Log in

I think the title says it all - with today being the final day of National Poetry Month as well as World Tai Chi and Qigong Day (an important day for Morris, my sweetheart, who teaches a myriad of tai chi and qigong classes, and who is therefore running not just one, but TWO World Tai Chi & Qigong Day events which will take most of our day), I am opting to post a linky post to all the National Poetry Month goodness around here this month.

4/1 "To the Birds", an original poem by yours truly as part of my monthly project with my poetry sisters

4/2 There's always time for haiku, an introduction

4/3 What a haiku is, an overview

4/4 Can I get a kigo?, a post about the use of seasonal words in haiku

4/5 How a haiku is like a sonnet, a post about the "cut" or "turn" in haiku

4/6 How big of an insight or realization do I need in my haiku?, with examples from old masters

4/7 Senryū, haiku's sibling, about those short "haiku" that are really about people's behavior or emotions

4/8 An introduction to the tanka, or, as I sometimes refer to it, "a haiku pulling a trailer", with an example from Okura

4/9 Tanka construction - lines and syllables

4/10 How the parts of a tanka relate to one another, with a great example of a tanka from NY poet Carl Brennan

4/11 A little tanka feminism, in which I feature Ono no Kamachi (and multiple translations of one of her most famous tanka)

4/12 Final tanka thoughts

4/13 Renga: can I get a collaborator?, a post about the open form known as the renga, which on its surface looks like a tanka (or a string of them), where one poet writes the three-line portion, and another writes the following two. Which reminds me that I have some folks to email about a renga collaboration.

4/14 Sijo: an introduction, is the start of several posts about the Korean form (pronounced SHE-jo), and features famous female sijo poet Hwang Jini

4/15 The elements of a sijo. And yes, there are a lot of pieces, but they aren't actually that hard to assemble. With examples by U T'ak and Linda Sue Park

4/16 How the sijo is like Anglo-Saxon verse or sprung rhythm, a theory all my own

4/17 Anglo-Saxon or Old English verse - an intro

4/18 Anglo-Saxon or Old English verse and stress

4/19 Anglo-Saxon alliteration, featuring the work of Robin Skelton, Stephen Fry, and W. H. Auden

4/20 More on Anglo-Saxon verse, now with J.R.R. Tolkien and Vanilla Ice

4/21 Kennings, again with Tolkien and a translation of an old Irish poem by John Montague

4/22 Sprung rhythm, featuring the three main points of the form invented by Gerard Manley Hopkins (posted a bit early for Poetry Friday on the 21st)

4/23 More on sprung rhythm - watch your feet, or maybe don't.

4/23 Bonus post: Happy deathiversary to the Bard, in which I announce that June will again be Brush Up Your Shakespeare Month around here to great fanfare. Or perhaps no notice by anyone at all.

4/24 Sprung rhythm, the sonnets, including both the regular and curtal sonnet (invented by Hopkins again)

4/25 Sprung rhythm - the rest of it, including influence on later poets, with examples from Plath and Hughes and Cummings

4/26 The cinquain - an origin post, about the creation of this very American form by Adelaide Crapsey, whom I love. In fact, I just bought me an original edition of her collection of poetry, which includes her cinquains. See it there to the right, with Kismet for scale (and because, let's face it, she's a pretty kitty)?

4/27 The cinquain - a how-to post, in which Kelly got perhaps a bit cross about the "didactic cinquain" that is a clever way to get kids to write poetry, but is a bastardization of the actual form. But I digress - this one has all the elements of this lovely form.

4/28 Cinquain variations, including the reverse cinquain, mirror cinquain, butterfly cinquain, crown cinquain, and garland cinquain, with lovely poems by Naia and by Leona Atkinson.

4/29 The limerick Keeping it classy as I end the month here. With two examples, one anonymous (and a bit bawdy, but I found it among my grandfather's papers once upon a time) and the other by former Children's Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis

4/29 Bonus entry: An invitation to a reading on May 13th in Mount Holly, New Jersey, where I will be reading some of my work along with three other featured poets.

