The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Miranda Hale delivers a slower and better paced reading than most video tellings. She reads with a smile in her voice for the first minutes but then settles down.

The third line of the first verse should shock and be repeatedly read over and over until the imagery sinks in.

I do my own reading at the bottom of this page, it got me far more emotional than I could have guessed.

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

by. T.S. Eliot

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
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.

From Project Gutenberg (external link)

More Eliot here (internal link)

My reading — kind of intense
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Beyond Books

Something from my rockhounding site, (external link) Click twice to blow up the photo.

It was recently recommended on FB that I read some field guides to rock and mineral ID. This was in response to some specific observations I made with material I had collected and with reference specimens I had bought. The suggester offered no further advice or any response to my observations which he didn’t read through. At least five people gave him a thumbs up. That’s extremely discouraging when all I was trying to do was help.

Well, I have a few books. Quite a lot, actually. But you have to go beyond books to learn more. You can’t teach a geology course without lab work or field trips. Books are fine but rocks and minerals and prospecting are also hands on.

This is a look at part of my reference collection of over two hundred rock types and various minerals. They are mostly hand or teaching specimen size. All labeled in detail. At any time I can pull something out to test or experiment it using my hardness picks, my acid, my metal detectors, my UV lamps, my black and white streak plates, my super magnet, my microscope, or my geiger counters. No, I don’t have anything to test specific gravity. Working on that. If I can’t identify something complex, which is too often, I send it on for lab results. I’m not a know it all, I am trying to be a know it all.
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One Second a Day

My twenty-three year old mechanical wrist watch is running fast. That should be expected since it is used. It is an outdoor or sports watch, too, and it has had numerous owners. It is not a dress watch.

It is also self-winding which means it has no battery, no integrated circuit, no radio waves  from space to correct it. It runs on wrist power, the back and forth made while walking around.  Or you can wind it manually using the crown. In all aspects, the watch is totally on its own.

What we have is a collection of tiny gears and levers and springs all fighting to keep time 23 years after someone patiently pieced it together. With the now dated technology of the era.

No doubt age has caught up to it, but the proposition was strange to begin with: accurate time kept only by steel and brass parts of miniature proportions, all aligned in a way most hoped to report 1:30 a.m. and not 1:31 a.m.

Yes, it is off. By one second a day! There are 86,400 seconds in a day.

Seiko only achieved this accuracy in a self-winding mechanical watch by producing what they called a spring drive, a mechanism regulated by a quartz crystal and an integrated circuit. Yet, some boffin at Rolex designed a way to match that with their own methods.

This is extreme analog engineering, the parts assembled by some meticulous watchmaker  in the Alps. No doubt snacking on excellent local cheese and fine chocolates.

I have turned into a Watch Guy. I bought this used Rolex a few months ago, because, well, every Watch Guy wants a Rolex, even if it is 23 years old.

The Timegrapher shown is a standard bit of kit used to measure watch performance and to tell a fake without taking the watch apart. No fooling the readings. I got it a few days ago.

My first test of my Explorer II (Reference 16570) was too low to be believed. I tested  other watches and came back later to the Rolex. The Timegrapher produced the same results after a fresh restart. Watchmakers usually test for three minutes. I let it run for five.

Many think Rolex is just marketing hype and indeed, Rolex does a huge amount of marketing. But there is something beyond hype when it comes to this Swiss company. There’s a reason for their reputation which I now fully understand.

One second a day. Completely analog and purely mechanical. No battery. 23 years old. I am still in awe.

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Revised My Page on Eliot’s The Waste Land

I’ve added the full text of The Waste Land to my page on that poem. (internal link) Now you can read along as Sir Alec Guinness delivers a masterful recitation of this fine poem and all of its deliciously obscure references.  It may be the best half-hour of your day.

I took the text from Project Gutenberg. (external link) You’ll note numbers along the way, inline with the text. These are footnotes to Eliot’s own commentary on the poem. I haven’t put those notes on my page, go to Gutenberg for them.

