Rhapsody on a Windy Night

1Twelve o'clock.
2Along the reaches of the street
3Held in a lunar synthesis,
4Whispering lunar incantations
5Dissolve the floors of memory
6And all its clear relations,
7Its divisions and precisions,
8Every street lamp that I pass
9Beats like a fatalistic drum,
10And through the spaces of the dark
11Midnight shakes the memory
12As a madman shakes a dead geranium.
13Half-past one,
14The street lamp sputtered,
15The street lamp muttered,
16The street lamp said, "Regard that woman
17Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door
18Which opens on her like a grin.
19You see the border of her dress
20Is torn and stained with sand,
21And you see the corner of her eye
22Twists like a crooked pin."
23The memory throws up high and dry
24A crowd of twisted things;
25A twisted branch upon the beach
26Eaten smooth, and polished
27As if the world gave up
28The secret of its skeleton,
29Stiff and white.
30A broken spring in a factory yard,
31Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left
32Hard and curled and ready to snap.
33Half-past two,
34The street lamp said,
35"Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,
36Slips out its tongue
37And devours a morsel of rancid butter."
38So the hand of a child, automatic,
39Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.
40I could see nothing behind that child's eye.
41I have seen eyes in the street
42Trying to peer through lighted shutters,
43And a crab one afternoon in a pool,
44An old crab with barnacles on his back,
45Gripped the end of a stick which I held him.
46Half-past three,
47The lamp sputtered,
48The lamp muttered in the dark.
49The lamp hummed:
50"Regard the moon,
52She winks a feeble eye,
53She smiles into corners.
54She smoothes the hair of the grass.
55The moon has lost her memory.
56A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,
57Her hand twists a paper rose,
58That smells of dust and old Cologne,
59She is alone
60With all the old nocturnal smells
61That cross and cross across her brain."
62The reminiscence comes
63Of sunless dry geraniums
64And dust in crevices,
65Smells of chestnuts in the streets,
66And female smells in shuttered rooms,
67And cigarettes in corridors
68And cocktail smells in bars."
69The lamp said,
70"Four o'clock,
71Here is the number on the door.
72Memory!
73You have the key,
74The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair,
75Mount.
76The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,
78The last twist of the knife.

Notes

51] `The moon holds no grudges,' from Jules Laforgue's "Complainte de cette Bonne Lune":"-- Là, voyons, mam'zell la Lune, / Ne gardons pas ainsi rancune" (Poésies complètes, ed. Pascal Pia [Le Livre de Poche, 1970]: 44). Back to Line
77] Put your shoes at the door: for the staff to clean before morning. Back to Line
Original Text: 
T. S. Eliot, Prufrock and Other Observations (London: The Egoist, 1917): 27-30. E546 P784 1917 Fisher Rare Book Library.
Publication Start Year: 
1915
Publication Notes: 
First printed in Blast 2 (July 1915). Donald Gallup, T. S. Eliot: A Bibliography (London: Faber and Faber, 1969): A1, C19.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.
Rhyme: 
Special Copyright: 

© T.S. Eliot and Faber and Faber Ltd 1974