Monday, September 14, 2009

Eliot's Poetry

T.S. Eliot poetry is modern in that it is written in free verse. He does not cling to a standard rhyme scheme, but he does tend to use end-rhyme without a specific form. For example in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” almost the entire first stanza is end-rhymed, but the third stanza contains only two lines that are end-rhymed. However, Eliot does hold to the haughty tone of the “traditional” poetry especially in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “Portrait of a Lady.”

Also both “The Love Song J. Alfred Prufrock: and “Portrait of a Lady” both address an unknown “you.” It seems that Prufock, from the inclusion of love song in the title of the first poem, is addressing a woman/lover. He only addresses the woman directly in each poem very little and both times at the beginning of the poem. In “Prufrock,” he says “Let us go then, you and I” which comes in the first line (1). Later in poem he again refers to you when he says, “there will be time for you and time for me (2). In both of these instances, the you is paired with the me of the poem. In “Portrait,” he says, “You have the scene arrange itself—as it will seem to do—“ (5). In both poems, he talks about having tea. In “Prufrock’” and “Portrait,” it seems that it is him and the woman alone. In “ La Figlia che Piange,” the speaker is again addressing someone, but it is not with the pronoun of you. He is giving orders to someone. He says, “Stand on the highest pavement of the stair—/ Lean on a garden urn—/Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair—“ (16). This use of the imairtive gives the reader the idea that he is directing some woman to do things.

Also Eliot makes reference to Hamlet in “Prufrock” and Juliet in “Portrait.” Both of these Shakespearean characters bring up the thought of suicide, especially when looked at together because it is one of the aspects that contributes to the character of each play. Torrens sees the reference to Hamlet as reflection on the essay that Eliot wrote on Hamlet.

However, the time span and scenes are different in each of these poems. In “Portrait,” he describes a December scene in the first section, an April scene in the section and an October scene in the third section. In “Preludes,” the sections also show several different scenes, but they more disconnected than in “Portrait.” In “Prufrock,” it seems to be the narrator walking down the streets of a city, presumably London, and making observations, though they seem rather bleak. It seems to a rather straight through narrative. The streets are “half-deserted,” and he refers to them as the “muttering retreats/ of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels” (1). The repeated image of the yellow fog/smoke in the air gives the feeling of a dirty and grungy city. Eliot also says, “there will be time to murder and create” which at first seems a observation of the people and city around him. Since he is addressing a lover (it is a love song), I wonder if he is playing on the older double meaning of die with murder (He does mention at the end of “Portrait” that he smiled when he thought about speaking of dying). If this is the case, Eliot is playing with the language of sex and creation through sex.

I like sounds in Eliot's poetry. The rhymes do not seem forced and the rhythm of the poetry seems natural (what they were going for in modern poetry). However, I find it hard to get past him as a person (he seems way too elitist for me) and read his poetry for fun.

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