It is impossible to say just what I mean!

from T.S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock on Rap Genius


This rhetorical device is called aporia, which is to talk about not being able to talk about something.

I do not have words to tell you how often it is used.

— Arthur Quinn, Figures of Speech: 60 Ways To Turn a Phrase.

This is really every poet’s struggle, isn’t it?

Eliot is revealing his own personal struggle to express himself through Prufrock. After all, Eliot himself said that dramatic monologue

is the voice of the poet, who has put on the costume and make-up either of some historical character, or of one out of fiction.

The Three Voices of Poetry (1954)

Compare this aporia with that of Eliot’s magnum opus in “Burnt Norton”:

…Words strain
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish
Will not stay still…

He also might be using this as an excuse to not say anything—the futility of attempting to say anything because he will never get his true meaning across.

To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot and leave a comment on the lyrics box