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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Born in Missouri on September 26, 1888, T. S. Eliot is the author of The Waste Land, which is now considered by many to be the most influential poetic work of the twentieth century...
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FURTHER READING
Poems about Anonymity and Loneliness
"My True Love Hath My Heart and I Have His"
by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
79
by Joachim du Bellay
Don't Let Me Be Lonely [There was a time]
by Claudia Rankine
Acts of Mind
by Catherine Barnett
Alone
by Maya Angelou
Alone for a Week
by Jane Kenyon
Angel of Duluth [excerpt]
by Madelon Sprengnether
At a Window
by Carl Sandburg
Beyond the Pane
by Greg Hewett
Boston
by Aaron Smith
Danse Russe
by William Carlos Williams
Dear Lonely Animal,
by Oni Buchanan
Demeter in Paris
by Meghan O'Rourke
Donal Óg
by Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory
Drawing from Life
by Reginald Shepherd
Eating Alone
by Li-Young Lee
Found Poem
by Howard Nemerov
Gospel
by Philip Levine
How I Am
by Jason Shinder
How the mind works still to be sure
by Jennifer Denrow
How to See Deer
by Philip Booth
I Am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone
by Rainer Maria Rilke
I Am!
by John Clare
I'm Nobody! Who are you? (260)
by Emily Dickinson
Isolation: To Marguerite
by Matthew Arnold
Loneliness
by Trumbull Stickney
Mnemosyne
by Trumbull Stickney
Montparnasse
by Ernest Hemingway
Mountain Pines
by Robinson Jeffers
Museum
by Glyn Maxwell
Ode to Solitude
by Alexander Pope
On the Terrace
by Landis Everson
R.I.P., My Love
by Tory Dent
Sex
by Michael Ryan
Skunk Hour
by Robert Lowell
Song of Myself
by John Canaday
Song of Quietness
by Robinson Jeffers
Sonnet V
by Mahmoud Darwish
Sympathy
by Edith Franklin Wyatt
The Creation
by James Weldon Johnson
The Daffodils
by William Wordsworth
The Hermit Goes Up Attic
by Maxine Kumin
The Living Beauty
by W. B. Yeats
The Long Deployment
by Jehanne Dubrow
The Sleepers
by Walt Whitman
The Suicide
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
the suicide kid
by Charles Bukowski
The Whole World Is Gone
by Jennifer Grotz
This Is a Photograph of Me
by Margaret Atwood
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Toro
by Sarah Gambito
WHERE?
by Kenneth Patchen
White Days
by Priscilla Becker
Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand
by Walt Whitman
Why Is the Color of Snow?
by Brenda Shaughnessy
Your Catfish Friend
by Richard Brautigan
Related Prose
Shmoop
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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

 
by T. S. Eliot

     S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
     A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
     Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
     Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
     Non torno vivo 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 floors of silent seas.

          . . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep… tired… or it malingers,
Stretched 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.









Published in 1915.
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