The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock
i. S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
ii. A persona che mai tornasse al mondo
iii. Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse
iv. Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo
v. Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero
vi. Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo
If I but thought one response were made
To one perhaps returning to the world
This tongue of flame would cease to flicker
But since, up from these depths
No one has yet returned alive, if I hear true
Without fear of infamy, I’ll answer
1. Let us go then, you and I,
2. When the evening is spread out against the sky
3. Like a patient etherized upon a table;
4. Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
5. The muttering retreats
6. Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
7. And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
8. Streets that follow like a tedious argument
9. Of insidious intent
10. To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
11. Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
12. Let us go and make our visit.
13. In the room the women come and go
14. Talking of Michelangelo.
15. There will be time, time will be time
16. To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet:
17. There will be time to murder and create,
18. And time for all the works and days of hands
19. That lift and drop a question on your plate;
20. Time for you and time for me,
21. And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
22. And for a hundred visions and revisions,
23. Before the taking of a toast and tea.
24. In the room the women come and go
25. Talking of Michelangelo
26. And indeed there will be time
27. To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
28. Time to turn back and descend the stair,
29. With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
30. (They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
31. My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
32. My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
33. (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
34. Do I dare
35. Disturb the universe?
36. In a minute there is time
37. For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
38. For I have known them all already, known them all:
39. Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
40. I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
41. I know the voices dying with a dying fall
42. Beneath the music from a farther room.
43. So how should I presume?
44. And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
45. The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
46. And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
47. When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
48. Then how should I begin
49. To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
50. And how should I presume?
51. And I have known the arms already, known them all—
52. Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
53. (But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
54. Is it perfume from a dress
55. That makes me so digress?
56. Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
57. And should I then presume?
58. And how should I begin?
59. I should have been a pair of ragged claws
60. Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
61. But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
62. Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
63. I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
64. I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
65. And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
66. And in short, I was afraid.
67. And would it have been worth it, after all,
68. After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
69. Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
70. Would it have been worth while,
71. To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
72. To have squeezed the universe into a ball
73. To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
74. To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
75. Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
76. If one, settling a pillow by her,
77. Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
78. That is not it, at all.
79. No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
80. Am an attendant lord, one that will do
81. To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
82. Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
83. Deferential, glad to be of use,
84. Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
85. Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
86. At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
87. Almost, at times, the Fool.
88. I grow old ... I grow old ...
89. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
90. Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
91. I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
92. I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
93. I do not think that they will sing to me.
94. I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
95. Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
96. When the wind blows the water white and black.
97. We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
98. By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
99. Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
What is he really asking with the repetition of “Do I dare?”