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Preludes Analysis

Author: poem of T.S. Eliot Type: poem Views: 33

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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.


The morning comes to consciousness

Of faint stale smells of beer

From the sawdust-trampled street

With all its muddy feet that press

To early coffee-stands.

With the other masquerades

That time resumes,

One thinks of all the hands

That are raising dingy shades

In a thousand furnished rooms.


You tossed a blanket from the bed,

You lay upon your back, and waited;

You dozed, and watched the night revealing

The thousand sordid images

Of which your soul was constituted;

They flickered against the ceiling.

And when all the world came back

And the light crept up between the shutters,

And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,

You had such a vision of the street

As the street hardly understands;

Sitting along the bed's edge, where

You curled the papers from your hair,

Or clasped the yellow soles of feet

In the palms of both soiled hands.


His soul stretched tight across the skies

That fade behind a city block,

Or trampled by insistent feet

At four and five and six o'clock;

And short square fingers stuffing pipes,

And evening newspapers, and eyes

Assured of certain certainties,

The conscience of a blackened street

Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled

Around these images, and cling:

The notion of some infinitely gentle

Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;

The worlds revolve like ancient women

Gathering fuel in vacant lots.


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| Posted on 2017-09-11 | by a guest

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As the majority of Eliot poems, Preludes proves too long for any good to ever come of it. Try Morning at the Window, a 9 lined stunner, for a basically identical poem with so much less to analyse. Yours truly, a student who doesnt actually care for Ts in the slightest, but desires a good atar and reached the second google search page for the first time possibly ever in the hunt for non schmoop/thesis length eliot analysis.

| Posted on 2017-07-19 | by a guest

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| Posted on 2017-07-17 | by a guest

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As a clarification of the point in my former BUBU DE MONTPARNASSE-comment (2011-12-05), of course I don't intend to say that you 'have to' read the 3rd PRELUDE as referring to a prostitute, but that no body is having the right to prevent you from doing so if you intend to. Eliot's poetry always support multiple interpretations, as any good poetry does. For instance, I also read the 3rd Prelude as alluding to Plato's Myth of the Cave (THE REPUBLIC) where humanity is caught is a cave- hence the dirtiness- & view the "thousand sordid images" which is not casted by the Platonic ideal outside, but by their very soul, & hence the ugliness.
As I said before, the concerned soul(s) in the 4th Perlude seem to be different. It consists of more voices than the other three. To start with, it perhaps is the road, stretched out at the horizon like Jesus on the cross- the "infinitely gentle/ Infinitely suffering thing".
Then, it is for the first time that the "I" directly appears in the poem; the poetic voice can no more maintain its emotional detachment & must speak of hope now. But then again it withdraws, it must not give in to cheep romanticism "Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh"
Of course you need not get these many complexities to enjoy the poem.

| Posted on 2013-09-01 | by Snow9

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Prelude III
The observer addresses a ‘you’—perhaps the ‘you’ whose feet were surrounded by ‘grimy scraps’ as she stood on the pavement in ‘Prelude I’.
The observer is inside, observing the appearance and atmosphere of a room and its occupant.
The action of tossing a blanket from the bed and waiting has a strong sexual suggestion about it.
This idea is strengthened with the reference to a ‘thousand sordid images’. The word ‘thousand’ echoes the furnished rooms of ‘Prelude II’. The person’s soul is made up of a thousand dirty pictures—perhaps of clients who undressed while she tossed the blanket and waited.
The person in the room may be living in a personal hell. The fact that the pictures in her head ‘flickered’ suggests flames, and in turn hell. During the night the world left her and returned at dawn.
The light creeps back to her dark world. Sparrows in the water chutes are the first normal sounds she hears. It is as if her room at night had become a room in hell. At dawn everything seems normal again. In ‘Prelude II’ Eliot had suggested that people put on false shows after the shades went up.
The observer imagines she has an insight into or awareness of the street which is different than others have. Perhaps she knows secrets that some of the crowd rushing for coffee don’t suspect, secrets that others in that crowd hide.
She removes the paper curlers from her hair. Are these made from some of the same old newspapers that flapped around the pavement in ‘Prelude I’? Is she preparing to keep up appearances for her work later that evening? Perhaps she has nothing to do till nightfall. This is suggested by the idle gesture of clasping her feet. This gesture also betrays her dissatisfaction with her life.
The fact that her hands are soiled may be a reference to the newsprint on the curling papers blackening her hands, to her general lack of hygiene or to some dirty deeds that happened in the night.

