Wednesday, January 13, 2010

FreeVerse: Preludes I (Eliot)

The first piece of theatre I clearly remember going to see was Cats. For those few who may not know, this is a spectacle musical with a score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics largely taken from T. S. Eliot's poetry, his Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. It is about cats. There is a loose storyline, I guess, but largely it's just a giant homage to cats of various types and temperaments, and cats in general. I was eight and an aspiring cat lady; we had seen the commercials on t.v. and I was desperate to go, so my mother, wise woman that she is, took me for my birthday. I can still remember some of the songs and the costumes. And then, some other wise human got me Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and since I have been a confirmed Eliot fan. Sadly, I don't know where that little book has gone, so I won't be posting one of those poems. Maybe sometime in the future when I find it again.

I have a special soft spot for The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock of course. I do recommend that if you haven't read it, you do. One of the favourite segments for quotation is this one:

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.

And I do love that. But today I have gone a little further afield in Eliot's poetry to bring you one of his Preludes. I love the feeling this one evokes. I also advise whispering it out loud -- it has a sort of rhythm that isn't immediately obvious if not heard on the tongue.

Thanks again to Cara at Ooh... Books! for hosting this weekly celebration of poetry!

From The Waste Land and other poems by T. S. Eliot, this edition published by Faber and Faber originally in 1972:



The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o'clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.

And then the lighting of the lamps.


Felicity Grace Terry said...

I love these poems. For Christmas I got the 50th anniversary edition which as well as the terrific cat poems has some of the most wonderful cat illustrations I have ever seen.

Jenners said...

Love this poem ... and it did so remind me of Cats too ... you can tell he was the source of the show. I saw it ages ago and we had really really good seats. I think the costumers were amazing ... they all looked like cats.

Valerie said...

Love that line, "The burnt-out ends of smoky days". Genius.

I beleive that my copy of Old Possum's book of Practical Cats was my first grown-up book of poetry that I owned. I still have it; sorry you don't have yours anymore. At least you've gotten to see "Cats"; I haven't.

Unknown said...

Petty Witter - I'm going to have to keep my eye out for that, then. My love of cats has not abated over the years.

Jenners - I remember how the actors were so... cat-like in their movements, too. It was incredible.

Valerie - That's my favourite line, too! There's really something about it. And I like the way the verse ends, as well. I am hoping that my copy of Old Possum will turn up somewhere in my parents' house. My books regularly seem to...