Selected Poems – T.S.Eliot (Part 1)

Book: Selected Poems – T.S. Eliot
Status: Read

This is the first time I’ve read anything by T.S .Eliot, and on the whole I was very impressed. This book came in the form of a dusty and discoloured paperback found in my loft amongst my parents’ other books. Don’t you just love that loft smell on books? I do, I don’t know why.
Two of my favourite poems in this book were at the beginning, so I’m going to quote passages from these first. These were ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ and ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’. Quite a lot of quoting here, and I should warn that due to it being utterly brilliant, I do post the end of ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’. I know, I know, I don’t give away endings but.. at least it’s the ending of a poem and not a novel! So here we go…more Eliot to come over the next day or two, but here’s a taster.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised 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”

“The yellow smoke that rubs is muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,..”

“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?”

“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?”

“I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

Rhapsody on a Windy Night

“…Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.”

“Half-past three,
The lamp sputtered,
The lamp muttered in the dark.
The lamp hummed:
‘Regard the moon,
La lune ne garde aucune rancune,
She winks a feeble eye,
She smiles into corners.
She smooths the hair of the grass.
The moon has lost her memory. “

“The lamp said,
‘Four o’clock,
Here is the number on the door.
Memory!
You have the key,
The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair.
Mount.
The bed is open; the toothbrush hangs on the wall,
Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life.’

The last twist of the knife.”

Taken from ‘Selected Poems’ by T.S.Eliot.
Available from Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Selected-Poems-Eliot-Faber-Anniversary/dp/0571247059/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1249383752&sr=8-1

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4 thoughts on “Selected Poems – T.S.Eliot (Part 1)

  1. lizaanne42 says:

    Eliot has been quite an acquired taste for me. When I was first introduced, I didn’t like his sharp edges and didn’t understand most of Wasteland. However, after doing some of the necessary background reading (all of Western and Eastern literature up thorough 1925 or so) and rereading his poems several times, Eliot has become one of my favorite poets. I admire his brilliance in these works, but I enjoy his “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” best, as he is still brilliant but has mellowed out a bit.
    –Lizaanne
    http://lizaanne42.wordpress.com

  2. Eliot is brilliant, my favourite 20th century poet, so many lines from these poems are quotable, but the line I always think of is; ‘I measured out my life in coffee spoons’. I also love the Four Quartets, which is image rich but a bit challenging, I was never sure I was reading it correctly and I also love Old Possum’s Book of Practicle Cats, wonderful wimsy. I know just what you mean about old books, sometimes I feel like a nut when I pick up an old book in a second hand shop and and just breath in the perfume of old pages, they are the odour of magic.

  3. niftybooks says:

    Thank you both for your comments! I’m happy that Eliot is proving very popular today.

    This is my first exploration into Eliot as I say, and I’m not very good at understanding poetry.. I find it beautiful but mysterious because I’ve never been one to be able to look very deeply into something. But it’s definitely made me want to explore more of his work and poetry in general! As you both mentioned it, I’ll definitely check out ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’! I’m a cat lover too so that’s perfect!

    Haha certainly not a nut Sharon, I do that constantly.. if there can ever be a smell of knowledge, that is it!

  4. Nirinia says:

    Eliot can be difficult to delve deeply into, but it is so rewarding if you take the time and effort to do so. I love Prufrock, as well as his ‘Preludes’, in particular. The modernists, in general, are incredible.

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