Site Meter

The limerick

Just like the cinquain, the limerick is a poem consisting of five lines. That's . . . pretty much all they have in common, really, though I suppose one can pull back far enough to say they have a certain number of stressed syllables required per line. Whereas the cinquain can cover any sort of subject matter, the limerick is nearly always used for comedic purposes. And these days, often for naughty (or filthy or even disgusting) content.

These have been in existence since at least the early 1800s, but became popularized in the work of Edward Lear mid-century (1840s onward). Historically, they were all about people, and began by introducing the person and where they were from. E.g., "There was a young man from Brazil" or "There was an old lady from Perth" (for all I know, those are the starts to actual limericks, but I didn't look it up). They tended to end with an echo or repetition of the first line, such as "That crazy young man from Brazil" or "That little old lady from Perth."

Over the course of time, humor shifted; some might say evolved, but I'm not certain that's actually the case. At any rate, these days, most poems end in some sort of punchline. For example, here's one I found among my grandfather's papers after his death:

There was a young lady from Lynn
Who though that to love was a sin
But when she was tight
It seemed quite alright
So everyone filled her with gin.

The form requirements of a limerick

1. Five lines
2. The first line introduces the topic
3. Lines 1, 2 and 5 rhyme with one another, and contain three stressed syllables
4. Lines 3 and 4 rhyme with one another, and contain two stressed syllables
5. Overall, the poem falls into an anapestic meter, although it may contain more than anapests*.

*An anapest is a three-syllable poetic foot consisting of two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one. Think ta-da-DUM ta-da-DUM ta-da-DUM. (E.g., Clement C. Moore's "Twas the NIGHT before CHRISTmas and ALL through the HOUSE"). Though note that the above example involving the young lady from Lynn has lines consisting of an iamb (ta-DUM) followed by either two or one anapests (ta-da-DUM), depending on whether it's a long or short line.

For those of you who write for children, please know that this form can still work for kids. Take, for instance, this clever one by J. Patrick Lewis, from his collection, Countdown to Summer. Pat has gone ahead and given the poem a short title, which is a slight departure from usual limerick practice, but this was from a series of short poems entitled "limb-ericks":

The Hump
by J. Patrick Lewis

In the desert a camel was minus
A passenger, His Royal Highness.
The King loved the humps
But the bumpety-bumps
Left him down in the dumps and the dryness.

You can find additional posts for Poetry Friday by clicking on the box below:

Site Meter

An invitation

Two weeks from today, I will be taking part in a poetry reading at 7 p.m. at the Daily Grind Coffee Shop in Mount Holly, New Jersey. The event is being billed by the organizer, Maverick Duck Press (which published my chapbook, The Universe Comes Knocking), as "The Fantastic Four".

No, I do not yet know what my superpower is. But I will be reading along with my friend Bruce Niedt (an excellent poet whom I've featured here before), as well as two poets who are new to me, Cord Moreski and Nicole Ross Rollender.

Here's the Facebook info on it.

Hope to see you there!

Site Meter

Cinquain variations

Following up on yesterday's post about how to write a cinquain, here are several variations. Actually, only the first is a true variation - the rest are combinations.

The reverse cinquain

Still five lines, only the syllable/stress counts are reversed. So instead of 2-4-6-8-2, you'd have 2-8-6-4-2 (with stressed syllable counts of 1-4-3-2-1). For the remainder of the post, I'll be using the more common syllable count model, but one should note that a monosyllabic foot in the first or last line is allowable, as is (one presumes) the occasional monosyllable in the other lines.

The mirror cinquain

A regular cinquain (2-4-6-8-2) followed by a reverse cinquain (2-8-6-4-2). Below is a gorgeous example from Amaze, an online cinquain journal, which is a haiga, where poetry and art are integrated as one (a popular form with haiku). The poem is copyrighted by its author, Naia. See how pretty the text looks as it spreads out and back? (And the image is swoony good, too.)

