Thanks for your patience Jerry! I too don't read "Us he devours" as a punctum, but as a durative or iterative action. I apologize for messing up the tense name. The hosing I got for that on this list will insure I never forget what ypu have taught me!

Diana 

Sent from my iPod

On Mar 11, 2010, at 12:23 PM, Jerome Walsh <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

That's how I would understand it.  As a non-specialist, I hesitate to comment on Eliot, but I could not not read "Us he devours" as having some quality of generalization, either as a continuing process (durative) or a repeated one (iterative).  For a single, punctual action I would expect "Us he is devouring."  That being said, I recognize that poetry can stretch the constraints of prose grammar, but prose grammar is where I would begin my attempts to understand.  (I guess I'm just hopelessly prosaic.  I have only rarely managed to commit an act of poetry.)

Jerry


From: Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Thu, March 11, 2010 10:51:16 AM
Subject: Re: "Us he devours" was ....Re: 'Gerontion' -- Grammatical Accuracy

Jerry, one more question:
 
"He eats ham" is durative or iterative, right? He eats ham on Easter, He eats ham since he stopped keeping kosher, etc.
 
But you would not say "He eats ham right now" would you? You would say "He is eating ham now."
 
So......
 
"He devours us" is durative or iterative, and "He is devouring us" is present. Is that right?
 
Diana
 

Date: Thu, 11 Mar 2010 08:21:49 -0800
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: "Us he devours" was ....Re: 'Gerontion' -- Grammatical Accuracy
To: [log in to unmask]

Yes, Diana.  "I am drinking" is progressive present tense.  "I drink" is simple present.  "I do drink" is emphatic present.  Each of them can be used in contexts that modify the temporal parameters of the action.  "I drink coffee from morning to night" (continuous, durative action).  "I drink a cup of coffee every morning when I get up" (puntual, repeated action).  But for punctual, non-repeated action in the present, the progressive present ("I am drinking a cup of coffee right now").  For simultaneous action, the progressive past ("I was drinking a cup of coffee when you called") can be replaced (Runyon-style) by the progressive present ("Guess who arrives while I am drinking a cup of coffee!").  I have no doubt there are other, even more nuanced uses of the various tenses beyond those I've exemplified.

Jerry Walsh


From: Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Thu, March 11, 2010 9:46:10 AM
Subject: Re: "Us he devours" was ....Re: 'Gerontion' -- Grammatical Accuracy

Peter I'll allow that I'm confused about simple present tense. In the sentence "I am drinking a glass of water right now" is it progressive present because of the participle "drinking"? Even though the action does not continue?

Diana



Sent from my iPod

On Mar 11, 2010, at 7:23 AM, Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> In a sense the inversion isolates US. He doesn't devour anything else, just
> US.
>
> P.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Carrol Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 8:23 AM
> Subject: "Us he devours" was ....Re: 'Gerontion' -- Grammatical Accuracy
>
>
>> (Ignoring all Diana's comments on this.)
>>
>> The present tense in English (as in most languages) has a number of
>> different uses, and identifying the use in a particular case offers or
>> can offer interpretive problems, especially when, as here, there is a
>> deliberate departure from normal English word order of
>> subject-verbv-object. Obmect-subject-verb wold be perfectly normal and
>> non-ambiguous in Latin, That English has an objective (accusative) case
>> in pronouns (though not in nouns) makes the Latin word order possible
>> here, and the use of non-English word order is surely the most strikig
>> feature of the phrase. US he devours -- ie., not "them." But since the
>> antecedent of "he" is itself an interpretive crux it's hard to know
>> where to_begin_ om cconstruing the phrase, that is, which is the
>> dependent, which the independent variable here. Le's leave the puzzle
>> regarding "he" aside for a moment and focus on the word order and the
>> verb. "Devours" here has an iterative feel: He is in the practice of
>> devouring, not just anyoen, but _us_ (emphasized by word order). The
>> iterative feel and the emphasis on us (rather than someone else)
>> suggests something like an regularly repaeated action, annual in this
>> case.
>>
>> I don't know where to take it from here, except to note that here we
>> have the kind of ambguity Empson was concerned with -- ambiguities that
>> _function_ significanty in the text, not ambiguties 5that are pulled out
>> of the air for the fun of it by someone who just thinks ambiguity
>> regardless of purpose is groovy. Weighing the various alternatives is
>> clearly part of theaction that counts in this poem: not the action mimed
>> by the poem (there is none) but the action of reading. Like so many
>> romantic and modernist poems, the poem is about the act of reading (we
>> are back to cunning passages).
>>
>> *Carrol
>


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