Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
- There’s not much to explain about what’s going on in these lines. Women are entering and leaving a room talking about the Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo.
- Eliot loves those Italians. The quote is adopted from a poem the 19th century French writer Jules Laforgue, but that doesn’t really help us figure out what it means here.
- And, no, you’re not missing anything – these lines really do come out of nowhere and seem to have nothing to do with Prufrock’s question.
- They do, however, add to the general atmosphere. For one thing, the women must be pretty high-class to be talking about Renaissance art, but their repeated action of "coming and going" seems surprisingly pointless.
- Remember how we said that Eliot includes sneaky references to Dante everywhere? Well, Dante’s Hell features a lot of really smart people who repeat utterly pointless physical gestures over and over again in small, cramped spaces. Just something to think about.
- Finally, these lines have an incredibly simple, singsong rhyme that could get really annoying if you had to listen to it for a long time. It sounds like a nursery rhyme, which totally doesn’t fit with the intellectual subject of famous painters.