The butterfly cinquain

Very similar to to the mirror cinquain, this is basically a cinquain followed by a reverse cinquain, but this one cheats just a little by omitting a two-syllable line where the two cinquains join, resulting in a poem of only nine lines, instead of the double cinquain total of 10. Below is a lovely example by a poet named Leona Atkinson, who blogs at Leona's Lines: Poetry Plus. I found her by googling "butterfly cinquain", and she has several especially good ones. This one is entitled "Focus".

Photo and poem copyright 2016 by Leona Atkinson. Shared with her permission.

The crown and garland cinquains

Similar to the idea of a crown or corona of sonnets, only shorter. A crown cinquain is a sequence of five cinquains that form one longer poem. Each cinquain is a stanza in a five-stanza poem.

A garland cinquain, like a crown cinquain, is a multi-stanza poem, but it consists of six stanzas. The first five are as in a crown cinquain; the final stanza is compose of lines from the prior stanza: Line 1 from Stanza 1, Line 2 from Stanza 2, etc.

Were I writing such a thing, I'd likely begin as follows, at least starting out (so as not to have to essentially hold two poems in one's head all along):

  1. Set up six cinquains down the page using only numbers to show lines.
  2. Write the sixth stanza first
  3. Go back up the page and plug those lines in (line 1 of stanza six is line 1 of stanza 1; line 2 of stanza six is line 2 of stanza 2; etc.)
  4. Compose the rest of the cinquains/stanzas, tweaking the pasted lines as needed (in both places)

Talk about a truly flexible form!

Site Meter

The cinquain - a how-to post

For history on the creation of this American form by poet Adelaide Crapsey, I hope you will read yesterday's post, if you haven't already done so. The word cinquain is pronounced "SIN-kane", by the by.

The requirements for writing a cinquain

And please note, this may differ from what your kid learned at school, where some teachers say that a cinquain "describes a person, place or thing", using a string of adjectives in lieu of actual poetry. Or they are told that the first line should be the subject, the second a description, the third an action of some sort, the fourth a feeling, and the fifth a conclusion. (This is occasionally referred to as the "didactic cinquain", and was undoubtedly an effort to create formula where kids could come up with somewhat successful poems quickly and relatively easily. I applaud the idea of teaching and writing poetry, but not the redefinition of a form in such a manner.)

While those are excellent hints or tips, they are NOT requirements of the form at all, and teaching them as if they are set in stone is horse manure and trivializes this form, in my opinion. And given that this form was developed by a female poet who has herself been trivialized by history, largely because of gender reasons, well . . . you may imagine that I do not appreciate further trivialization or marginalization. Perhaps I digress. Hops off soapbox.

A cinquain has five lines. No more, no less. Each line has its own syllabic requirement.

Each line requires a specific number of stressed syllables: 1-2-3-4-1. Ordinarily, each line contains double that amount of actual syllables (2-4-6-8-2), but see "Trapped", one of the poems posted yesterday, which concludes with a monosyllable in the fifth line. (And oh, is it a killer.)

by Adelaide Crapsey

Well and
If day on day
Follows, and weary year
On year . . .and ever days and years . . .

Crapsey's sense of being trapped in the numbing sameness of her illness really comes through here, and that last line fascinates me. It can be read to mean "so what?" or "then what?", but also as indicating a sense of despair. Or maybe she wonders if she will ever be well again. The more one reads and thinks, the more open her work becomes.

Cinquains often have titles. It makes sense, too - when a poem is by definition as "small" as a cinquain is, a title can do a lot of work. It can set the scene or tone, grounding the reader in the subject matter, which might not otherwise be actually mentioned in the body of the poem.

Check out the following cinquain, which has a whopping title, though the part after the comma is sometimes rendered as a subtitle or almost epigram.

