The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
How we cite our quotes:
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? (lines 75-80)
Prufrock keeps confusing the past and the future throughout the poem – maybe on purpose, to cover his tracks. Though the poem started in the evening, he pushes the "rewind" button and goes back to the "afternoon," which blend into each other to form a barren wasteland of boredom and inaction. But some time has passed in the poem, because earlier he was talking about having tea, and now it seems he has already had tea.
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. (lines 84-86)
More time passes in the poem, this time on a larger scale. He comes to realizes that "the moment of my greatness," the moment of his big chance at love, has come and gone. His best chance for happiness is over. Now he only has death, "the eternal Footman," to look forward to. This, he knows, is bad news.