> But in the whole glum project altogether, with birth
> so closely allied to copulation, the rather loud implication
> is that there is, after all, in the whole ruddy business, reproduction.
> In fact, isn't it the inexorability of the progression
> that is so deflating?
Well, for Eliot himself and for his immediate family (Vivienne, and later, Valerie), copulation and reproduction were two wholly separate things. Ditto for many of Eliot's childless friends such as John Hayward, Geoffrey Faber, and Virginia Woolf. So I'm not sure Eliot saw reproduction as an inexorable piece of the progression that he's describing in Agonistes. Sweeney's articulation of the progression is "Birth, and copulation, and death", not "Birth, and reproduction, and death", and I think the reader is supposed to think about that.
I keep coming back to Eliot's Dante essay where he says, "the love of man and woman (or for that matter of man and man) is only explained and made reasonable by the higher love, or else is simply the coupling of animals." Again, no talk of reproduction, just copulation.
-- Tom --