“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” by T.S. Eliot

“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 etherized 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 will 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 toward 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 screen:
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.

T.S. Eliot (1920)

“Beyond Post-Modernism via Polanyi’s Post-Critical Philosophy” by Dale Cannon

If you are looking for something that explains why I am interested in Michael Polanyi, this is what I’d give to you: “Beyond Post-Modernism via Polanyi’s Post-Critical Philosophy” by Dale Cannon. Dale Cannon does a good job emphasizing how Polanyi’s “Post-Critical Philosophy” can provide a viable alternative to either modernism or post=modernism. It is worth your time to read the whole article, especially to take a look at the common characteristics of the “Post-Critical ethos.” But for a summary see the chart below:


Situatedness(Context) of Claims
Truth & Tradition
Pre-Modern (Pre-Critical) intellectual ethos Parochially situated but making unqualified, naïvely universal claims. Truth (territory) is undifferentiated from a tradition’s own representations (its maps).
Modern (Critical) intellectual ethos Makes universal claims allegedly situation-less(“the view from nowhere”); foundationalist (presumes there are absolute criteria for establishing knowledge claims). Attainment of Truth requires a divorce from tradition-based/bred thinking (escaping any and all situated points ofview); Truth is what ends up on the one objective map, same for all.
Post-Modern (Hyper-Critical) intellectual ethos (note continuity with the Modern intellectual ethos, via its inordinate emphasis on medthodological doubt) Avoids universal claims.Because we are radically situated, attaining universality is inconceivable; anti-foundationalist.A radically diverse plurality of perspectives. Only traditional representations (situated points of view) exist; there is no meaningfulsense of transcendent Truth (no territory beyond our maps); the scientific map is just one among others.
Post-Critical intellectual ethos(also construable as “Constructive Post-Modern”) Situated, fallible but makes claims of universal intent; seeks ahorizontal universality /transcendence vs. moderism’s presumed vertical universality /transcendence. Truth regarded as uncertainly glimpsed from within traditions(situated points of view);efforts to attain it are rooted but not confined.
Methodological Faith (fides) & Doubt Knowable World/ Reality Objectivity (how achieved)
Unquestioned, uncritical faith (not yet having confronted its finitude and fallibility); methodological doubt toward other ‘faiths’. The world seen from one perspective only; no consideration of how things appear from other perspectives. Objectivity identified with faithfulness with adherence to cultural authority and its representations.
Aims to purge by methodological doubtallfallible (error prone), fiduciary elements(anything subjective, anything faith-based);(except surrepticiously it keeps faith in methodological doubt and liberal ideals). One objective world, universally structured (invariant for all); inprinciple wholly specifiable within a single formal framework(a single perspective of apparent perspectivelessness). Objectivity attained via a uniformalization—that presumes to transcend all particular perspectives, invariant for all (i.e., adherence to the one map). (Note the unacknowledged place of authority and tradition here.)
Because methodological doubt is dominant, fiduciary, fallible factors are recognized impossible to eliminate or to be transcended, making objectivity and Truth impossible; modern liberal ideals now in question (yet still a methodological faith in the hermeneutic of suspicion). Each in his/her own separate world (constituted by each different perspective); no confidence of inter-accessibility. The modern uniformalized,”objective” perspective is now seen as only one among others and problematic (not what it pretends to be). Objectivity deemed impossible (except as appearance, as pretense).Ironically, objectivity of a sort is achieved in repudiating attachment to any one view. (Note the tacit role of authority and tradition here.)
Fiduciary factors seen as a positive though fallible means toward objectivity and Truth; methodological faith and doubt kept in balance, with a chastened faith taking the lead. One world transcendent to any one perspective,but in principle accessible simultaneously from multiple but partial perspectives, which we seek (one by one) to integrate. Note necessary role of empathy. Objectivity to be attained via the on going intersection of different relevant perspectives; traditional authorities play a subordinate role in affording access to their unique angle onto the world.

Dyrness on Fundamentalism and Modernity

“How can conservative Christians, who entered the century determined to oppose modernism and all it stood for, end up being so influenced by the culture this modernism produced? We have noted that Marsden stressed the anti-modern character of twentieth-century fundamentalism, which led to its consistent opposition and the cultural polemics it engendered. In his history of Wheaton College during this period (1921-65), for example, Michael Hamilton argues that Wheaton demonstrates the ability of fundamentalism, like its evangelical forebears, to adopt modern technology and appropriate (especially) the youth culture in its evangelistic and mission institutions.”

What is happening here? How did a movement nourished by the separatism of the holiness movement become so enamored of cultural innovation? The answer, I believe, lies in the inability of conservative Christians to understand the nature of the cultural challenge and their tendency to conceive of its problems in strictly intellectual terms, they did not understand the challenge of social modernism.”

William Dyrness, The Earth is God’s, New York: Orbis Books, 1997, pg 61.