18 August 2015

"Spooning" - and "Prufrock" (updated)

The conventional definition involves sentimental love, but the photo source also offers this comment:
The word also had homosexual connotations, as in Stoppard’s The Invention of Love. Says old A. E. Housman to young A. E. Housman: “Centuries later in a play now lost, Aeschylus brought in Eros, which I suppose we may translate as extreme spooniness; showers of kisses, and unblemished thighs. Sophocles, too; he wrote The Loves of Achilles: more spooniness than you’d find in a cutlery drawer, I shouldn’t wonder.”
Found at Modern Foppery, via

Addendum: I originally posted this back in 2010.  This week I encountered the photo again while browsing the web, and decided to search for more information on the unusual imagery.  When I Googled several key words, the #1 hit was...

I have to admit that was a bit startling, especially since it was one of my favorite poems back when I was an English major in college (never could quite memorize it all, but I can still call up key passages).  And the connection to the photo? - just the coincidental presence of the keywords I selected ("women," "spoons," "behind," and "back.")

So I'm going to use this serendipitous event as an excuse to post the poem.

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        5
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….        10
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,        15
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,        20
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;        25
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;        30
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        35
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—        40
(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        45
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,        50
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—        55
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?        60
  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        65
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        70
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!        75
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?        80
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,        85
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,        90
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”—        95
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,        100
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
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:        105
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,        115
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 …        120
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.        125
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        130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Composed by T.S. Eliot (1888–1965), and published in Prufrock and Other Observations (1920).

Addendum:  Here's a very interesting and perhaps relevant observation by reader frenchfarmer:
"Spoon" in french is "cuillère" and is pronounced "quee-er."
Addendum #2:
Reposted once again (August 2015) because this year marks the 100-year anniversary of "Prufrock."
When T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” made its first appearance in print 100 years ago, it did not in any way disturb the universe. Having languished in a drawer for four years, the poem was finally first published in the June 1915 issue of the Chicago journal Poetry, placed toward the back because the editor didn’t much like it... The reviews were a mix of indifference, confusion, and disdain. The Times Literary Supplement remarked that Eliot’s “observations” were “of the very smallest importance to anyone—even to himself.”...

Of course, it’s now clear that “Prufrock” is one of the great poems of the twentieth century. It is widely taught in schools, and its strange and subversive incantations are freely released into the unformed souls of adolescents without any regard for the consequences...

The nature of Eliot’s personal hell during his time in Paris was complicated and multifaceted, but the fact that he was still a virgin was undoubtedly part of it. Eliot suffered from a congenital double hernia, which meant he wore a truss from an early age. His cadaverous bookishness and universally remarked-on shyness didn’t help his cause with women at Harvard or anywhere else...
Continued at the link.


  1. A faint click and light dawns.
    Spoon in french is cuillère and is pronounced "quee-er"

  2. Thank you, frenchfarmer; I've added that to the post. :.)

  3. Gouine is a rude french word for lesbian and yes it sounds exactly like queen.

  4. actually, "quee-AIR" would be more accurate than quee-er

  5. Thankfully I was never taught this poem, so I can enjoy it. Very strange and full of hints of meaning.

  6. Once again your site broadened my knowledge. I've loved this song for years and now have a full understanding of it.

    "Afternoon's and Coffeespoon's"
    Crash Test Dummies

    What is it that makes me just a little bit queasy?
    There's a breeze that makes my breathing not so easy
    I've had my lungs checked out with X rays
    I've smelled the hospital hallways

    Someday I'll have a disappearing hairline
    Someday I'll wear pajamas in the daytime

    Times when the day is like a play by Sartre
    When it seems a book burning's in perfect order
    I gave the doctor my description
    I've tried to stick to my prescription

    Someday I'll have a disappearing hairline
    Someday I'll wear pajamas in the daytime

    Afternoons will be measured out
    Measured out, measured with
    Coffee spoons and T.S. Eliot

    Maybe if I could do a play-by-playback
    I could change the test results that I will get back
    I've watched the summer evenings pass by
    I've heard the rattle in my bronchi

    Someday I'll have a disappearing hairline
    Someday I'll wear pajamas in the daytime

    Afternoons will be measured out
    Measured out, measured with
    Coffee spoons and T.S. Eliot

    Afternoons will be measured out
    Measured out, measured with
    Coffee spoons and T.S. Eliot

    Read more: Crash Test Dummies - Afternoon´s And Coffeespoons Lyrics | MetroLyrics

    1. Thanks. That's what we're here for. :.)

  7. I can't recommend strongly enough that you check out this brilliant "comic strip" version of the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. It seriously adds to the poem, forcing you to slow down and appreciate the imagery. It's not totally done yet but the artist is releasing portions as they're completed. http://julianpeterscomics.com/page-1-the-love-song-of-j-alfred-prufrock-by-t-s-eliot/

    1. Elagie, I must commend you on your excellent sense of what I would like -


  8. And to go low-brow -- you can't let the obvious pass . . . that spooning leads to forking.


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