Saying of Il Haboul, Guardian of the Treasure of Solomon and Keeper of the Prophet's Armour
by Adelaide Crapsey

My tent
A vapour that
The wind dispels and but
As dust before the wind am I

This poem is one sentence "My tent a vapour that the wind dispels and but as dust before the wind am I myself." So easy to read it as if it were "My tent, a vapour that the wind dispels," but that's not what she wrote. Also "but as dust before the wind am I myself" - figuring that out isn't as simple as it seems at first. On the one hand, the poem appears to mean that the wind is so strong it blows away the tent and the man as well (as if he were dust). On the other, it could also mean "I am myself when I am as dust before the wind" - does she mean he's his true self? Most himself at that point? Only himself when at that point?

Note that these poems evoke strong feeling, and undoubtedly intended to convey strong feeling, all while being rooted in words that are not about that at all - they are not a noun and a few adjectives and a feeling, etc., even though I acknowledge that such a formula could be used to create a cinquain.

To sum up: five lines, with syllable counts of no more than 2-4-6-8-2 and stressed syllables of 1-2-3-4-1; may have a title (though it's not a requirement).

Site Meter

The cinquain - an origin post

Want a truly American poetic form? Look no further than the cinquain, created by Adelaide Crapsey, who wrote in the early 20th century (before dying at age 36 due to tuberculosis in 1914). Despite her early demise, Crapsey led a colorful, unconventional life. She attended Vassar, where she edited the yearbook, becoming a teacher after graduation. She taught at the American School in Rome and at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, before her illness caused her to stop. She moved to a "cure cottage" in Saranac Lake, New York,

Crapsey had studied some of the forms we discussed earlier this month, like the haiku and tanka, and admired their compressed language. She wrote extensively on form and scansion in a manuscript entitled A Study of English Metrics, enjoying the act of research and analysis.

She also wrote poetry, and while at Saranac Lake, she created the first and only true American form, the cinquain. Given the seriousness of her medical condition (and the fact that her cottage overlooked the cemetery), it's little wonder that much of her poetry - especially her cinquains - deal with issues of death or mortality, either directly or by implication.

Tomorrow will be soon enough to go into the specific requirements of the form, but for today, I hope you'll enjoy these four of Crapsey's cinquains:

November Night
by Adelaide Crapsey

Listen. . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.


by Adelaide Crapsey

I know
Not these my hands
And yet I think there was
A woman like me once had hands
Like these.


by Adelaide Crapsey

Well and
If day on day
Follows, and weary year
On year…and ever days and years…


by Adelaide Crapsey

These be
Three silent things:
The falling snow... the hour
Before the dawn... the mouth of one
Just dead.

Site Meter

Sprung rhythm - the rest of it

Today marks the final post in my discussion of sprung rhythm, and there are a few tidbits that remain.

Sprung rhythm makes use of kennings

In addition to borrowing Anglo-Saxon ideas such as four stressed syllables per line, a caesura in the middle forming hemistichs, and the use of alliteration, Gerard Manley Hopkins also opted to use kennings in his work. Take, for example, "skies of couple-colour" from "Pied Beauty" or "Cloud puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows" in "That Nature Is a Herclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection".

The notions of inscape and instress

"Inscape" is essentially the "thingness" of a thing - its individual, true, core identity. In Hopkins's view, all beings and objects possess such a thing.

"Instress" is what holds an object's inscape together. (In Hopkins's view, it should be noted, this is related to religion, not merely nature.)

While philosophical in nature, these ideas inform a lot of his writing, and aiming to describe the "inscape" is what lends to the depth and color of his work. Take another look at the poems in yesterday's post, "The Windhover" and "Pied Beauty". It is Hopkins's desire to convey the "thingness" of things that is at the core of these poems, and, I would argue, why they succeed.

Influence on later poets

It is hard to catch other poets in the act of writing in sprung rhythm, although Stephen Fry makes a case for the use of it (or something remarkably similar) in some of the work of Ted Hughes.

. . . In turn, many British twentieth-century poets looked back the shorter distance to Hopkins, over the shoulders of Eliot, Pound and Yeats. I find it hard to read much of Ted Hughes, for example, without hearing Hopkins's distinct music. Here are two fragments from "The Sluttiest Sheep in England" for you to recite to yourself.