| Posted on 2013-05-16 | by a guest

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the poem is about modern life
stanza 1- it show the scene of a winter evening on a very crowded and dirty street we can say that the area has middle class people as it says that you can smell steak being cooked, steak is a middle class man\'s food
stanza 2-it shows the morning scene where the world wakes up from sleep(temporary death) the morning is not pleasant it smells of stale beer the streets are muddy and have saw dust on it. the people are dragging their feet to coffee stands( it again shows that they are poor and cant afford to make coffee and breakfast at home) the scene is like a play where everything is happening like a routine and everyone is waking up at the same time
stanza 3-the person speaking is still in a half sleepy state and is recalling all the events of the past night. those sordid(immoral) images of last night flicker on the ceiling like shadows. the person wakes up and removes the curling papers from the hair by this we know that its a woman and she holds her yellow soles of feet with her soiled hands which says that her hands and feet are dirty. the woman is most probably an immoral woman(prostitute) who knows what happens on the streets at night when the hardworking people sleep and what they can not understand
stanza 4-\\the poem has more emphasis on the imprisonment of men in the urban environments, as it begins,\"His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block\" this part feels as if some men want to live more freely to be able to see the sky, yet cannot due to the limitations of modern life. In other words perhaps this final stanza is referring to the cravings of men being more free?
that is what is think the poem said i hope this helps the students who want the explanation
i felt like i had to post this after seeing so many ridiculous explanations of the poem get a life people u end up confusing others

| Posted on 2013-03-15 | by a guest

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ts eliots preludes generally talk about urban squalor and decadence in the mordern society...it starts and ends on pessimistic note.

| Posted on 2012-08-29 | by a guest

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The first and second stanzas illustrate the surroundings of the urban cities using imagery. I feel as if the first stanza is referring to the enormous amount of air pollution that has been released into the air as a result of industrialization. I also get the impression that life in those days were in a way putrid, I get the imagery of people living unhygienically in a crowded society struggling to live.
As for the 3rd and 4th stanza I agree with the people who have said that the 3rd stanza is about a \"prostitute\". However in the 4th and final stanza I think that the poem has more emphasis on the imprisonment of men in the urban environments, as it begins,\"His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block\" this part feels to me like as if some men want to live more freely to be able to see the sky, yet cannot due to the limitations of modern life. In other words perhaps this final stanza is referring to the cravings of men being more free?

| Posted on 2012-05-01 | by a guest

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this might really help me with my coming exams.but the lady in the 3rd stanza is really confusing.

| Posted on 2012-03-09 | by a guest

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In support of the argument I previously posted, I here quote from BUBU DE MONTPARNASSE: \"Berthe in her chemise had just got up with her narrow shoulders, her gray skirt and her UNCLEAN FEET [emphasis mine], she too seemed in her pale YELLOWISH slimness to have no light.\"
However, in case one misreads, I here clarify the fact that the presence of Berthe or the Berthe-like prostitute (as you may) in Eliot\'s poem is limited to PRELUDE III, nothing to do with the others \'Preludes\'.

| Posted on 2011-12-05 | by a guest

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About this \'prostitute\' debate, Eliot drew upon Charles-Louis Philippe\'s novels BUBU DE MONTPARNASSE & MARIE DONADIEU for the atmosphere in PRELUDE III & IV, & therefore the woman in PRELUDE III may be the prostitute Berthe from BUBU....

| Posted on 2011-11-17 | by a guest

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lotsa arguments that make us THINK!!

