Lines on the Boston Evening Transcript

Harvard campus commons with trees and buildings.

Harvard campus, 1910. Img: flickr CC/libraryimages.net

A late night contribution from poet T.S. Eliot, annotated.

This poem appeared in Eliot’s Prufrock and Other Observations, published in 1917. The Boston Evening Transcript to which the poem refers probably entered Eliot’s life during his years in Cambridge, while he attended Harvard (1906-1909 and 1911-1914). The paper ceased publication in 1941, after more than a hundred years of syndication.

Though a traveler from university to university, Eliot wrote to Harvard classmate Conrad Aiken (with whom he’d edited a print publication that’s just full of ridiculously talented alumni) on New Year’s Eve, 1914 that:

“I hate university towns and university people, who are the same everywhere, with pregnant wives, sprawling children, many books and hideous pictures on the walls … Oxford is very pretty, but I don’t like to be dead.”


The Boston Evening Transcript

The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript

Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.

When evening quickens faintly in the street,

Wakening the appetites of life is some

And to others bringing the Boston Evening

Transcript,

I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning

Wearily, as one would turn to nod goodbye to

La Rochefoucauld,

If the street were time and he at the end of the

street,

And I say, ‘Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston

Evening Transcript.’

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