                They clatter
  Over worthless moraines, tossing
  Their Ancient Briton draggle-tassel sheepskins
  Or pose, in the rain-smoke, like warriors -

  . . .

  The lightning-broken huddle of summits
  This god-of-what-nobody-wants

Fry notes that the sensibilities of Hopkins and Hughes are wildly different - Hopkins is wonderment and delight, whereas Hughes is often contemptuous or disgusted - but the language play is similar.

Likewise, Hughes's wife, Sylvia Plath, invoked Hopkins quite a lot in her journals, reading him (she claimed) for solace and advice. She also used sprung verse in some of her work, including in "Ode for Ted". Here are the first and third stanzas (it's a four-stanza poem), to give you some sense of her use of sprung rhythm.

From under the crunch of my man's boot
green oat-sprouts jut;
he names a lapwing, starts rabbits in a rout
legging it most nimble
to sprigged hedge of bramble,
stalks red fox, shrewd stoat.

. . .

For his least look, scant acres yield:
each finger-furrowed field
heaves forth stalk, leaf, fruit-nubbed emerald;
bright grain sprung so rarely
he hauls to his will early;
at his hand's staunch hest, birds build.

Hopkins's influence can be seen in the works of other poets, including Thomas Merton and R.S. Thomas. Arguments have been made that E.E. Cummings uses sprung rhythm as well - and looking at, for example, "somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond", I can see it, as well as Cummings's emphasis on inscape and instress:

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

Read the rest here.

Tomorrow, I will move on something else. I am not yet certain what that will be, so it will be a surprise for all of us.

Site Meter

Sprung rhythm - the sonnets

Here are links to the previous posts on sprung rhythm:
An intro to sprung rhythm
Yesterday's post about poetic feet in sprung rhythm

In addition to his requirement of four stressed syllables per line (using poetic feet varying from 1 to 4 syllables in length) plus a caesura mid-line, Hopkins used a lot of alliteration, as was discussed in the prior posts. You can seek out alliteration in the poems in this post as well, and see how it spreads across and between lines. These poems being sonnets, there is also end-rhyme involved.

Hopkins also used additional form requirements, including the sonnet form. Here is "The Windhover", which is a Petrarchan sonnet in structure, using sprung rhythm instead of iambic pentameter for its constriction:

The Windhover
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
  dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
  Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
  As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
  Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
  Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

  No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion*
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
  Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

*sillion: thick body of soil that has been turned over by the plough
And if you're wondering, a "windhover" is a kestrel. This particular one is riding a thermal, and Hopkins is, in his imagination, riding the kestrel.

Discussion of form: This poem takes the form of an Italianate or Petrarchan sonnet: it's 14-lines long, and it uses the rhyme form ABBAABBA CDC DCD. It uses Hopkins's sprung verse, and it's a thing of true beauty.

Speaking of things of beauty, Hopkins developed an entirely new sonnet form he called the "curtal sonnet". It is similar to a sonnet, but curtailed (hence the name), weighing in at only 10-1/2 lines (that "1/2" is an overly generous designation). Perhaps his best-loved curtal sonnet is "Pied Beauty":

Pied* Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced— fold, fallow, and plough;
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
        Praise him.

The word "pied" in the title means spotted (or, if you prefer, speckled). This entire poem is in praise of things with spots, from trout to cows to the way the skies have spots of cloud or the fields, which are compared to a quilt: "Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow and plough".

Discussion of form: Hopkins considered the curtal sonnet to be a Petrarchan sonnet condensed down to 3/4 its usual size. You can read Hopkins's justification for and mathematical explanation of the form at Wikipedia (yes, I just sent you to Wikipedia - it's as good an explanation as you'll find anywhere of what Hopkins was up to with this form - and it involves math).

The rhyme scheme employed in a curtal sonnet is ABCABC DBCDC.