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Quick Takes

The preview for episode four of “Picard” shows Patrick Stewart’s character saying, “One impossible thing at a time.” No. Better, “One miracle at a time.”

Which reminded me of what of a rarely said but accepted motto for our group when I was a young man in the California Civil Conservation Corps. “We the few, who have done so much with so little for so long, now attempt the impossible. With nothing.”

More fooling around with images for my new black and white book. (internal link) This is Minerals Unlimited in Ridgecrest. Wendi is currently in Tucson. As we all should be.

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I, a Stranger and Afraid In a World I Never Made

Alfred Edward Housman was a turn of the century English poet and scholar. A man at the end of the Empire.

He penned beautiful, short, jewel like poetry that could be incredibly depressing. His poetry went beyond cynical to about being doomed. His poetry books like A Shropshire Lad were extremely popular among British soldiers sent to die in the trenches of World War I.

Orwell knew Housman’s poetry well and thought it shaped an entire generation of British men during the Edwardian era. “A kind of bitter, defiant paganism, a conviction that life is short and the gods are against you, which exactly fitted the prevailing mood of the young.”

Be mentally healthy if you read A Shropshire Lad. It’s like listening to The Doors. It’s fine poetry, certainly, it needs to be read, but you should feel good about yourself when you do.

Illustrated copies abound for little money. My book had illustrations as melancholy as the writing.

In this poem, however, Housman is more defiant than resigned. He gives in at the end but he protests along the way. For a subject of the realm, for any of us, that’s something.

The Laws of God, The Laws of Man

by A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

The laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Not I: let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me;
And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?
Please yourselves, say I, and they
Need only look the other way.
But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbor to their will,
And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
And how am I to face the odds
Of man’s bedevilment and God’s?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
They will be master, right or wrong;
Though both are foolish, both are strong.
And since, my soul, we cannot fly
To Saturn nor to Mercury,
Keep we must, if keep we can,
These foreign laws of God and man.

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Who Are We Writing For?

Who Are We Writing For? OR For Whom are We Writing? 

(I can’t decide which title is grammatically correct)

Who am I writing for?  That is the most important question to answer before writing for publication. The final answer, though, is nuanced and complex.

A taxidermy article might seem straightforward, a piece for people interested in taxidermy. Not so fast. What is your audience? Professionals, hobbyists, or general interest readers? Or all three? Each choice demands a different orientation. And that point of view may not be your own choice. First and foremost, you are writing for your editor.

Your contract determines your word count and what is expected of your writing. If you are writing on spec, you have to do your best to conform to the style of the publication you hope to get into. If the editor approves the piece in either situation you will go through a round of revisions before the material gets out the door. To make clear, the end reader still hasn’t seen your work. You first write for your editor.

Perhaps you are selling writing online. Maybe your company sells articles on various subjects to taxidermy websites. That editor will want it to meet the requirements of any potential buyer. Modifications and revisions will ensue after submission between writer and editor. Let’s go over net writing more closely.

Internet writing must satisfy your boss or editor, the client, the client’s customers, and The Bots, the mysterious algorithms that determine placement and prominence on the web. This is your audience, those are your readers. In the internet age, few real people may read your online writing. Maybe only Google. Still, quality writing on every page provides good content for a website and offers a chance that the client’s website will ultimately show higher in search results.

How you fare with any reader beyond your editor is often out of your control. I’m fortunate to work with an internet company that develops websites with ranking in mind. Quality writing is extremely important, especially with the corporate websites we produce. But there are many, many other things, that go beyond writing to get that writing well ranked.

I am not normally concerned in my writing and editing with what is called search engine optimization or SEO. Some of my work, however, is along these lines. One current research task requires six open browser windows and three monitors. My desk no longer has room for my cat.

I can’t write about what we do but the point to remember is that a writer’s audience today is varied and not always a person. Writing for a machine may seem unworldly but that reader is here and now and on your page. Better get to know him.

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