Use of Allusion
Like many of Eliot's poems, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" makes numerous allusions to other works, which are often symbolic themselves. Laurence Perrine identifies the following allusions in the poem:
- In "Time for all the works and days of hands" (29) the phrase 'works and days' is the title of a long poem - a description of agricultural life and a call to toil - by the early Greek poet Hesiod.
- "I know the voices dying with a dying fall" (52) echoes Orsino's first lines in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
- The prophet of "Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter / I am no prophet - and here's no great matter" (81-2) is John the Baptist, whose head was delivered to Salome by Herod as a reward for her dancing (Matthew 14:1-11, and Oscar Wilde's play Salome).
- "To have squeezed the universe into a ball" (92) and "indeed there will be time" (23) echo the closing lines of Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress'. Other phrases such as, "there will be time" and "there is time" are reminiscent of the opening line of that poem: "Had we but world enough and time".
- "'I am Lazarus, come from the dead'" (94) may be either the beggar Lazarus (of Luke 16) returning for the rich man who was not permitted to return from the dead to warn the brothers of a rich man about Hell, or the Lazarus (of John 11) whom Christ raised from the dead, or both.
- "Full of high sentence" (117) echoes Chaucer's description of the Clerk of Oxford in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales.
- "There will be time to murder and create" is a biblical allusion to Ecclesiastes 3.
Johan Schimanski identifies these:
- In the final section of the poem, Prufrock rejects the idea that he is Prince Hamlet, suggesting that he is merely "an attendant lord" (112) whose purpose is to "advise the prince" (114), a likely allusion to Polonius. Prufrock also brings in a common Shakespearean element of the Fool, as he claims he is also "Almost, at times, the Fool."
- "Among some talk of you and me" may be a reference to Quatrain 32 of Edward FitzGerald's first translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam ("There was a Door to which I found no Key / There was a Veil past which I could not see / Some little Talk awhile of ME and THEE / There seemed - and then no more of THEE and ME.")
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