Friday, June 19, 2020

"like a patient etherized upon a table": The seductiveness of "Prufrock"

In my late teens, the sound of T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" immediately captivated me: "Let us go then, you and I, / when the evening is spread out against the sky, / like a patient etherized upon a table." The imperative, the rhyme, the alliteration, the dissonance of "etherized" – I couldn't name them then, but their music seduced me. Later I learned how such unconditional love turns out to have conditions – with Eliot, his anti-Semitism. The lesson is not necessarily to reject him for that, but at least to reflect on the relationship between what draws me into his poetry and what pushes me out. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 19 June)

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