Preludes - TS Eliot [1888-1965]
Thomas Stearns [TS] Eliot was born in into a wealthy family in St Louis, Missouri, America in 1888
He became a British citizen at the age of 39 in 1927.
His father was president of a brick making company. His mother wrote poetry and was once a teacher and social volunteer. They were determined to educate Thomas well.
TS Eliot's awareness of how differently some people lived inspired a lot of the descriptions found in Preludes'.
Through the work of his mother and grandfather TS Eliot became aware of poverty and the boring reality of peoples' lives.
In 1917 he published Preludes'. Preludes' consists of four short poems, numbered I, II, III and IV.
Some say that in Preludes' Eliot tried to imagine the thoughts and observations of four badly-off city dwellers. It is possible on the other hand that he is observing a prostitute in the first three Preludes' and a tramp in the fourth Prelude'. This is open to discussion.
In each prelude the Eliot reveals the thoughts and feelings of a person about an aspect of everyday living in a city. Eliot felt that life for poor city dwellers was monotonous. He felt that they suffered from boredom and a poor quality of life. In these Preludes' Eliot looked at human despair and feelings of rejection and failure.
A prelude is a short piece of music that introduces a longer piece of music. In music a prelude is sometimes referred to as an overture. In writing a short introductory piece is often called a preface.
Perhaps the overall theme is the misery of poverty.
In this short poem, a hidden observer describes dusk on a winter's evening in a poor part of a city.
The observer is outside, observing the appearance and atmosphere of a street and neighborhood.
Possibly the observer who describes the scene is Eliot himself. Or it may be the cab driver. Perhaps Eliot is observing a street prostitute, the you' of the poem, as she stands on the pavement among the withered leaves.
It might be helpful to regard this poem, like the others, as a video post-card of this moment, six o'clock on the winter's evening. Eliot used words as his way of painting the picture.
The time is pinpointed at 6 o'clock precisely.
Residents, living probably in one-roomed apartments, are cooking their evening meal all at the same time. They are probably all workers living in flats. The word passageways' suggests the houses have been turned into flats for rent. Even though it seems a run-down part of town, the residents can afford steak.
By linking the scene here with the stale smells of beer' and dingy shades' in furnished rooms of Prelude II' and the thousand sordid images' of Prelude III', one could assume that the Preludes are set in a red-light district of a city.
The smell of steak is a signal that day is done and night is beginning. Because of city smoke the day is described as smoky. Maybe the smoke occurs because people are cooking at the same time. The tiredness of the workers is suggested by the word burnt-out'. Or is there a humorous suggestion that they over cook the steaks?
The weather is bad; a windy shower beats on the buildings and on the horse outside. The cold rain evaporates as steam off the horse's back.
It is early winter as the autumn leaves are still on the ground. The filth of the place is revealed by the phrase grimy scraps'.
The street is untidy as newspapers are blown around the place.
There are many empty or vacant spaces without a building on the street.
The details show that the street is rundown as the word broken' is used to describe the window-blinds.
The buildings are probably three or four storey houses rather than factories as the observer refers to the chimney pots. In Prelude IV' the observer refers to the houses as being in blocks.
The means of transport is by cab-horse. A mysterious visitor to a house makes the cab-horse...
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