T.S. Eliot – vs – Portishead


Crazy synergy between T.S. Eliot and a small loop from a great Portishead song.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised 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!]
It is 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.'
      .      .      .      .      .	        110
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.

12 thoughts on “T.S. Eliot – vs – Portishead

  1. The first time that I heard this mashup, I was indifferent with streaks of disapproval. I have listened to it now 3 times in 3 different settings, and have to say that my first impression was mistaken. I will not say that this rendition is masterful, but it is extremely good, and highly inventive. It needs not be said that the musical overlay will go far to introduce Mr. Eliot to a whole spectrum of people who otherwise would never meet him; and that speaks well of this work also.
    Finally, it might just be my imagination, but there is a Japanese aspect to the music-or one redolent of The Green Hornet or 60s spy movies. That is bizarre but not moronic. Well chosen though highly unlikely.

  2. Very enthralling. It brings the play out into a forum for contemporary discussions of the work. I would perhaps suggest finding a female voice to read out the play to compliment the background Portishead mix.

  3. I enjoy this, although it’s quite a challenge at first. This is my favourite early Eliot poem, and I like Portishead too. You’ve made a nice loop. Thanks for this, hyperlexic., it’s way cool.

    Of course, it’s not a play at all, but one of Eliot’s most renowned poems.


  4. Wow, I did not realize that other people are making literary mashups too! I’ve been mixing Modernist poets to hip hop beats for a while at various literary events in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I decided to digitize one of my mixes and put it on YouTube. And lo and behold, I came across your very well done Mashup of Eliot with Portishead just now. The Charles Bukowski -vs- John Bonham is also very creative–I’ll have to send it out to folks.

    The Eliot mix I just posted is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqloEzZ3bcQ

    I’ve also uploaded other mashups with the speeches of Dr. King and Barack Obama on my YouTube page. I’m working on more mixes with poets like Robert Frost.

  5. thanks, Sunburn. I originally “authored” it, although I’m not sure putting two produced pieces of art on top of each other constitutes ‘authorship’, but whatever. I liked the way it sounded, so feh on anyone who has a problem. thanks for the compliments.

  6. I have a confession… I thought this was an EA Robinson poem. That being said; I have loved this poem for many years, but only now am I crediting it to the right source. This mashup between the voice and the music of Portishead is perfect, but while Portishead is credited, the voice is not. Can someone please tell me who narrates this version. I have a theory, but it seems off.

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