Preludes T S Eliot

‘Preludes’ is presented in 4 parts and spans the course of a 24 hour period.   Unusually, the narrative starts in the evening, which hints to the general theme of a decline.   It should be noted that the poem seems to bypass daytime altogether, focussing on the twilight hours of dusk and dawn and so enhancing the gloominess in the speaker’s tone and mood.   The narrative then takes us through to the morning and back to the evening again.   This lends a cyclical feel to the poem which alludes to the repetitive tedium of an urbanised way of life.   The prelude, more commonly associated with music, is usually a smaller and less significant work which is presented before the main event.   Eliot’s employment of the form here could be said to be working in tandem with the general feeling of insignificance expressed in the poem.   Using this form hints that this is only a small, minor foreword to some greater metaphysical gripe.

Part I sets the melancholic tone, observing the ‘burnt-out ends’, ‘withered leaves’ and ‘vacant lots’ which evoke a sense of decay or decline.   The use of plosive alliteration (‘wraps’, ‘scraps’, ‘newspapers’, ‘beat’, broken blinds’, ‘pots’, ‘cab’, ‘stamps’, ‘lamps’) and a fricative/sibilant succession of words (‘stale smells’, ‘sawdust-trampled street’, ‘press’, ‘coffee-stands’, ‘hands’, ‘furnished’ etc.) facilitate the speakers contempt for what he believes to be the material, insignificant grotesqueries of life.   The missing ‘the’ in the second line ‘With smell of steaks…’ almost projects an animalistic or primitive quality onto the inhabitants of this world and exudes a general disdain for the way of life described.

Part II opens with the metaphor ‘The Morning comes to consciousness…’ The personification used here has the effect of the ‘morning’ acquiescing with, and so reinforcing, the speaker’s disdain.   The sense of isolation is further developed in the absence of tangible human life.   Eliot uses passive sentences to expand this idea, in...