Your muse is live in the city and the bush

The Voice of T.S. Eliot

Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock“, and especially the second and third lines, are said to herald in modernism in poetry.  His is an excellent example of a unique voice. The voice reverberates from the words, almost jumping out of the page. It resonates for the reader, reaching out to decode the metaphorical content.

T.S. Eliot wrote this poem in 1910 when he was twenty-two years old. It was first published in 1915 at the instigation of Ezra Pound.

Eliot is a threshold figure, standing with one foot in the south of the United States and another in his adopted UK; his voice borrows from the classics, Dante, Tennyson, Shakespeare, the Bible, John Donne, and the French Symbolists, while at the same time proclaiming modernism.  Anyone who has ever studied English literature, especially in Anglo countries, would know this poem almost by rote, and would have been moved and changed by it. According to the Wikipedia article on the poem, above, it has become one of the most recognised voices in modern literature.

Another amazing aspect of this poem is its rhythm. You cannot help but be pulled along, almost mesmerised, by it. It reminds me in this of Le Bateau Ivre ( The Drunken Boat) by Arthur Rimbaud, written in 1871 by the then sixteen-year-old Rimbaud. Certainly, if you are lucky enough to know French, the poem has this mysterious rhythm that takes you with it until the end. This urban publication of Rimbaud’s poem  is on a wall in the sixth arrondissement, close to Saint Sulpice near my first address in Paris as a young woman.

poem-rimbaud-on-wall-parisBob Dylan, too, was inspired to write some of the words and images into his “Desolation Row“, which was also seen as a modernist breakthrough song.

Tim Miller in his literary blog “Word and Silence” alerted me to a recent BBC program about T.S. Eliot that will haul you in as it did me, I am sure. Many thanks, Tim.

Eliot is a threshold figure, standing with one foot in the south of the United States and another in his adopted UK; his voice borrows from the classics, Dante, Tennyson, Shakespeare, the Bible, John Donne, and the French Symbolists, while being at the same time “modern”.  Anyone who has ever studied English literature, especially in Anglo countries, would know this poem almost by rote, and would have been moved and changed by it. According to the Wikipedia article,  above, it has become one of the most recognised voices in modern literature.

What is amazing about this poem is its rhythm. You can’t help but be pulled along, almost mesmerised, by it. It reminded me in this of “Le Bateau Ivre” by Arthur Rimbaud, written in 1871 by the then sixteen-year-old Rimbaud.

Bob Dylan, too, was inspired to write some of the words and images into his “Desolation Row“, which was also seen as a modernist breakthrough song.

Tim Miller in his literary blog “Word and Silence” alerted me to a recent BBC program about T.S. Eliot that will haul you in as it did me, I am sure. Many thanks, Tim.

What better examples of voice than these two masters, Eliot and Dylan? With echoes of voices going back to Rimbaud and to the other French symbolists, and to Dante Alghieri

painting-dante-alghieri

A Painting of Dante Alghieri

2 Comments

  1. dinadavis2015

    Thanks Anne for alerting us to the timeless work of two great poets, Eliot and Dylan, the latter now our latest Nobel prize winner for literature. I used to read the Waste Land to my kids at bedtime and they grew up loving Eliot’s poetry as does all our family. We had a huge poster of Bob Dylan in our kitchen back in the 70s and they grew up listening to his gravelly voice. My little boy asked once, how we were related to ‘Bob’. No doubt we could be, way back, both having our roots in European Judaism. Anne could you include the words of Pufrock as well as the beautiful videos? Dina

    • Anne Skyvington

      Thanks for the suggestion, Dina. I’ll see what I can do. I didn’t realise that about Bob Dylan.

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