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"Hamlet in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: December 10, 2005 04:35PM

I have a few ideas of what this poem is about, despite having it been a day's topic in two my classes in the last two years...sometimes I wonder if the professors really know much more than I about it. But I am attempting a paper on Eliot's use of "I am not Prince Hamlet" in the compare them (Hamlet and what Eliot is talking about). Hamlet is known as a man of inaction, and Eliot keeps ringing in this "there will be time" as if he (or the speaker in the poem) is procrastinating.

I would love to hear any of your comments on the subject.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
by Thomas Stearns Eliot

S'io credesse chc mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa Gamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno viva alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question....
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--
(They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!")
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin--
(They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!")
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all--
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all--
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . . . . . .
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?

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the doors of silent seas.
. . . . . . . . .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep ... tired ... or it malingers.
Stretched on on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald)
brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet--and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"--
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: "That is not what I meant at all;
That is not it, at all."

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts
that trail along the floor--
And this, and so much more?--
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while If one, settling a
pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
"That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all."
. . . . . . . . .
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous--
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Re: "Hamlet in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: December 10, 2005 09:00PM

My take on the poem is that it is a poor man's soliloquy, a song for the average guy,
an epitaph for the ordinary.

So much has been written about it though, that you must read at least some of the more scholarly articles, before forming a definite opinion on the poem. There are dozens of sites on the web, just Google the title, author, and "criticism". One of the best is this: [] />


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/12/2005 10:44PM by lg.

Re: "Hamlet in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: December 11, 2005 12:37PM

I confess I did not read the Modern American Poetry link given, except to scan for the word Hamlet, so if I mention something better covered there, their opinion is probably better than mine.

I don't see Hamlet as a figure of inaction - quite the opposite in fact. He discovers his father has been murdered by his mother and uncle, and takes decisive steps to get his revenge. But TSE doesn't say J. Alfred is LIKE Hamlet, but that he is NOT a Prince Hamlet type.

That is, instead he is an attendant lord, whose role is to swell a progress (which I took to mean 'move the plot along', but others say it means to be an extra person in a procession of some sort), or to get a scene started. He might be an advisor to the prince, or be an easy tool (supposedly a minor villain, carrying out the wishes of a higher villain). He might even be the motley fool in a play (although some fools in Shakespeare are no fools at all).

That Prufrock is a procrastinator is beyond question, I would say. Hamlet was not such a character. Perhaps compare Prufie to Polonius instead?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/11/2005 12:39PM by Hugh Clary.

Re: "Hamlet in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: December 13, 2005 01:00AM

About the Italian introduction, go here: [] />
and for an hour-long discussion of the poem go here: [] />


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/13/2005 04:12PM by lg.

Re: "Hamlet in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: December 17, 2005 10:14AM

I considered what Hamlet was in terms of the Aristotlian (sp?) Tragedy, begin a "basically good" person with a tragic flaw. I thnk looked at Prufrock in the same manner. Prufrock views his life and superficial culture as a tragedy but one that lacks the hero to go with it.

I got an "A"

Re: "Hamlet in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Posted by: Marty (192.168.128.---)
Date: December 17, 2005 11:09PM

Congrats on the "A", Talia. Good job.

Re: "Hamlet in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Posted by: Linda (192.168.128.---)
Date: December 18, 2005 11:49AM

Well done. Thanks for telling us.

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