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On "my sweet old etcetera"

 Rushworth M. Kidder (1979) contrasts the reality of a soldier's life on the front with the fictions entertained by his family at home.  His "aunt lucy" is the newsmonger; his sister knits socks, shirts, and "fleaproof earwarmers"; his parents tout such abstractions as courage and loyalty; and all the while the soldier himself lies "in the deep mud" dreaming of "Your smile / eyes knees and of your Etcetera."  The repeated "etcetera" changes its grammatical role significantly as the poem progresses.  First used to amplify adjectives ("sweet old"), it next amplifies the nouns in the list of things his sister knits.  It then modifies a verb ("my / mother hoped that / I would die etcetera / bravely").  This gradual shift stresses its use in the last line as a noun in its own right, where "your Etcetera" stands for some noun or nouns which, if printed, would call down the wrath of Sumner [secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice] and his Vice Society....

from Rushworth M Kidder, E. E. Cummings: An Introduction to the Poetry (New York: Columbia UP, 1979): 72 and 73.

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