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An interesting take

Young Min Hyun (현영민) -- in an article titled "T. S. Eliot's Poetry: 'Do I dare to eat a peach?'" -- tells us the following, at least in the English abstract:

T. S. Eliot's impersonal theory of poetry is closely related with his nature of a Catholic, Calvinistic, or Puritanical temperament, which became the basis of his religious and sexual imagination in his poetry. We should bear in mind that his concept of tradition expounded in his essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent" is inseparable from his belief in the Christian dogmatic belief in Original Sin, as he explained in After Strange Gods, a lecture delivered at the University of Virginia in 1933.

Eliot interprets the Fall of man as originated in man's sexual passion which is symbolized in the act of eating the forbidden fruit in Genesis. This forbidden fruit is variously featured in Eliot's poetry as a peach in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," or a fig in Ash-Wednesday, or an apple in Four Quartets. Man should continually avoid the bodily desires not to eat the forbidden fruit. To relieve himself from the fear of His punishment, he should continually humiliate himself before God. This religious myth is accommodated to Eliot's impersonal theory of poetry which asks of the artist a continual surrender or self-sacrifice. In Eliot's poetry, women are dismissed as a temptress to be avoided. By cleansing his desires by the burning spiritual fire, man is recreated. Therefore, Eliot's ideal woman is a lady of silences in white and blue dress like Virgin Mary, a lady like Dante's Beatrice, a lady like Poe's Helen or Annabel Lee, whose beauty cannot be defiled by man's animal desires.

His poetic assimilation of his religious belief in terms of sexuality is inherited from the Puritan poetic representation of the abstract and spiritual value in terms of the concrete and sensual image, as seen in Jonathan Edwards, a last Puritan.

http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/2011/10/t-s-eliot-and-prufrocks-daring-peach.html

CR


On Sunday, August 23, 2015, Chanan Mittal <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
 "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—

He would apprise them of their state of sinfulness, the sin of lust.
But they would disclaim any such motive, saying "That is not it, at all."

There was earlier an allusion to John the Baptist who had his head severed and brought in upon a platter for committing such an audacity.

CR 

On Sunday, August 23, 2015, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]');" target="_blank">[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Exactly where in the poem is this:  "to warn the ladies of the sins of pleasure"?
 
Weeping and praying are not necessarily ascetic. The nearest is the line about fasting. But the "Pervigilium," which Eliot added and removed, is about anxiety and fear and shyness--all the characteristics Crawford demonstrates.
 
The line about Lazarus is part of an allusion to "To His Coy Mistress," hardly about ascetic self-control.
 
Were this a much later poem, it would likely be there, and it would be explicit. The ascetic images in early work is more linked to Narcissus and Sebastion, but they are about desires, terrible ones of rape and murder.
N
>>> Chanan Mittal 08/23/15 2:10 PM >>>
Well, Prufrock weeps and fasts, weeps and prays. He would like to be a Lazarus to warn the ladies of the sins of pleasure. There is an ascetic side to him for sure. He might fail there but he definitely aspires to it. 

CR

On Sunday, August 23, 2015, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
It probably is sensual, given the lines before and after about dressing like a Paris dandy.
 
But it is not about asceticism. His discussions of sex then (he was a virgin and not happy about it in any of his letters) were about his desires rising up and his wish that he had gotten rid of his virginity long ago. And the adolescent and vulgar sexuality of his Bolo poems and others reveals a preoccupation with things about which he seems to have fantasized--some of them, as in "The Love Song of St. Sebastion," disturbingly sadistic.
 
At any rate, when he writes of it in letters, as to Aiken, it is about fear and shyness, not asceticism.
 
One of the great contributions of Crawford's "Young Eliot" is to move beyond the notion that the late, constricted Eliot was always there.
Nancy

>>> Chanan Mittal 08/23/15 12:40 PM >>>
In the context of the poem a sensual delight. The ascetic in him must abjure all temptations of desire.

CR

On Sunday, August 23, 2015, Tom Gray <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Peaches also constitute a natural laxative which would also be of concern for an ageing man.



On Sat, Aug 22, 2015 at 4:07 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
This and many other readings are online. But it is not clear which, if any, apply. There is a website purporting to expose the errors (many) in the "Gradesaver" account of the poem, but it  (the ostensible correcting site), unfortunately, creates new ones just as egregious. It says, for example, that it is not accurate to say that "trousers rolled" is a new, bohemian style--though Conrad Aiken said at the time it was. So what it and other sites say is varied and confused.
 
But here are some things about peaches. To "eat a peach" is slang for cunnilingus. I cannot find how old that is. Rick, can you trace it back?
 
In China, where they were first cultivated, peaches are symbols of immortality.
 
Also, "It has special significance in Chinese culture: the peach has mystical attributes, and supposedly brings luck, abundance and protection."
 
Peach pits are poisonous, so biting one might do more than break a tooth (one of the anxieties possibly attributed to Prufrock).
 
But it is not clear that Prufrock is really aging; Eliot was young (22), and he said in an interviews in 1962 that Prufrock was partly himself and partly another, older person. His fear of growing old may not mean he is doing so. 
 
Etymological dictionary:
peach (n.) Look up peach at Dictionary.com
c. 1400 (late 12c. as a surname), from Old French pesche "peach, peach tree" (Old North French peske, Modern French pêche), and directly from Medieval Latin pesca, from Late Latin pessica, variant of persica "peach, peach tree," from Latin malum Persicum, literally "Persian apple," translating Greek Persikon malon, from Persis "Persia" (see Persian).

In ancient Greek Persikos could mean "Persian" or "the peach." The tree is native to China, but reached Europe via Persia. By 1663 William Penn observed peaches in cultivation on American plantations. Meaning "attractive woman" is attested from 1754; that of "good person" is from 1904. Peaches and cream in reference to a type of complexion is from 1901. Peach blossom as a color is from 1702. Georgia has been the Peach State since 1939. [emphasis mine]

(Given the date of "attractive woman," and the metaphor for complexion, the sexual suggestion may be apt.)

Nancy

 

>>> "Rickard A. Parker" <[log in to unmask]> 08/22/15 3:18 PM >>>
On Sat, 22 Aug 2015 12:01:42 -0500, Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>"Do I dare to eat a peach?"
>
>Is "peach" a metaphor or, if not, what in 1910ff made it daring to eat a
>peach?

Prufrock is aging. He wonders if he should take up new fashions like a new hair style or wearing his trousers cuffed. Or, perhaps more importantly, his teeth are going bad. If he eats a peach he may bite into the pit and lose a tooth or two.

Regards,
Rick Parker