Ragged Claws

There's a coffee shop on Leather Lane in Clerkenwell called Prufrock. It's run by a guy who won fifteen straight world barrista championships back before anyone knew they existed, which doesn't come as that much of a surprise seeing as it takes them 23 minutes to make you a latte. In a good way. It's a sweet place, but this isn't about the coffee shop. It's about its name.

In 1915 T S Eliot wrote a poem called The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Which now most know simply as Prufrock. I tweeted them to ask if there's a link between the two, but they didn't seem overly interested in getting back to me. The above twitter stream is verging on the pathetic.

Last time i checked this blog wasn't called dropthepoemonit but it's not like i put any music up here anyway, so please indulge me cos this shit is gangsta. It's an unforgettable poem because all of life is in it. In the same way this San Miguel advert is weirdly good, because it's about an old man looking back on the life he has lived.

That advert is good because it reminds us of the sacred nature of old age. We will all be that old man. And although the old biddy causing havoc in the supermarket queue can be a real ball-breaker, she demands respect because she has seen the whole of life. The fact she might not have all her brain cells in tact mustn't change that.

There's something hypnotic and incredibly moving about Prufrock. Its rhythm. It's about a young man mapping out the whole of his life before him, and simultaneously looking back on it. I'd be lying if i said i understood all of it. But poetry isn't just about its meaning, it's about what you take from it. It's pretty long, and today's sorry state of affairs that leaves us all with the attention span of hamsters means i wonder if any of you will actually read it. But save it for a rainy day - not unlike motherfucking today - when you have the time.

Also.. Eliot wrote it when he was 22

I had about three pubes when i was 22.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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 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 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.



  1. This guy can be added to the list of Baristas who dive for cover on your arrival in their establishment.....probably saves them 1/2 an hour of time and avoids numbing their senses with your dangerously undereducated references....

  2. read and LEARN you undereducated ape. your mother's an astronaut.

  3. 'Do I dare to eat a peach'? loved that whole thing. thankin you.

  4. coooool, nice one. glad you dug it.