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Kate Troy wrote:
> 
> These lines may not have referred to his marriage.  Perhaps he meant
> leaving America and living his life as a British citizen.

Sometimes abstract propositions are meant as abstract propositions. In
that case what he referred to was 

 The awful daring of a moment's surrender
 Which an age of prudence can never retract
 By this, and this only, we have existed 

The reader must first judge whether or not he/she accepts the
proposition, then 'fill it' in with his/her own 'illustrations' or
instances. "We" in such constructions usually means "You." It's not an
uncommon practice in either poetry or discursive prose. Note I just
exemplified it. I'm not going to exemplify that claim, and the reader
who wants to test it (one can always just walk away) will have to search
through her own memory fot unexemplified abstractions in various
authors.

When Keats writes, "The weariness, the fever, and the fret," we do not
tend to construe it by searching for a particular fret in Keats's life
(though he had plenty of them) -- we read it as a summarizing statement
of human experience, ours as much as the poet's -- and it is as such an
abstraction that we need to respond to it. Eliot probably (like most
humans in the same historical context (roughly 1660 to present) had
experienced many instances of forced free choice (come to many forks in
the world), but he need not have been invoking any particular one as the
reference point of these lines.

Does it make a difference to TWL whether the quoted lines constitute a
valid abstraction for modern experience? I don't think so -- but I do
think the reader must, at least casually, say yes or no to the calim as
her eyes pass over it.

Carrol

Carrol