As with "The Windhover," this poem is not written in iambic pentameter, but uses sprung rhythm. In this particular poem, I count four accented syllables in most lines, although I'm hard-pressed to read "With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim" and not end up with six accented syllables. See those accents in the last line of the first stanza? Those were Manley's, and he meant for both "all" and "trades" to be read as accented syllables; that line contains an "outlier" as well - a fifth accented word. (As I said yesterday, when one makes up their own game and its rules, one can add all the exceptions one wants and get away with it, which is precisely what Hopkins does.)

The first six lines give examples of the pied things for which Manley is offering thanks; the second stanza (of four and one half lines) expands to thank the Lord for all of the things that might fit within this category. What I like about the second stanza is its ambiguity: is Manley telling all those things that are freckled, fickle, etc. to praise God, or is he praising God for having made them? The stanza reads well both ways, and I rather think that was on purpose.

I also think it was a deliberate echo of the Anglican hymn, "All Things Bright and Beautiful", written by Cecil Frances Alexander in 1848, which lists off the creations of God, and which in turn may have been based on something Coleridge wrote in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: "He prayeth best, who loveth best; All things great and small; For the dear God who loveth us; He made and loveth all." You can read a bit about Cecil Alexander and why she wrote the song in this post at semicolonblog. But I digress.

I appreciate how Hopkins condensed the sonnet form down to a shorter approximation of itself, and how he managed to keep a rhyme scheme intact while varying his line lengths due to his use of sprung rhythm. It's interesting to see him, placed as he was at the end of the 19th century, finding ways to stay within form while breaking it at the same time. Clever, clever man.

More on sprung rhythm tomorrow.

Site Meter

Happy deathiversary to the Bard

A couple times upon a time, I spent the month of June doing Shakespeare-related posts. And also posted Shakespeare-related posts on Wednesdays. That was back when I blogged all the time, a thing I stopped doing, but I am working on repairing that.

So I'm going to commit to doing another Brush Up Your Shakespeare month come June. And, in honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, I will share his Sonnet 18:

Sonnet 18*
by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
  So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
  So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

*The sonnet was actually untitled. Also, unnumbered. It was given a number from a collection of his works, which consists of some, but possibly not all, the sonnets he wrote (and which were preserved). It is often referred to as if its first line were its title: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

History and discussion

As all Shakespearean sonnets do, this follows the rhyme scheme ABABCDCDEFEFGG.

This is one of the many poems written for the "fair youth," for whom Shakespeare wrote so very many of his sonnets. It seems likely that the youth was a male, and quite possibly Shakespeare's patron. Whether Shakespeare had an actual romance with the fair youth or not remains an unresolved matter. These sonnets were not published by Shakespeare, but probably circulated privately in handwritten form. Some of the "later" sonnets in his collection - a reference to higher numbers, and not necessarily the order in which they were composed - appear to have been more public during his lifetime, and it is likely that he "performed" them through recitation. (These include the so-called "Dark Lady" sonnets, including Sonnet 130--"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun".)

Today's poem opens with a comparison: the youth is compared to a summer's day, and found to be far better. In fact, the first eight lines examine the notion that seasons come and go and sometimes their weather is unpleasant, but the youth is found entirely superior. The "turn" in this sonnet comes in the 9th line, with the word "But", which contrasts the fading away of summer with the idea that the beauty (physical and otherwise) of the youth might also fade. "But thy eternal summer shall not fade/Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st": Your youth and beauty won't fade, and you'll keep possession of the fairness that is yours (ow'st is probably a variant of the verb "to own" here). Shakespeare goes one further: Not only will the youth not fade, he will not be forgotten. The final couplet (inset a wee bit) explains why: I've written a poem about you to remind everyone through the ages.

Shakespeare's words proved prescient, in that his words continue to be read and cherished hundreds of years later. And even though the precise identity of the fair youth cannot be determined, our continued recitations and readings of the poem keep the youth's memory alive, I suppose. He is, after all, immortal based on Shakespeare's words.

"So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,/So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." Indeed.

Site Meter

More on sprung rhythm - watch your feet

I am continuing on with yesterday's discussion of sprung rhythm today. And tomorrow, too, though I'm getting ahead of myself.