| Posted on 2011-07-31 | by a guest

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its a poem that brings out the squalor,despair,ugliness of the society.It throws light upon the decandence of societal values and loosing bonds of humanity.Eliot has rightly said.Life is a pretence,a masquerade. by samson [oxford cadet]

| Posted on 2011-05-21 | by a guest

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im doing a research paper about ts elliot and modern 20th century and i have to say i reallt enjoy you guys and girls thoughts about the poem...ive read it and though some things over about it...thanks for your help im n highschool and have us doing college papers you guys are really bright. keep up the work.

| Posted on 2011-05-14 | by a guest

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The moment when she \'has a vision of the street\' could mean that she suddenly has a sort of epiphany, a transcendent experience in which she sees through the figurative mind-fog that permeates all urbanized humans and comes to an understanding about the true nature of the street; the world. The tone denotes acceptance of an unfortunate fate that perhaps everyone is aware of but nobody wants to delve too deep.

| Posted on 2011-04-05 | by a guest

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The poem preludes depicting an urban landscape expresses disgust with the rootlessness of modern life. The poem presents us with city scenes which mostly depict ugliness and squalor.

| Posted on 2011-03-07 | by a guest

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A few of you have provided great analysis. Thank you. The \"prostituters\" are either high school students or college students of parents who have seemingly wasted their money. Not too mention they have probably accrued an unimaginable tab on the \"rents\" credit cards at Starbucks \"reflecting\" on 20th century literature. Maybe the \"stale-beer\" has killed your brain cells??? Or perhaps you hve spent too much time \"stuffing pipes with short square fingers\"?
I apologize to those that have posed thoughtful insights.

| Posted on 2011-01-18 | by a guest

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A few of you have provided great analysis. Thank you. The \"prostituters\" are either high school students or college students of parents who have seemingly wasted their money. Not too mention they have probably accrued an unimaginable tab on the \"rents\" credit cards at Starbucks \"reflecting\" on 20th century literature. Maybe the \"stale-beer\" has killed your brain cells??? Or perhaps you hve spent too much time \"stuffing pipes with short square fingers\"?
I apologize to those that have posed thoughtful insights.

| Posted on 2011-01-18 | by a guest

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T.S Eliot preludes portrays the alienation of the individual from socitey.There are a lot of imagery in this poem \'withered leaves\' and \' dingy shades\'.

| Posted on 2010-11-30 | by a guest

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I do believe that in the 3rd stanza the word \'you\' is referred to a prostitute. In the II Prelude the last line is \'In a thousand furnished rooms\' which is generally referred to a place where a prostitute lives.
Also look at the word \'masquerades\'.. Couldn\'t it be referred to the life of a prostitute? She wears make up nd makes herself look like a master piece and looks happy nd fresh but behind that mask lies a tormented soul.
\'You had such a vision of the street,
As the street hardly understands;\'
There is no way out of this industry. No one pauses for a while and think what happened and why theses women turned into prostitutes. Majority thinks that if you are once a prostitute you are always a prostitute.
\'You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow souls of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.\'
To my knowledge yellow souls of feet referrers to lifeless/ bloodless feet... As I have mentioned above the prostitutes stand all day to attract a customer. Yellow souls Probably could be referred to the bloodless feet due to the heels they wore.
Also in the palms of both soiled hands could mean \'DIRTY\' due to the job[prostitution] No matter how physically clean you are due to da job you do, u are dirty.

| Posted on 2010-11-24 | by a guest

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Basically, the woman is a prostitute and the street\'s manky. :P

