T.S. Eliot’s “Prufrock,” Illustrated (Part III)

For the past few months, I have been blogging about T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I have shared illustrations based on the poem and also discussed what it means to me as an artist. Just two more illustrations were left to show, so I thought it would be a good idea to post these before the end of 2015.

I haven’t blogged since September because I have been finishing up on one of the remaining illustrations, which can be seen below. This was a piece that I had been working on during my father’s last illness. It was only half-done when he died, and for months and months afterward I couldn’t even look at it, nor, for that matter, did I produce any art. I hadn’t known that he was dying, so I was in shock for a long time, unable to concentrate on any intellectually demanding task. Finally, about a year-and-a-half after his death, I pushed myself to complete the illustration. Very little thought went into its completion. My sole aim was to get something that represented a very painful chapter in my life, out of the way.

Water-colours and colour pencils, 2015, © Faiza Mahmud
Water-colours and white charcoal pencil, 2014, © Faiza Mahmud

These illustrations refer to the poem’s concluding verse, with which I shall close out this blog post, probably my last one for 2015. “Prufrock,” first published in June 1915, has been providing inspiration for over a century and will remain relevant and inspirational for the next one hundred years, as long as people continue to read it and take delight in its imagery and literary allusions. Moreover, the universality of its themes – identity crisis, feelings of inadequacy, aging – is something that no thoughtful reader can ignore. Here are Eliot’s memorable last lines about the mermaids:

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.