Today it's about poetic feet, and the "rules" of sprung rhythm.

First and foremost, there are four feet per line, according to Gerard Manley Hopkins, the founder of the sprung rhythm. (See, however, yesterday's example with eight feet per line, where each line is split by a virgule.)

Second, there is a caesura in the middle of each line, creating two hemistichs.

Third, poetic feet range from one to four syllables in length. And they can shift about from line to line. That means that a poetic foot can be a monosyllable, as in the opening line from "Pied Beauty", which reads "Glory be to God for dappled things." The syllabic break/stress is as follows: "GLORy be to | GOD for | DAPPled | THINGS." (Four syllables - called primus paeon, followed by two trochees, followed by a monosyllable.)

Fourth, no matter what you read, even if it's written by Hopkins himself, sprung rhythm uses all sorts of different metrical feet.

Hopkins intended for sprung rhythm to operate "regularly", and explained in the "Author's Preface" to his Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (published posthumously), that sprung rhythm uses only four sorts of poetic feet:

It has one stress, which falls on the only syllable, if there is only one, if there are more, then scanning as above, on the first, and so gives rise to four sorts of feet, a monosyllable and the so-called accentual Trochee, Dactyl, and the First Paeon.

To him, this was plain as day and he even goes so far as to call it a "regular" pattern, while acknowledging that "for particular effects any number of weak or slack syllables may be used". However, Hopkins no sooner sets up his rules than he breaks them, using LOTS of other forms of feet (iambs, anapests, etc.) to create various rhythms (rocking, rising, etc.), and adding what he calls "outliers" - where there's an extra stressed syllable in a line at times.

If you really want to go line by line through one of his poems, identifying the precise types of feet used, it can be done. (I know, because I've done it - and will do it here if you insist.) What you will quickly grasp is that there is no regularity to which feet he uses, no matter what he says about it.

Go ahead and read the following (best done out loud), and I'll scan a couple lines for you afterwards to prove the point:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

This poem opens with a line with five stressed syllables: "as KINGfishers catch FIRE, DRAGonflies DRAW FLAME". The accent marks above "draw" and "flame" are there because Hopkins put them there, demanding that both words get stressed. Note the alliteration between "king" and "catch", between "dragon" and "draw", and between "fishers", "fire", "flies", and "flame".

If I were to assign poetic feet, I'd probably break the line as follows:

As kingfishers | catch fire, | dragonflies | draw flame.

Second Paeon | iamb | dactyl | spondee

Although one could argue that the last two words are two monosyllables (making for five feet). Or possibly argue with me over the designation on that first foot. Regardless, it's pretty clear that this line involves at least two feet that begin with unaccented syllables. Often, Hopkins treats spondees as if they were singly stressed words, so he may have considered that last foot a spondee, and only as one stressed syllable. This is what happens when you make the rules - you can make all the little tweaks and exceptions you like and not have anyone call you on it.

I scan the second line as follows:

As TUMBled | over RIM | in ROUNDy | WELLS

Amphibrach | anapest | amphibrach | monosyllable

Of course, one could argue for straight iambic pentameter here, if one were to stress the first syllable of "over": as TUMbled O-ver RIM in ROUNDy WELLS. I just don't think that's what he intended. See how complicated this sort of attempt at analysis can get? It's why most people decide that sprung rhythm is just too difficult, and give it up.

I would argue that figuring out exactly what feet are being used is unnecessary and beside the point, and doesn't help you appreciate the poems or really "get" the idea of sprung rhythm. Mostly, the important general principle is four stressed syllables per line, with a caesura in the middle. Even where there are more than four stressed syllables, through the use of spondees and "outliers", or where he decided to add an extra foot or three because it made sense to him at the time.

The other important components of sprung verse include alliteration, which I will discuss more fully tomorrow, along with his word choices and use of kennings. (See how all that Anglo-Saxon verse stuff comes in handy now?)

Site Meter



RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com