In a message dated 9/24/02 11:36:49 AM Pacific Daylight Time, [log in to unmask] writes:
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?...
> This does not prove the men are homosexuals, but given that they are
> populating the "narrow streets at dusk" (and given the context of the
> poem which we have not yet discussed in these short posts), I think that
> the image being implied.
It certainly _is_ a very disturbing passage, even by the standards of that
most disturbing poem. And I think there may a homoerotic undertone to the
poem. But there is one detail in the passage that goes against a homoerotic
reading: the pipes. Freudian critics would probably have a field day on that
image (and we're not even mentioning a possible echo of the ambiguous French
word 'pipe'). I may be plain wrong here, but as far as I know, pipe-smoking
was never part of the gay code. If those lonely men in shirt sleeves had
been smoking cigarettes, it would be easier to find the passage homoerotic.
Does anyone know more about gay fashions in the early 20th century?
The English word for cigarettes "fags" actually had a homosexual connotation to it, in that allegedly real men smoked pipes and homosexuals smoked cigarettes. That's a little difficult for me to understand since I know that most heterosexual men who smoke prefer cigarettes over cigars by far. In fact, if I saw a man smoking a pipe, I would immediately suspect that he wasn't smoking tobacco. Perhaps this fag/cigarette double meaning was due to the fact that in the 1920's, women had started smoked cigarettes out in public. In any event, as to the passage in issue, I might interpret it as lonely married men who are secretly gay, lonely, leaning out the windows, dreaming of another life that they can never possibly make happen. An unreal life, considering the times.