I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
Prufrock has over-planned and over-thought his existence. He has taken no chances. He’s led a “measured,” tame, domestic life. (Luckily he’s still alive, so he has time to remedy the tragedy of what he’d call his pathetic existence; but he feels this time slipping away.)
One often took coffee while making a social call in the 1900’s. The line suggests the amount of socializing Prufrock has done in his life: he’s so often calling on so-and-so that you could say he’s kept track of his life by the coffee he’s spooned out during visits.
Since coffee, socializing, and wasting time have remained popular into the present day, this line has become one of the most famous in the poem. It’s even echoed in the song “Seasons of Love,” from the musical Rent:
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets,
In midnights, in cups of coffee…
The Crash Test Dummies Song “Afternoons and Coffeespoons,” a clear allusion to Elliot’s “Lovesong,” also takes Eliot’s ideas and brings them into the 90s. This song adds to the discussion a fear of growing sick as well as old, and living your days out in the sterile, lifeless hallways of a hospital, measuring out the passing days with cups of coffee….
What is it that makes me just a little bit queasy?
There’s a breeze that makes my breathing not so easy
I’ve had my lungs checked out with X rays
I’ve smelled the hospital hallways
Someday I’ll have a disappearing hairline
Someday I’ll wear pajamas in the daytime
Afternoons will be measured out
Measured out, measured with
Coffeespoons and T.S. Eliot…
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