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The first sentence in "Blake" in The Sacred Wood by T. S. Eliot is

If one follow Blake’s mind through the several stages of his poetic development it is impossible to regard him as a naïf, a wild man, a wild pet for the supercultivated.

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Why did he use "follow", but not "follows"? Because this book has been reprinted for several times, the usage of "follow" here is not likely to be a typo.

EDIT: In Selected Essays, 1917-1932, Eliot changed "follow" to "follows".

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Either follow was an irregular verb back then or it's a mistake. I'm going for miftake. –  Matt Эллен Jul 4 '12 at 10:36
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I think it's a rather odd use of a subjunctive-type verb after if, and deliberate. That doesn't make it right, though. –  Andrew Leach Jul 4 '12 at 10:58
    
Although there is a big difference between if one follow and if one follows, but the former is still in wide use. google.com/… –  Noah Jul 4 '12 at 11:13
    
Ain't it possible that "follow" was used because "Blake's mind" was alternatively used for "Blake's thoughts"(plural)? –  Fr0zenFyr Jul 4 '12 at 17:38
    
@Fr0zenFyr: So the verb takes the number of its object? That's rather more unlikely than the subjunctive. –  Andrew Leach Jul 5 '12 at 6:33
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I believe this to be a pedantic application of the subjunctive mood following if.

If in the quote introduces something which Eliot
- wants to happen
- hopes will happen or
- imagines happening
and Eliot has used the subjunctive form of follow.

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Coming after an if, wouldn't the subjunctive be a past subjunctive followed? –  Roaring Fish Jul 4 '12 at 13:37
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The form of the present and past subjunctive is the same for every verb except to be. See the reference. –  Andrew Leach Jul 4 '12 at 13:39
    
It should be a present subjunctive anyway, because the verb in the main clause is "is". I can't imagine using "follow" with "was" here, although I suppose it might have once been correct. –  Peter Shor Jul 4 '12 at 13:54
    
@Andrew Leach ~ I did look at that, but it is contradicted by this reference that gives 'if I owned' as a past subjunctive, and this one that gives 'worked' as a past subjunctive. –  Roaring Fish Jul 4 '12 at 14:09
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@Roaring Fish: There seems to be little point in speaking of past subjunctive forms when they are indistinguishable from past tense forms. That's what Bas Aarts thinks, anyway, in his Oxford Modern English Grammar: amazon.com/Oxford-Modern-English-Grammar-Aarts/dp/0199533199/… –  Barrie England Jul 4 '12 at 14:43
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