Dear Jerome and All,
This is all correct on grammar.  Clearly the progressive would be "Us he is devouring."
However--and this is beside the current point and will provoke a massive fuss--it is not the case that, as a matter of English grammar--"he" is the third person singular personal pronoun.  It is the third person singular male pronoun and (nongrammatically) designated as applying to all when grammar was codified in the late 17th and 18th century on the grounds that the male is "more inclusive."  As this is not so, on any scientific or grammatical grounds, it has been rightly critiqued.  Moreover, you can check the OED and find that "they" has always been used in that slot without any objection, even by the best writers, as in "If anyone wants to go, they must be ready at 8."  This use goes back to Anglo-Saxon.
The identification of the gendered-male "man"/"he" with grammar has no basis at all; it was based on a false notion of gender and superiority. It never carried any meaning for women; for example, "All men are created equal" did not mean women had any rights or any civil existence.  Language does matter.

>>> Jerome Walsh <[log in to unmask]>03/10/10 9:57 AM >>>

"Us" is the objective case of the first person plural personal pronoun.  It is used as the direct object of the sentence here.
"He" is the nominative case of the third person singular personal pronoun.  It is used as the subject of the verb.
"Devours" is the third person singular (simple, ordinary) present (not "progressive present") tense of the verb "to devour."

Jerry Walsh

(My knowledge of the complexities of [English] grammar, however, is limited; so I would gladly defer to those who can unravel these complexities more accurately than I.)

From: Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Wed, March 10, 2010 8:21:26 AM
Subject: Re: 'Gerontion' -- Grammatical Accuracy

Dear Terry,
You are noticeably silent in response to my request that you provide the "accuracy in grammatical identifications" that I obviously could not achieve.
Please parse "Us he devours" with all the grammatical accuracy you can muster. I look forward to reading it.

Date: Tue, 9 Mar 2010 19:46:57 -0500
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: 'Gerontion' -- the dramatic arc
To: [log in to unmask]


You seem to be under the impression that poetic ambiguity, multiplicity of meaning, and interpretive range provide rationales for a critic to make errors in grammatical identifications. 'T'isn't so. Whether or not sentences such as "Us he devours" and "Don't touch me" imply ongoing action (an interpretive matter), it is inaccurate to say that they're in the progressive present tense (a factual matter). Whether or not a poem such as "Gerontion" implies movement, the noun "Gerontion" is not a verb or verbal phrase. Claims to the contrary are not interpretations; they're just errors. Critics who feel "free to select the tense of your choice" are writing their own text, not interpreting the one the poet wrote.

You also seem to assume that a call for accuracy in grammatical identifications is ipso facto a rejection of poetic ambiguity, multiplicity of meaning, and interpretive range, that the expectation of critical accuracy necessarily entails an insensitivity to the richness and suggestiveness of a poem. This assumption is so ridiculous I'm not going to comment on it.


Dear Terry,
Don't credit me with interpreting Jesus's statement to Mary as an ongoing action that continues beyond the present moment; biblical scholars have developed arguments on both sides of that debate. Try googling Noli me tangere for details.
If you like things to be unambiguous, you ought to steer clear of poetry. I've said that "Us he devours" seems like an ongoing action of the tiger, rather than a devouring that completes itself in the poem as a conversion experience. But even as the progressive present, a conditional quality might be implied, as in "If the tiger arrives us he devours" or "When the tiger arrives us he devours." Poetry is enriched by ambiguity; if we could point to one meaning Gerontion would not fascinate us as it does. You of course are free to select the tense of your choice for "Us he devours" and settle on one interpretation.
As for the discussion on the poem's title, I believe it could signify both the name of the narrator and the state or condition of old age. I must have posted something that suggested I believed the title signified an action, which is why Nancy tried to disabuse me of that notion. We got it cleared up. I was arguing that ageing was not a static condition, and that the narrator reacts to time passing him by, since someone said the poem was static. The poem, not the title, implies movement.
Do try to pay attention so you don't need replays of discussions to clear up your misconceptions.
>appeals to tense don't always settle disputes about meaning
Now that Jerry has twice corrected your claims about Greek tenses, you say that appeals to tense don't always settle disputes, but you are the one who has been making such appeals - and erroneous ones at that. You say "Us he devours" is the progressive present tense, which it's not. The progressive present in English requires an "ing" verb. (Jerry gave "I am touching" as an example, but you apparently paid no attention to that part of his post.) "Us he devours" is no more the progressive present than are the negative commands "don't touch me" or "don't hold me" or "don't cling to me." If you want to interpret those as continuing actions, that's fine, but please stop using labels you don't understand. (You did this before in your syntactical misreading of the poem's title, about which Nancy's efforts to correct your error seem to have made no impression.) I'll file your current "appeals to tense don't always settle disputes about meaning" with your previous "this tense can radically change meaning" (Sun, March 7, 2010).

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