| Posted on 2010-11-22 | by a guest

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Despite my best regards for Eliot as a poet, I am a bit tired of his pessimistic outlook throughout his volumes of poetry whether it be the Preludes, Lovesong of Prufrock or The Waste Land. Long back I read someone\'s comment - I\'m quoting from memory so inaccuracy of the sentence may please be pardoned - that \"Before the war-hawkers of Wall Street can hurl an atom bomb on mankind to annihilate them mortally, it is the mission of their poets T.S. Eliots and Ezra Pounds to annihilate them morally.\" Though apparently very offensive to use such comment against a poet like Eliot, there seems to be some grain of truth because in poem after poem Eliot found degeneration, decay, monotony in contemporary human life. He miserably failed to notice anything positive in life.
This, however, does not in anyway reduce the significance of his poems, which are excellent poetic manifestations of the themes through their use of imagery. The Preludes, which is under reference here, acutely describes the metaphysical emptiness of men in modern metropolis. Eliot presents some images, the inner message is left to the reader to discover. The poet maintains an apparent detachment from the objects he describes. That modern life is devoid of spiritual values is emphasized by creating a sense of isolation and loneliness. The steaming cab horse in a wintry evening is the symbol of this loneliness. The squalor of modern life is emphasized through pieces of newspapers, saw-dust and stale smell of beer in Preludes I & II. In Prelude III, the most accepted interpretation of \"you\" is that of a prostitute though the \"you\" here can also be take as the collective consciousness if we accept dedoublement. Her way of life is diseased, bloodless and as such yellow soles. Hands refer to evocation or profession, which in her case is dirty or soiled. The sparrows are the symbols of abnormal sensuality. Her vision about the \"street\" is limited; the reflections are distorted. She met only the lustful persons during the night, so she has a negative view about them. Those in the street hardly know what she thinks of them - they have no time to cast a symapthetic look at her cruel life because they are running after their own materialistic ambitions. Further, all of them are not passionate or sensuous or lustful - so, they cannot also imagine what she thinks of them. The spiritual limitation of modern man is further elaborated in Prelude IV where the vision is limited - it cannot even see the sky - the sight is blocked by sky-scrappers (city-blocks). The conscience is dark, but it hardly bothers modern man who are happy to have their material comforts fulfilled. It is a bestial life - happy at having a good meal, smoking cigar etc. \"Wipe your hand across your mouth\" brings to my mind the image of a cat wiping its mouth with frong leg after a good meal. Devoid of spiritualism men have been reduced to mere animal existence. Because of his Catholic termperament, Eliot could feel the inadequacy of such human life. He gives a picture of this vacant life through multiple imagery drawn from the contemporary life.

| Posted on 2010-08-16 | by a guest

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Do any of you guys know what language technique the poet uses for part I, "The winter evening settles down...." and so on....just for part I.thanxs xxoxox

| Posted on 2010-05-26 | by a guest

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Do any of you guys know what language technique the poet uses for part I, "The winter evening settles down...." and so on....just for part I.thanxs xxoxox

| Posted on 2010-05-26 | by a guest

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um you got to read this poem over a few times in order to understand what you are reading.I know its about a guy and a girl but I dont kno what they are doing.

| Posted on 2010-05-25 | by a guest

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What does the last stanza mean, does anyone know? Is the guy depressed like the girl too?

| Posted on 2010-05-11 | by a guest

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does the peot tell us anything about the beuty of the prostitute if she is

| Posted on 2010-05-04 | by a guest

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These comments are very helpful, Im doing a project where i need to explain the poem and the critiques shown help a lot. Thanks you guy for being over-thinkers ;]

| Posted on 2010-05-04 | by a guest

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the comment at the top is bull, he wrote preludes between 1910 and 1911, so you can screw that idea. I think its about the dirtiness and fragmentation of the city, and the barriers and fragmentation of relationships.
fragmentation is an amaze parag in any essay about this poem, (or for 'prufrock'), look at the stucture, look at the way he breaks up people into body parts, breaks up time, breaks the 'blinds and chimney pots'....

| Posted on 2010-03-23 | by a guest

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The poem was written in 1917 coming to the end of the first world war. Although I see the interpretation of the prostitute, my analysis shows that perhaps she is actually a burnt out, tired munitions worker. The skin of some women turned yellow because of chemicals in the factories;
'Clasped the yellow soles of feet'
She would have been dirty working with metals etc in the factory as well;
'soiled hands'
Hope this provides a useful interpretation.

| Posted on 2010-03-20 | by a guest

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Very nice comments you have here!! It really helps me understand the poem. Great job, people!!

| Posted on 2010-02-26 | by a guest

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wow this stuff really helps. however you guys think tooo much. lol :P

| Posted on 2010-02-17 | by a guest

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Elliot has wriiten a great poem as he attempts to do in writing what the French Impressionists did with painting; also, what he writes echoes the likes of Baudelaie and Housman, in literature and Degas and others in painting. Whatever he thinks can only be guessed at through experiencing the images , sounds and feelings and the connections with ideas. This is a great poem. Sadly and he never quite was as good again as he became a famous critic and turned to religion and away from the kind of courage needed to write this stuff.

