An analysis of Eliot’s poem – by Dr Oliver Tearle
‘Mr Apollinax’ is one of the twelve poems included in Prufrock and Other Observations, T. S. Eliot’s debut collection of poems from 1917. The collection is highly sought after now in a first edition, but the initial print run of 500 copies wouldn’t sell out for five years. Nevertheless, the poems contained in this volume are among the first great modernist poems written in English. ‘Mr Apollinax’ displays the arresting imagery and serio-comic vein that run through the whole of the collection, as we’ll try to demonstrate in our analysis and discussion of it. You can read ‘Mr Apollinax’ here.
Why ‘Mr Apollinax’? The title suggests the Greek god Apollo, but more specifically, ‘Apollinax’ might suggest Apollonis arx, which Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue, in their recent co-edited 2-volume edition of Eliot’s poems, point out was, in Greek mythology, ‘a place at the entrance of the Sibyl’s cave where the Sibyl left her prophecies, written on leaves’. Eliot’s name ‘Apollinax’, then, may suggest that the titular subject of the poem is both godlike (as in the mighty Apollo) but also prophetic or vatic, someone whom people view as a sage.