do i dare disturb the universe?  

slightly_sexy8 38F
361 posts
9/14/2005 11:04 pm

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

do i dare disturb the universe?

Erik_Bloodaxe put a wonderful post up [post 92041] ‒ asking what painting or book or some music came along and changed your life. This poem below was one that for some reason hit a cord with me ‒ and I have never looked back in my enjoyment of poetry since.

It’s ever so long and most people probably wouldn’t even be bothered to try and work their way through it unless it was for an exam, but it’s actually so beautiful. Line by line. Beautiful because it made me realise that words don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be said somehow. There are lines in it that have stayed close with me for a long time. Thanks for reminding me of them.

The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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 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

-T.S. Eliot

* translation
quotation from Dante's Inferno
If I believed that my answer would be
To someone who would ever return to earth,
This flame would move no more,
But because no one from this gulf
Has ever returned alive, if what I hear is true,
I can reply with no fear of infamy.

Image ‒ Pearblossom Highway by David Hockney. 10 feet wide and 6 feet wide. A photo montage made up of 750 individual photographs.


Erik_Bloodaxe 56M

9/15/2005 12:58 am

Thanks for posting the poem, Slightly. Yes - I rememember it now. It is indeed a great poem

TheQuietGuy2005 54M
2386 posts
9/15/2005 10:03 pm

I've never read it before so I owe you a debt of gratitude: imagine me sitting here with a smile slowly growing across my face, goosebumps developing as I read.

I've only just discovered Eliot (shock!) having bought into the propaganda I somehow got blasted with that his work was deliberately obscure and difficult. How I was misled ...

476 posts
9/16/2005 2:58 am

I knew a couple of guys here in Dallas that named their chain of restraunts after that poem "Prufrock" there's even a Prufrock Building on Oaklawn Avenue. Interestingly in the original restaurant they had sawdust and peanut shells on the floor. Too bad, they never held poetry readigs there.

slightly_sexy8 38F
314 posts
9/16/2005 1:51 pm

i think its a great poem too erik. i love how the thoughts of one can spark the thoughts of another.

quiet guy, it's complex and hard work but also so much fun too in a weird, nerdy way. i'm glad you liked it.

hello bossierboy, prufrock is such a funny name - amusing, prudish, but sort of sensual at the same time. i guess that work has touched a lot of people.

slightly_sexy8 38F
314 posts
9/16/2005 2:05 pm

and, what about pear blossom highway??

does nobody like that?

Erik_Bloodaxe 56M

9/16/2005 4:42 pm

Slightly........Hockney leaves me cold, I am afraid. But then Croydon is hardly California!

slightly_sexy8 38F
314 posts
9/17/2005 11:57 am

oh my goodness.. no way... what hockney have you seen?

redmustang91 57M  
8599 posts
9/21/2005 2:00 pm

I love this poem and studied it when in college. some observatins: the love song contains no lovemaking only disquieting rumnations about love! Like Hamlet thinking about murder the writer does not get around to love singing. So many neuresthenic and anethetized images. Perhaps thinking too much is bad and one has to make that leap of faith to act on an impulse or love is not possible.

slightly_sexy8 38F
314 posts
9/24/2005 11:50 pm

i love it too.

i really like that last sentence red mustang. may we all be brave when our time comes.

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