture your thoughts going
> something like this:
A good exercise,but wouldn't the first thing I hear be a report from
Dante? My takes bracketed [to the poem, not to your takes]:
> Let us go then, you and I,
> (Oh good, I like trips.) [neutral, nothing to judge here]
> When the evening is spread out against the sky
> (Beautiful. Violet light followed by a moon and stars.) [Oi. What a
cliche. You're killing me]
> Like a patient etherised upon a table;
> (What the hell is this?) [Ah. That's better]
> Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, [Of course]
> To lead you to an overwhelming question --
> (Something important is coming up)
> Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
> (Dang! He's going to leave me hanging.)
> Let us go and make our visit.
> (Yeah, he's avoiding the subject that *he* brought up.)
"He" being Prufrock, and his avoidance being perfectly, functionally
I guess this all could be considered a small concern, but I don't think
it is. Epigraphs in Eliot are functional; they present specific
instructions for reading the poems. If you want to say, as a thought
experiment, that you've never seen or heard an Eliot poem before and you
didn't know that epigraph meant anything....well, I think Eliot is
giving you more credit than that. And, in any event, what got me going
in this thread was the idea that Eliot has somehow mislead us, and that
that is another Eliot foible. Eliot has enough real foibles, I reckon
(though not particularly in the poetry), to have to bear the imaginary
ones that are heaped upon him, and most usually on this list not by you,
Rick. Just looking for an even exchange.
So thanks again,