I see that you read "should" as "ought to." But the whole passage
is in a series of verbs where that does not really fit.
The "should" in this line is not, as far as I can see, "ought" in the
present tense; it is the past tense of "shall." What happens, I think,
especially given the subjunctive mood of the whole, is that the tense
shift is from the past perfect to the past. Thus "I would have had. . ."
"expresses a conditional statement" about a past already finished
at an earlier point, so all those lines are about what might have been
done but was not. But "should" is the past indicative of "shall," and
so means that under those conditions [if he had done the other in
the past] the narrator [would] find something; it would happen then:
"I should find."
It has never occurred to me to read it as "ought to," though that is
another meaning of "should." But I do not think it fits the context
because there is no future tense at all. The narrator says, in the
last stanza, that if he had done that, he "should have lost"
something. He does not mean he ought not to have lost it: it never
did happen. Presumably because what he "would have done" he
did not do. In any case, at the end, we are left with speculation
only, about something that never did happen and is not happening
and is not expected to happen.
"Shall" and "should" are not much used in current American
English, but they are recent enough and familiar enough still to be
listed in the new (15th) Chicago Manual of Style in these forms.
Date sent: Fri, 3 Oct 2003 02:39:54 EDT
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Question about 'La Figlia che Piange'
To: [log in to unmask]
In a message dated 10/3/03 0:25:23 AM EST,
[log in to unmask] writes:
> I do not understand what there is in the poem
> to offer any insight into how much she was hurt
> except the narrator's assumptions. What allows
> any speculation on any "real" degree of hurt?
> And is not the "I should find / some way"
> linked by syntax and stanza only to the
> preceding "I would. . . / I would. . . / he would"?
> That is, "I should find some way" to have
> had him leave, to have had her stand
> and grieve, as the soul. . . .
> What is there in the poem to suggest
> any other knowledge of what any actual "she" felt?
> . . .
> What "real breakup" have we to do with?
> We have the lines of a poem in which a narrator
> speaks of a weeping lady and imagines her in
> specific ways and then imagines her in
> a scene of separation. The language seems to
> make the separation extremely wrenching: "torn
> and bruised," "deserts the body it has used."
> But there is no language that I can see
> to imply any "real" event about which her
> "real" degree of hurt can be determined.
In the lines
"So I would have had him leave,
So I would have had her stand and grieve,
So he would have left
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,
As the mind deserts the body it has used.
I should find
Some way incomparably light and deft"
there is, as you note, a shift in the verb usage. Doesn't the shift in
the verbs from "would have had" (i.e., action in an imagined scene)
to "should find" (i.e., action that is being willed to take place in the
present) imply a shift from an imagined event to a real event? I don't
see how the "should find" can apply to the IMAGINED scene
because the narrator has already stated that the imagined breakup
is being staged **exactly as he wants it to happen** -- this is how
he "would have had" the breakup take place if he was God and
could stage things exactly as he wanted. Since the imagined
breakup is happening just as the narrator wants it to happen, I don't
see why he would then add (about the imagined breakup), "I should
find", implying there was something wrong with his "would have had"
staging. That would be self-contradictory.
Rather, I think the verb shift marks the shift from the narrator's
musing about a real **impending** breakup that hasn't happened yet
in the second stanza (but has happened before the third stanza
begins). In that reading, the "I should find some way" refers to "find
some way to break up in real life that is incomparably light and
deft", not too dramatic as was the mythic breakup depicted initially.
Then, in the third stanza, the "I should have lost a gesture and a
pose" implies yet another time shift -- the real breakup has
happened, it didn't go well, and the narrator reflects that he "should
have" (past tense) acted differently during the real breakup than he
-- Steve --