First of all, I think grammar is fascinating, not boring at all, because it is
also rhetoric: it determines meaning. So I mean to go back and research
this when I have texts. But does anyone really think--even if we change
"sky" to get rid of the rhyme, that the grammar would call for the following:
Let us go then, you and me,
When the evening is spread out against the [sea]
Like a patient. . .
I think we all hear "you and I" as grammatical. Since there is a persistent
desire to insist in advance that "us" is the word to which the phrase is in
apposition, and then to say that since it is "us" it must be error, I want to
point out that this is circular reasoning and counter to the way grammar
ELIOT MADE IT in apposition to an implied "we" as subject or to a
doubled internal self, or he meant it as a direct address. The line sounds
perfectly grammatical, so the issue is how the grammar works, not why it
is wrong. IF the apposition is to "us," who or what is the subject of the
So I find I need to go to Chomsky et. al. and find the models. I am now
doubtful that my original reading of apposition is what's at stake.
Date sent: Sun, 6 Apr 2003 21:08:38 -0400
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: "Rickard A. Parker" <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Grammar (you and I, the loyal apposition)
To: [log in to unmask]
Jacek Niecko wrote:
> Unbelievable rubbish. What rubbish.
The rules of grammar might be boring but seeing how they can be bent
for poetry is a valid topic for this list since Eliot did that.
The rest of the quoted text is Nancy's (except for some noted as mine).
> All this can be read as a way of making sense, except I am sorry but it
> is not a matter of making sense or of opinion. The "you and I" can,
> theoretically, be an appositive for "us" (as you read it) OR it can be
> an appositive for the implied "we" speaker OR it can be a direct
The grammar of "Let us go you and I" does appear to be debatable, by the
Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar anyways.
The Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar -- This organization
provides a number of teaching resources for grammar instruction. You
might consider subscribing to the email discussion list: we've
recently been debating whether or not T.S. Eliot made an 'error' in
the first line of 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' ('Let us go
then, you and I'). Truly gripping. Information on subscribing are
available on the homepage.
[Hey, ATEG, shouldn't that be "information IS available?"]
The ATEG mail list is served from Miami University (Ohio)
It appears that the Prufrock discussion starts here (in March 2001):
The easiest to read and understand post in that thread (for me anyway)
said in part:
I read "you and I" as an appositive, expanding "us." An appositive is
in the same case as the noun phrase it modifies. Here that would be
objective: "you and me." To murder the line, we could correct it to
"Allow us (that is, you and me) to go then." Eliot's line is poorer
grammar but better poetry.
-- Dick Veit
I also found this elsewhere at a Grammar site
(does the title look familiar?):
The Loyal Apposition
III. How do we decide an appositive's case?
A. Appositives that are pronouns must agree in number and case
with the words they are in apposition to.
Ghengis Khan, he who united the warring Mongol tribes into
a mighty military force, was also notorious for putting to the
sword the entire population of resisting cities.
The media have had a field day with the linguistic blunders
committed by George W. Bush, him of the tortured syntax and
Here's an error from T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred
Let us go then, you and I . . .
Technically, it should read, "Let us go then, you and me. . . ." The
appositional pronouns ("you" and "I") need to be in the same
(objective) case as the pronoun "us." But in Eliot's case I think we
can call it poetic license.
> Only in the way you read it is there a grammatical mistake, and there is
> no reason to assume a grammatical mistake.
Perhaps it was intentional. Eliot played with grammar.
> So it is not really a matter of interpretation but a matter of grammar
> unless you want to assume Eliot got it wrong, and why should he?
Because of Eliot's word play I think it IS a matter of interpretation.
This is what I wrote earlier:
> This may be why the "you" is so often read as being the reader, and is
> an invitation the reader into the poem. Since the phrase may not have
> much meaning in a dramatic context (as if seen on a stage) then it may
> lead the reader to think that he is being addressed (singular you) out
> of a larger group (multiple readers, plural you).
Eliot may have written the line to be ambiguous. A choice would be
that the "you" could be a "character" or by the (attempt at) logic
above, the reader. That is, the mind might see the subtle grammar
error and make an adjustment that brings him into the "us."