The Stein passage from Lord Jim : here Stein unravels the mystery of Jim's romanticism: (you can skip to the end if you wish so see "the destructive element" and about drowning in air):
"'To tell you the truth, Stein,' I said with an effort that surprised me, 'I came here to describe a specimen....'
"'Butterfly?' he asked, with an unbelieving and humorous eagerness.
"'Nothing so perfect,' I answered, feeling suddenly dispirited with all sorts of doubts. 'A man!' ...
"He heard me out, sitting with crossed legs. Sometimes his head would disappear completely in a great eruption of smoke, and a sympathetic growl would come out from the cloud. When I finished he uncrossed his legs, laid down his pipe, leaned forward towards me earnestly with his elbows on the arms of his chair, the tips of his fingers together.
"'I understand very well. He is romantic.'
"He had diagnosed the case for me, and at first I was quite startled to find how simple it was; and indeed our conference resembled so much a medical consultation- Stein, of learned aspect, sitting in an arm-chair before his desk; I, anxious, in another, facing him, but a little to one side- that it seemed natural to ask-
"'What's good for it?'
"'There is only one remedy! One thing alone can us from being ourselves cure!' The finger came down on the desk with a smart rap. The case which he had made to look so simple before became if possible still simpler- and altogether hopeless. There was a pause. 'Yes,' said I, 'strictly speaking, the question is not how to get cured, but how to live.' ...
"'We want in so many different ways to be,' he began again. ..... 'He wants to be a saint, and he wants to be a devil- and every time he shuts his eyes he sees himself as a very fine fellow- so fine as he can never be.... In a dream....' ...
"'Yes! Very funny this terrible thing is. A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. If he tries to climb out into the air as inexperienced people endeavour to do, he drowns- nicht wahr?... No! I tell you! The way is to the destructive element submit yourself, and with the exertions of your hands and feet in the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up. So if you ask me- how to be?'
I think that in the last line of Prufrock -- Till human voices wake us, and we drown -- is a deliberate allusion to Stein's famous speech in Conrad's Lord Jim: about "the destructive element" (the sea) in which romantics like Jim immerse themselves too long and become so accustomed to it. so that they in effect "drown" when they must come up for air. I will find the passage and post it. -- Jim (PS: Spender's book has that title: The Destructive Element) -- Jim Loucks
Carrol, -- Yes, I've wondered about that possible link myself. -- Jim
James Loucks: Do you mean as in the ancient test for pure gold? Or the Arnoldian literary touchstone? -- Jim Loucks
It's been 50+ years since I read "The Forsaken Merman" -- which might have an interesting connection with "Till human voices wake us. . . ." Some bright under-grad might work on it.
From: P <[log in to unmask]
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Thursday, August 6, 2015 12:18 PM
Subject: Re: Letter of Recommendation: 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'
Prufrock is touchstone.
On 6 Aug 2015 5:10 am, "Rickard A. Parker" <[log in to unmask]
> Another recommendation:
> The New York Times Magazine
> Letter of Recommendation: 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'
> August 6, 2015
> By Mark Levine
> Mark Levine has written for the magazine since 2002. His new book of poems, ‘‘Travels of Marco,’’ will be published in 2016.
> The last paragraph:
> I lost myself in its winding passageways and felt momentarily reunited with my teenage self, transported into a world of frightening, delirious possibility. ‘‘Prufrock’’ could restore me to the primal necessities of poetry like nothing else. It wasn’t the same poem I discovered years earlier, nor the poem my students read, but with disarming specificity, ‘‘Prufrock’’ remained capable of speaking to an enduring desire for something larger than myself, made available through the shape-shifting powers of the imagination. ‘‘Why is the poem called a love song?’’ a student asked. It was a good question. I turned to the class. ‘‘Is Prufrock in love?’’ Long silence. Then a student spoke: ‘‘Yes,’’ she said. ‘‘In love with poetry.’’
> A version of this article appears in print on August 9, 2015, on page MM20 of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’.