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 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
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 win 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 towards 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
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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of T.S. Eliot's poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


  1. taylor says:

    I don’t think Prufrock feels that he has had a wasted life. Rather, I think he thinks he would rather spend his life wallowing in things that are simple, perhaps enjoyable, and very surface (the women coming and going talking of michelangelo), than confronting that universal question, that Hamlet, or that Michelangelo.

    beautiful poem

  2. Isabel says:

    I think it’s a beautiful poem, even though it’s been quite hard for me to undertand.
    “To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”
    I especially liked this verse, it´s oh so touching.
    Don´t you think?

  3. victoria says:

    I really loved the hidden concepts in this poem. I love how someone simple-minded could hear this poem and just enjoy the flow of the words and let it wash over them and then someone brilliant could hear it and be able to uncover all the poem’s wonderful meanings and morals. I’d also like to say that I really agree with amber form Canada’s opinions on the poem. i think she really hit the nail on the head with the way she read between the lines and found it’s meaning. So for anyone who has written to find the meaning of the poem read comment #17. cheers!

  4. Donald says:

    i like this poem. but i cant understand.

  5. amber says:

    I think the poem isn’t about love at all but about a man who never took any chances in life. He’s grown old and realized that he hasn’t done anything to make him stand out in life, never done anything to be remembered by. He keeps saying there’s time and he still has time to do something meaningful but then is too scared to act because he’s afraid of other peoples opinions and what they will think of him (and they will so ‘Oh! How he’s grown thin!). In the end this poems moral is: never put off until tomorrow something you can do today.

  6. aycan says:

    i think the most striking idea of the poem is belonging nowhere(etherized patient,neither alive nor dead;deserted islands and the athmosphere)living with superficial people poet feels estranged;however he has no strenght to change his life.

  7. Kallie says:

    Can anyone help me analyze 6 poems of ts eliot on rhtym and rhyme, form and meaning, speaker and tone, imagery, firguative language, and theme? One poem for each? Help please!!!!

  8. ahmed says:

    LOVE means here the suffer ,the egony the speaker feels.What a joke!do you really think so?i think so too..

  9. Keith says:

    One part no one has commented on is the reference to Hamlet towards the end. Hamlet paralleled Prufrock in his inability to take action. But Prufrock then says he is not a prince Hamlet in the sense that Hamlet eventually took action but he never has. This has left him old and in despair which is what the poem is about. Prufrock is expressing his hopelessness and regret at the wasted lives he sees around him (In the room the women come and go talking of Michelangelo)as well as his own wasted life.

  10. pdiz says:

    I think the ‘love’ in the title is meant to be ironic – he’s talking to himself, a love song to himself, because he has been too afraid to roll the universe into a ball and love some of those women in their perfumed dress who make him digress. It’s the anti-love song of a man who has been too wimpy to bust a move on love – his moment of greatness has flickered and he’s a bald spotted old man walking on a beach and not even the mermaids are going to singe to him. Love song indeed! He has only imagined and wished for love. It’s pretty sad. This is a man who never took a chance.

  11. iNITA says:

    I don’t know.., I just read it for the first time. I wonder why did he ever mention word ‘love’, why ‘love song’?.. Anybody?

  12. Toria McMullin says:

    How beautiful
    to share eternity in every moment
    it makes me cry every time

  13. Sephiroth says:

    There is something about this poem that just has me hook. I think it is because I really want to know the meaning of every single line and word. When I say those things I really mean everything. The setting, physical description of Prufrock, and his self-esteem. Please help me out. I really want to know what your interpretation and opinion on the subject mention above are. If you’re reading this please pass it along to anybody who is interested in this poem as much as I am. Thank you.

  14. Samm says:

    I am doing a paper on this poem and I continue to read critical essays and other interpetations of the poem and with each one it becomes more and more intresting. It is long yes, but in all those words are so many meanings.

  15. Garry murphy says:

    This was my favourite poem in school , many years ago . It I think tells you that life is so much based on what is actually seen . If we were all a bit more concerned about what is behind what we do , than what we do …. ” Shall I part my hair behind ” for ewxample .

  16. interesting says:

    this poem is amazing
    I think this poem is all about irony( situational )
    And that’s why I think it’s not a conventional love song even though the title is ‘the love song of J. Alfred Prufrock’.

  17. kay says:

    Thanks, Eric! That changes the tenor a little. Rather unbelievably, I think it increases the pathos.

  18. Eric says:

    I the Italian preface of this poem is from the masterpiece “Dante’s Inferno” and are spoken by the character of Count Guido da Montefelltro:

    “If I thought that my reply would be to someone who would ever return to earth, this flame would remain without further movement; but as no one has ever returned alive from this gulf, if what I hear is true, I can answer you with no fear of infamy.”

    I feel it gives the introduction that this was not supposed to leave his his mind, and that it is a message from his deepest thoughts.

  19. kay says:

    I think it would be more fun knowing the Italian. Anybody willing to translate?

    This is still my favourite poem in the history of the world, though. I don’t know what it is about it, but it makes my heart clench every time I read it.

  20. unlucky says:

    I’m really surpised that noone has commented on this poem, it’s such an amazing piece. We read it in english class last year, and ever since i’ve been pushing people into reading it. Quality! (ps…. it’s more fun when you don’t know what the itlian means at the beinging and you try to guess)

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