Print

Print


I am unable to see here what the "meaning" of the poem ostensibly is. But if it is about the "making," we know a great deal more than Lewis did (though the excerpt below says nothing about the "making" of "Prufrock." In a fascinating seminar led by Cassandra Laity at the TSE Society, a lot of new information appeared. In my own case, I was focused on the writing of "Prufrock's Pervigilium," which was inserted in the Notebook and then removed (See IMH). It offers a quite disturbing and very different voice. But it is part of what was very much in the "making."

What, for example, is presumed to be the meaning that provides an absolute significance to "grow old" as literal?
Or did I miss something?
Nancy


>>> Ken Armstrong 10/23/15 12:30 PM >>>
Some years ago, when my wife's father was stopped going the wrong way on a one way street in this small town, the officer, well known to Red, said, "Red, don't you know this is a one way street?" "But Rod," said Red, "I'm only going one way."

Red, of course, knew he was making a joke with the law. Happily he was let off with a warning. Carrol, on the other hand, wants us to believe that a one way street really is a two way street. Well, okay, you pays your money and you makes your choices. But what you choose doesn't determine the nature of the street, only the approach you bring to it. 

I don't see any new questions or pressing observations in his post, and all in all don't believe my certainty exceeds anything Carrol always has on display. To the degree that "Prufrock" is a successful poem, it's meaning inheres in its making, which, again, would have been what Pound so enthusiastically pounced on.

Consider Wyndham Lewis' account of meeting TSE: 

" As I entered the room I discovered an agreeable stranger parked up one of the sides of the triangle. He softly growled at me, as we shook hands. American. A graceful neck, I noted, with what elsewhere I have described as 'a Gioconda smile.' Though not feminine -- besides being physically large his personality visibly moved within the male pale -- there were dimples in the warm dark skin; undoubtedly he used his eyes a little like a Leonardo. He was a very attractive fellow then....I liked him, though I may say not at all connecting him with texts Ezra had shown me about some fictional character dreadfully troubled with old age, in which the lines....'I am growing old....'.....I was unable to make head or tail of.

Ezra now lay flung back in typical posture of aggressive ease... However, he kept steadily beneath his quizzical but self-satisfied observation his latest prize, or discovery -- the author of Prufrock. The new collector's piece went on smiling and growling out melodiously his apt and bright answers to promptings from the proud figure of his exhausted captor."

After this description of a most un-Prufrockian like character, Lewis stumbles in the same place Carrol does, but only partly for the same reason: he can't make sense of the meaning of the "growing old" line for Prufrock, whereas Carrol's attention is in another dimensionaaaaa, trying to make it work for Eliot. The answer lies in how Prufrock's actions and alarms make him what he is and bring him to an end meant to be perceived as his fall, but moreover, in the first place, meant to be perceived by the structure and technique and signs in the poem. I think the telling phrase used to be "follow the lines of force."

Ken A 

PS I am impressed by Carrol's evident respect for "Prufrock." In a post from him I stumbled upon by virtue of my email client deciding to open to posts from 2009, he noted that in the long run Eliot would be largely forgotten by future generations with only two poems, in a minor way, meeting the test of time. No doubt "Prufrock" is one of them. I suppose it is only a matter of time until this projection comes to pass, and we will all be on the Marianne Moore list, discussing as per Carrol those much richer and more powerful poems.