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The Love Song of J Alfred


savhoisington
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Hey guys! I was doing ch. 11 work the other day and read/ listened to Eliot's work, "The Love Song of J Alfred". I really liked it anyways, but something it is definitely a complex poem that is worth some thought, so I wanted to create a space for it.

The part I focused of was the ending. I talked about this in more depth on the forum, but Eliot's works, especially Little Gidding, connect to the idea that life's purpose is rarely found, and even if it is, you realize it is way beyond yourself. So, in The Love Song of J Alfred, the speaker seems to be old (and I'm guessing nearing the end of his life) when his walk on the beach turns magical in a way by describing the mermaids singing. They could allude to him finally finding life's purpose at the end of his journey. But, like in "Little Gidding", if you find purpose, you still cannot reach it, which is shown when Eliot writes, "I do not think they will sing to me." this whole scene gives off the feeling that he has found something beautiful, but it has never and will never involve him, maybe like the meaning of life? I think this could also apply to different contexts as well. But, I'm curious to see your thoughts on the poem if you read it or even your takes on the last section as well!


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TheBoulder
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When I read I thought the speaker to be middle aged, or late middle aged, due to the rhetoric of "I shall..." speaking of the future. It seemed he was looking forward at a projection of what he thought his future would be. When I read mermaids, I thought of sirens from Greek mythology. In that interpretation, it was sad. It was like the sirens, who typically enchant men to death, gave up on him because they knew his time was coming soon. In another way, it is like a dream, for the end he writes "till human voices wake us, and we drown". He realizes that the world isn't fantasy, but imagination is easier than reality.


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MangoMan
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@theboulder Which is a hard pill to swallow.  I think he describes something we all feel somewhere in life.  We all look for that perfect reality where consequences and deceit do not exists.  unfortunately life has consequences and you can't trust everything that sounds perfect.  Almost like a subtle warning to those saying be careful because life isn't what it seems.


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SnowyYeti
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@theboulder I am not going to lie, these poems confused me especially considering I have gotten into poetry just this year.  These poems to me seemed like they all had a few different meanings in them but I was never able to find the connection between them.  The poems seemed all over the map.  I agree with your interpretation but what is puzzling to me is the use of the word "us."  The whole poem (i think) uses I and nothing else until the end where he has a realization that our life is somewhat of a dream.  So is the realization that he makes that in like a dream, everything that happens to us is how we imagine it? Similar to deconstruction where we interpret everything in a way that fits us?  I am not sure if this makes sense but this last part especially confused me.


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TheBoulder
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@snowyyeti Interesting, I didn't notice that use between "I" and "us". I agree, it feels like a dream, especially with the use of "drown". That drowning seems similar to the distortedness that I feel each time I wake up. I think the ending of the poem was where he wanted to make his mark. The middle is oddly descriptive, but nothing too out of the ordinary, until the end. Like @mangoman said, it's a warning. I don't agree that everything happens as we imagine it, when I read the mermaid it didn't seem the speaker was in control of this state, like dreaming, most people cannot fully control it. I agree that it is a distortion of reality though.


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