I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
Prufrock has over-planned and over-thought his existence. He has taken no chances. He has followed the recipe of living to the letter. (Luckily he is still alive, so he has time to remedy the tragedy of what he’d call his pathetic existence; but he feels this time is slipping away.)
One often took coffee while making a social call in the 1900’s. The coffee spoons line suggests the amount of socializing Prufrock has done in his life; in other words, 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 measured 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 alluded to 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…
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