Thursday, January 04, 2007

My Love Affair....

...with language will probably be life-long.  I enjoyed this quotation, which describes me to a "T":

Arguing with an engineer is like wrestling with a pig in mud. After a while, you realise the pig is enjoying it.
         -- Jamie Lawrence.
Even on myspace you can find original gems:

Ahhh...the magic of technology. Helping drunk girls everywhere piece together their nights!!
         -- Sassily
But for the guaranteed smorgasbord, one returns to the classics (granted, a modern classic in this case):

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

                           S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
                           A persona che mai tornasse al mondo
                           Questa fiamma staria sensa piu scosse.
                           Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
                           Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero
                           Sensa tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

                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
                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 . . .
                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,
                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,
                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;
                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;
                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
                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—
                [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
                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,
                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—
                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?
                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
                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
                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!
                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?
                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,
                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
                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'—
                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,
                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:
                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,
                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 . . .
                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.

                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
                Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

If your Italian is a bit shaky, the Italian part translates to:

"If I thought my answer were given
to anyone who would ever return to the world,
this flame would stand still without moving any further.
But since never from this abyss
has anyone ever returned alive, if what I hear is true,
without fear of infamy I answer you."
This is from Dante's Inferno.

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