Prufrock's Pervigilium

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Poetry Book Collaborator
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Nov 7, 2006
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I`ve only just found out about a new(ish) Eliot book entitled "Inventions of the March Hare".
Apparently in September 1922, a few weeks before The Waste Land would make him the most famous modernist poet in the world, T.S. Eliot agreed to sell a small notebook containing his poems to his American patron, John Quinn. Priced at $140, the notebook not only contained early versions of work that eventually went into Eliot's first four collections, but also included dozens of unpublished poems. Eliot's instructions to Quinn were unambiguous: "I beg you fervently to keep them to yourself and see that they never are printed."
The contents of this notebook, which now rests in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, have at last been published in Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917 (Harcourt Brace, 428 pp).
As well as early versions of well known poems, the book also contains 40 previously unpublished poems.
One of the most interesting was a lengthy section which was not included in the published version of "Prufrock".
Sub-titled "Prufrock's Pervigilium", (Prufrock`s Vigil) it`s worth quoting in it`s entireity.

Prufrock's Pervigilium

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And seen the smoke which rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirtsleeves, leaning out of windows.
And when the evening woke and stared into its blindness
I heard the children whimpering in corners
Where women took the air, standing in entries
Women, spilling out of corsets, stood in entries
Where the draughty gas-jet flickered
And the oil cloth curled up stairs.

And when the evening fought itself awake
And the world was peeling oranges and reading evening papers
And boys were smoking cigarettes, drifted helplessly together
In the fan of light spread out by the drugstore on the corner
Then I have gone at night through narrow streets,
Where evil houses leaning all together
Pointed a ribald finger at me in the darkness
Whispering all together, chuckled at me in the darkness.
And when the midnight turned and writhed in fever
I tossed the blankets back, to watch the darkness.

Crawling among the papers on the table
It leapt to the floor and made a sudden hiss
And darted stealthily across the wall
Flattened itself upon the ceiling overhead
Stretched out its tentacles, prepared to leap.

And when the dawn at length had realized itself
And turned with a sense of nausea, to see what it had stirred:
The eyes and feet of men -
I fumbled to the window to experience the world
And to hear my Madness singing, sitting on the kerbstone
[A blind old drunken man who sings and mutters,
With broken boot heels stained in many gutters]
And as he sang the world began to fall apart . . .

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas ...

- I have seen the darkness creep along the wall
I have heard my Madness chatter before day
I have seen the world roll up into a ball
Then suddenly dissolve and fall away.​


Kind Benefactor
Dec 28, 2007
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AW. A very nice place!
the New York Public Library is a money-hungry grubber. So it doesn't at all surprise me that they would go against the the poet's wishes and publish his private writings. Next up: T.S. Eliot tee-shirts and boxer shorts.


Out to lunch
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Aug 25, 2007
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A blind old drunken man who sings and mutters,
With broken boot heels stained in many gutters

I'm guessing Eliot's ghost isn't too pleased about this couplet reaching the printed page.

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