En Amerique, professeur;

TS Eliot wrote a few poems in French, and here is one of them. It is about the different identities or personas that he felt he adopted according to place or circumstance. Anybody who travels a lot or has multiple roles in life can empathise with this. Which is the “real” Eliot? The question itself probably has no neat answer – of course he is an adulterous mixture of everything.
Mélange Adultère de Tout
En Amerique, professeur;

En Angleterre, journaliste;

C’est à grands pas et en sueur

Que vous suivrez à peine ma piste.

En Yorkshire, conferencier;

A Londres, un peu banquier,

Vous me paierez bien la tête.

C’est à Paris que je me coiffe

Casque noir de jemenfoutiste.

En Allemagne, philosophe

Surexcité par Emporheben

Au grand air de Bergsteigleben;

J’erre toujours de-ci de-là

A divers coups de tra la la

De Damas jusqu’à Omaha.

Je celebrai mon jour de fête

Dans une oasis d’Afrique

Vêtu d’une peau de girafe.

On montrera mon cénotaphe

Aux côtes brûlantes de Mozambique.
From <http://www.bartleby.com/199/18.html&gt;

Eliot gives a picture of himself popping up in different places around the world, each time in a different role, with a different purpose – America, England, Yorkshire, London, Paris, Germany, Damascus, Omaha, an African oasis, Mozambique. If you try to keep up you will make yourself dizzy. He is teacher, journalist, lecturer, banker, philosopher – but he goes to Paris for a haircut and to Africa for his birthday. Maybe his memorial will be in Mozambique – that can’t be more absurd than the activities of the rest of his life…

This is a fun poem from Eliot, it doesn’t have the intense anxiety of some of his work, but is more playful and allusive. The short lines reinforce the sense of transitoriness that he is trying to convey. And it’s a pretty good effort at writing in French for an Anglo-American poet.
The Poetry Dude


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