Thanks, Marcin, for this engaging discussion on 'Preludes".
I'm afraid I do not find any evidence in the poem that could
your following remark:
// Thus being "moved" by the "fancies", in itself, would be
symptomatic of sympathy on the part of the speaker.
He/she seems to sympathise with the "hands", the "feet",
the "eyes" with all the synecdochically mutilated
inhabitants of his/her world. //
The narrator does assume different (not differing)
identities -- from "The grimy scraps / Of withered leaves
about _your_ feet", in Prelude I, to the impersonal
"_One_ thinks of all the hands..." in Prelude II, to
" _You_ had such a vision of the street..." in Prelude III.
Prelude IV makes a departure in that it begins with
" _His_ soul stretched tight across the skies..." but
concludes with "_I_ am moved by fancies..." as well
as "Wipe _your_ hand
across your mouth, and laugh..."
Marcin, I take note of the _deprecating_ note in each of the
Preludes irrespective of the identity the speaker assumes.
And I find no evidence of his/her _sympathy_ with the social
scene he/she depicts. In Prelude I, there are adjectives like
"burnt-out", "smoky", "grimy", "withered", "vacant",
and "broken". The speaker's impatience with this mundane
reality is signified in the image of a lonely cab horse that
"steams and stamps". It is disillusionment such as this
that is ancillary to the metaphoric "lighting of the lamps".
The note of deprecation continues in Prelude II that
depicts the other "masquarades" of time with qualifying
adjectives like "stale", "muddy" and "dingy".
In Preludes III, in the
"thousand sordid images of which
your soul was constituted", the qualifier "sordid"
underscores the speaker's sense of disgust with
his/her existence -- the image of "sparrows in the
gutters" does not merely describe the scene. These
images induce in the speaker "a vision of the street..."
Preludes IV tells us of the impact of this sordid reality
on the soul of the speaker --- "His soul stretched tight
across the skies" vis-a-vis the "conscience of a
The lines "I am moved by _fancies_ that are curled /
Around these images, and cling" hardly indicate any
sympathy for them. For, these only engender "The
notion of some infinitely gentle / Infinitely suffering
thing." This "infinitely gentle" being obviously owes
his/her infinite suffering to the impact of this dismal
social scene on his/her psyche.
Finally, the speaker laughs away the emotion in the
manner of Laforgue, not without the parting comment
about the timeless nature of the world's futile and
I, therefore, find a note of unity in the speaker's response
to his/her sordid and dreary existence, in spite of the
apparently differing identities he/she puts on.
Incidentally, those who are familiar with the chronology
of the Preludes' composition, know that Preludes I & II
were written in October 1910, Preludes III (begun in
Paris, 1910; completed in July 1911 ), and Preludes
IV (Cambridge, Mass., 1911).
In bringing them
together as one poem, the poet seems
to have deliberately chosen to retain differing pronouns
-- it would lend a wider validity to the experience of
continued disillusionment with the sordid reality
of the social scene.
I'm not sure if my arguments hold. But they're there :)