Portrait Of A Lady Poem – T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

“Portrait of a Lady” is a poem by American-British poet T. S. Eliot (1888–1965), first published in September 1915 in Others: A Magazine of the New Verse. It was published again in March 1916 in Others: An Anthology of the New Verse, in February 1917 (without the epigraph) in The New Poetry: An Anthology, and finally in his 1917 collection of poems, Prufrock and Other Observations.

The poem’s title is widely seen to be derived from the novel of the same name by Henry James.[1] The poem’s epigraph is a famous quotation from Christopher Marlowe’s play The Jew of Malta: “Thou hast committed – / Fornication: but that was in another country, / And besides, the wench is dead.”

Portrait Of A Lady Poem - T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
Portrait Of A Lady Poem – T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Portrait Of A Lady Poem – T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Thou hast committed

Fornication: but that was in another country,

And besides, the wench is dead.

ne Jew of Malta.

AMONG the smoke and fog of a December

a lternoon

You have the scene arrange itself-as it will

Seem to do

With “I have saved this afternoon for you”;

And four wax candles in the darkened room,

Four rings of light upon the ceiling overhead,

n atmosphere of Juliet ‘s tomb

Prepared for all the things to be said, or left


We have been, let us say, to hear the latest Pole

Transmit the Preludes, through his hair and


nmate, this Chopin, that I think his soul

Should be resurrected only among friends

Some two or three, who will not touch the


That is rubbed and questioned in the concert


-And so the conversation slips

-Among velleities and carefully caught regrets

-Ihrough attenuated tones of violins

-Mingled with remote cornets



-You do not know how much they mean to me,


-And how, how rare and strange it is, to find

-In a life composed so much, so much of odds

-and ends,

-For indeed I do not love it … you knew? youu

-are not blind!

-How keen you aret

-To find a friend who has these qualities,

-Who has, and gives

-Those qualities upon which friendship lives.

-How much it means that I say this to you-

-Without these friendships-life, what


-Among the windings of the violins

-And the ariettes

-Or cracked cornets

-Inside my brain a dull tom-tom begins

-Absurdly hammering a prelude of its own,

-Capricious monotone

-Ihat is at least one definite “talse note.

–Let us take the air, ina tobacco trance,

Admire the monuments,

Discuss the late events,

Correct our watches by the pubiic clocks.

Then sit for half an hour and drink our bocks.

Now that lilacs are in bloom

She has a bowl of lilacs in her room

And twists one in his fingers while she talks.

“Ah, my friend, you do not know, you do not


What life is, you who hold it in your hands”;

(Slowly twisting the lilac stalks)

You let it flow from you, you let it flow,

ind youth is cruel, and has no remorse

And smiles at situations which it cannot see.”

I smile, of course,

And go on drinking tea.

“Yet with these April sunsets, that somehoW

My buried life, and Paris in the Spring

ee easuraDly at peace, and nnd the


To be wonderful and youthful, after all”

The voice returns like the insistent out-of-tune

fa broken violin on an August afternoon:

I am always sure that you understand

My feelings, always sure that you feel,

Sure that across the gulf you reach your hand.

You are invulnerable, you have no Achilles


You will go on, and when you have prevailed

You can say: at this p01nt many a one has


But what have I, but what have I, my friend,

To give you, what can you receive from me?

Only the friendship and the sympathy

Of one about to reach her journey’s end.

[ shall sit here, serving tea to friends..

I take my hat: how canI make a cowardly


For what she has said to me?

ou will see me any morning in the park


Keading thne comics and the sportIng page.

Particularly L remarK

An English countess goes upon the stage.

A Greek was murdered at a Pollsn dance,

Another bank defaulter has confessed.

keep my countenance,

I remain selfpossessed

Except when a street piano, mechanical and


Reiterates some worn-out common song

with the smell of hyacinths aeross the garden

Recalling things that other people have


Are these ideas right or wrong?


The October night comes down; returning as


Except fora slight sensation of being ill at ease

Imount the stairs and turn the handle of the


And feel as if I had mounted on my hands and


“And so you are going abroad; and when do you


But that’s a useless question.

You hardly know when you are coming back,

You will find so much to learn.”

My smile falls heavily among the bric-à-brac.

“Perhaps you can write to me.”

My self-possession flares up for a second;

This is as I had reckoned.

“I have been wondering frequently of late

(But our beginnings never know our ends!)

Why we have not developed into friends.”

I feel like one who smiles, and turning shall


Suddenly, his expression in a glass.

My self-possession gutters; we are really in the


“For everybody said so, all our friends,

They all were sure our feelings would relate

So closely! I myself can hardly understand.

We must leave it now to fate.

You will write, at any rate.

Perhaps it is not too late.

I shall sit here, serving tea to friends.”

And I must borrow every changing shape

To find expression… dance, dance

Like a dancing bear,

Cry like a parrot, chatter like an ape.

Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance-

Well! and what if she should die some


Afternoon grey and smoky, evening yellow and


Should die and leave me sitting pen in hand

With the smoke coming down above the


Doubtful, for a while

Not knowing what to feel or ifI understand

Or whether wise or foolish, tardy or too soon…

Would she not have the advantage, after al1?

This music is successful with a “dying fall

Now that we talk of dying

And should I have the right to smile?

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