| Posted on 2010-02-02 | by a guest

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The poem Preludes shows the dark, mechanical life lead by the modern man.The poem begins with a winter evening which is unpleasant.The gloomy, depressive mood of the poem sets in. there is a smell of steaks in passage ways, adding to the unpleasantness, indicating badly ventilatd congested rooms. The people are at the end of a day which is like the burnt out end of a cigarette and they themselves are burnt out. The rains are not refreshing but just another of troubles and the vacant lots are not like the lush meadows of the countryside but just vacant. The cab horse breathes and its breath appears as a mist. The lighting of the lamps also has a ritualistic appearance, a meaninglessness.
The morning comes to consciousness indicating that the the world was unconscious in sleep, that sleep is like temporary death. Instead of a fresh morning air, there is a smell of stale beer. The sreets are sawdust trampled and people press their feet rather than walk.There is a feeling of mechanical life. People walking to early morning coffee stands makes us contrastit to our traditional homelike morning picture of the family sitting to breakfast together. The loosening of family bonds can be visualized by us. The poet uses the word masquerades to describe all these activites as its all like a big show...thousands of shades being raised by thousands of people in thousands of rooms all at once.It gives it a ritual like feel and the people appear to be puppets.
Now the controversy about the woman being a prostitute or not.I think its kind of dumb to think that she is a prostitute just because she "had such a visionof the street/as the street hardly understands."It is just that at that moment early inthe morning, when she thinks consciously about her subcoscious thoughts, she realizes that all those people out there in the street are living a mechanical, meaningless life while they do not realize this. She is then at a superior position to them as she understands the drabness of life whereas they are puffed with selfimportance.the poet doesn't lose any opportunity to use unpleasant adjectives-"yellow-soled" feet which are anaemic and "soiled" hand.

| Posted on 2009-12-13 | by a guest

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this poem is about sweeney (eliott himself) walking into some sort of "whore house". think like a perv or just read it ovewr and over for an hour and you just may get it:)
stanza 1: he walks in the whore house looking around with all these women watching
stanza 2: he waits for them to show him what he may want
stanza 3&4: he picks 1 or 2 women and goes to a private area
stanza 5: complete and explicit details of everything he is doing to the women(an).
stanza6: im not sureay have just had oral sex... deffinitely just described someone having no pubic hair though
stanza7: he is gloating while she is finishing her orgasm
stanza 8-10: other women come in to see what all the noise or moaning was about

| Posted on 2009-12-01 | by a guest

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its about a woman who cares about here family so she becomes a harlet

| Posted on 2009-11-30 | by a guest

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all of you guys talk about this and really, why waste your time. you people have no life. the only reason why im commenting is that im in school and i need to look this up!! and saw you losers commenting on it

| Posted on 2009-11-30 | by a guest

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This poem is about life. Many people don't see this much often, but obviously it shows how the wonman in Stanza 3 is a slut and needs money to provide for her family

| Posted on 2009-11-30 | by a guest

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The whole poem evokes life in the city, by focusing on three central themes - environment (loci), woman and man. Though much of his imagery is placed here, however, the key themes relate moreso to life and the forms of life. Much of the poem
is almost a lamentation of artificiality vs. nature
and society (or man) vs. religion.
We do not know whom the lady is in stanza III or indeed who the man is in the last verse, but that is intentional and leaves it open for interpretation; thus cleverly allowing any reader (from any age or society, of any sex) to liken the poem to their own background. Eliot thus creates flexibility and timelessness in his work.
Thanks a lot to those who have posted their ideas, I have really enjoyed reading them.
VLM, London

| Posted on 2009-11-29 | by a guest

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There is not a woman in stanza III. Just read the poem: it's one person's observations of his immediate environs. The narrators diction says somehing about his mood, which is likely loneliness, hesitation.

| Posted on 2009-11-06 | by a guest

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