T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), an American-English poet, playwright,
and literary critic, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature
in 1948. Eliot's release of "The Love Song of J. Alfred
Prufrock" in 1917 (included in the book Prufrock and Other
Observations) garnered him great attention as an important
modernist poet. [ Click to Order Eliot's Collected Poems 1909-1962 (hard $) ]
Befriending Ezra Pound, Eliot moved to England in 1914. It
was his publication of The Waste Land in 1922 that would
secure Eliot his place as one of the greatest poets of
the 20th Century. He succeeded The Waste Land with the
publication of The Four Quartets (each quartet is a complete
poem), considered by many to be his masterpiece.
When Mr. Apollinax visited the United States
His laughter tinkled among the teacups.
I thought of Fragilion, that shy figure among the birch-trees,
And of Priapus in the shrubbery
Gaping at the lady in the swing.
In the palace of Mrs. Phlaccus, at Professor Channing-Cheetah's
He laughed like an irresponsible foetus.
His laughter was submarine and profound
Like the old man of the sea's
Hidden under coral islands
Where worried bodies of drowned men drift down in the green silence,
Dropping from fingers of surf.
I looked for the head of Mr. Apollinax rolling under a chair
Or grinning over a screen
With seaweed in its hair.
I heard the beat of centaur's hoofs over the hard turf
As his dry and passionate talk devoured the afternoon.
"He is a charming man"--"But after all what did he mean?"--
"His pointed ears.... He must be unbalanced,"--
"There was something he said that I might have challenged."
Of dowager Mrs. Phlaccus, and Professor and Mrs. Cheetah
I remember a slice of lemon, and a bitten macaroon.
1917. Prufrock and Other Observations.
"Mr. Apollinax" exemplifies Eliot's earlier work, when he more
freely explored humor. While his later elegance, haunting
phrases, and use of repetition are lacking, there is a playful-
ness in sounds and a sustained narrative that foreshadow a poet
destined for greatness.
His greater works, especially The Four Quartets, are more
thoughtful and spiritual in nature: the works of a mind in
contemplation, and especially in the case of The Waste Land,
a mind tortured, troubled, and disillusioned by the period
following World War I.
Links of Interest:
Contains online texts of major poems and discusses their allusions, with links to discussion groups and bibliography.