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Old 05-13-2003, 02:21 AM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Would our Poet Lariat please expand on the modern use of accentual verse.

Jax
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Old 05-13-2003, 07:55 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Jax, I would be happy to lead a discussion on accentual verse here, but haven't time to weigh in at length right now. For starters, I'd like everyone to study the following Frost poems. They Were Welcome To Their Belief (accentual trimeter), The Need Of Being Versed In Country Things (accentual tetrameter), There Are Roughly Zones (accentual pentameter). And also, to get things going, here is Elsewhere, which has been discussed over at Mastery, a little ballad where I alternate 4 and 3 beat lines.

Elsewhere

A goose in the yard yearns for a barn,
and the penned bird, to go free.
The returning salmon yearns for the tarn
from which its fry will flee.

Elsewhere…what is its lasting charm
for the creature in misery?
A fisherman longs for the land-locked farm
its tenant would trade for the sea.

Contrast that with Honey Wagon, which is accentual syllabic, 8/6/8/6 ballad stanza:

The Honey Wagon

Some say the custom cutters wheeled
and dealed at his expense.
Some say the aphids ate his yield
and call it negligence.
Some of the neighbors’ lips are sealed,
but folks with common sense
say you can’t fertilize a field
by farting through the fence.

Rhyme schemes are the same abababab, but the former has this rolling, rocking rhythm, which I so admire in what Frost called 'loose iambics.' It is a central goal of mine to break out of the accentual syllabic box, a relative innovation in English, and fully exploit accentual which goes back to Anglo-Saxon. It takes a hell of an ear to attempt the accentual, however.

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Old 05-14-2003, 09:48 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Further thoughts. Anglo Saxon is written in an alliterative, four-beat line. There are lots of secondary accents, but it is accentual. Here's a famous piece of the Beowulf:

The Old Man’s Lament

“From boyhood I bore battles and bloodshed,
struggles and strife: I still see them all.
I was given at seven to house with King Hrethel,
my mother’s father and friend of our folk.
He kept me fairly with feasts and fine gifts.
I fared no worse than one of his sons,
Hathcyn, Herebeald or princely Hygelac
who was later my lord. The eldest, Herebeald,
unwittingly went to a wrongful death
when Hathcyn’s horn-bow hurled an arrow.
Missing the mark, it murdered the kinsman;
a brother was shot by the blood-stained shaft.
This blow to the heart was brutal and baffling.
A prince had fallen. The felon went free.
~
“So it is sore for an old man to suffer
his son swinging young on the gallows,
gladdening ravens. He groans in his grief
and loudly laments the lad he has lost.
No help is at hand from hard-won wisdom
or the march of years. Each morning reminds him
his heir is elsewhere, and he has no heart
to sire a second son in his stronghold
when death has finished the deeds of the first.
He ceaselessly sees his son’s dwelling,
the worthless wine-hall, the windswept grave-sward
where swift riders and swordsmen slumber.
No harp-string sounds, no song in the courtyard.
He goes to his bed sighing with sorrow,
one soul for another. His home is hollow;
his field, fallow.
~ “So Hrethel suffered,
hopeless and heart-sore with Herebeald gone.
He would do no deed to wound the death-dealer
or harrow his household with hatred and anger;
but bitter bloodshed had stolen his bliss,
and he quit his life for the light of the Lord.
Like a luckier man, he could leave his land
in the hands of a son, though he loved him no longer.

Of course we can't replicate Anglo Saxon heroic measure in ModE, because it is simultaneously qualitative and quantitative, and our language is almost entirely the latter. But Alan and I have done our best to use modern accentual to recreate that ancient sound.

Here is the beginning of Alisoun:

Betwene Mersh and Averill
whan spray beginneth to springe,
the litle foul hath hire wille
on hire lud to singe.
Ich libbe in love-longinge
for semlokest of alle thinge,
he may me blisse bringe.
Icham in hire baundoun:
An hendy hap Ichabbe y-hent,
Ichot from hevene it ys me sent,
from alle womyn me love is lent
ond lighte on Alisoun.

Here, 100 years before Chaucer, we see the emergence of alternating 4 and 3 beat lines (actually, 4443), which give us our ballad stanza, and the Common Measure of our hymnals. Here's the Beginning of Patrick Spens:

The king sits in Dumferling toun
drinkin the bluid-red wine.
"Oh whar will I get a guid sailor
to sail this shippe of mine."

I'd argue that the Canterbury Tales are the beginning of English accentual/syllabic verse, with Chaucer's 11 syllable line borrowed from the Italian. By the Renaissance, poets such as Wyatt, Sydney, Marlowe and Shakespeare had ensured victory for this new form of poetry. But accentual lingers on, in Mother Goose, in Emily D's use of common measure, for instance; and just as gloriously, in Frost's "loose iambics." In Nashville and in Rap. This is a pretty quick tour of 13 centuries, but I want to stress that accentual has deep roots indeed.
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Old 05-14-2003, 10:56 PM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Tim,

My books are in storage, and I have been able to find all but "There are roughly zones" from the net and am enjoying working through them.

I did not see the discussion over at Mastery, however:

"A goose in the yard yearns for a barn,
and the penned bird, to go free.
(Now this, I would have written as:
the bird in the pen to go free)
The returning salmon yearns for the tarn
(and this as:
The salmon who returns yearns for the tarn)
from which its fry will flee.
(and this as:
as its fry will yearn for the sea)

Is this the right track?

Regards,

Jax

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Old 05-15-2003, 03:22 AM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Tim,

In response to your 'Case notes' in The Deep End.

The God-bound buggery boys
know what it means to be altared.
Their youth had been spent as sexual toys
yet the rock of the Church was not faulted.

Jax



[This message has been edited by jaxmyth (edited May 15, 2003).]
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Old 05-15-2003, 05:26 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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The rhythms of your proposed lines in Elsewhere don't work, but your quatrain does, although I'd probably say "heaven-bound." Let me add an observation that there's a difference between writing loose iambics, where the numbers of stresses and syllables vary (Alicia is a good exemplar) and true accentual, where the stresses are fixed. A great example is Tennyson's "Break, break, break/ On thy cold grey stones, oh sea." Where both lines are three beat trimeters. There is a superb essay in the archives of Discerning Eye by OUR David Mason on this poem. It is from his book The Poetry of Life and the Life of Poetry (Story Line Press.)
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Old 05-15-2003, 11:47 PM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Tim,

I have printed out the essay you mentioned.

"God-bound" as in heading for, held by, in bondage to. In one this short they have to pull their weight.

Could you point me to one of Alicia's? Thanks.

Jax
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Old 05-16-2003, 04:51 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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You'll find Stallings in the lariat archives (sonnet competitions), mastery archives, and at www.poemtree.com.
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Old 06-03-2003, 08:06 PM
Gloria Mitchell Gloria Mitchell is offline
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I hope this thread is still warm enough to be revived, because this is something I've been thinking about lately. I've recently had a long break from poetry (and from Eratosphere -- hello again, everyone!), both writing it and, for the most part, reading it. So the only poems I've given attention to are the ones that insisted their way into my consciousness from memory. I would have thought that the most memorable poems would be accentual-syllabic -- that they're more regular, thus more easily memorized, thus more apt to be remembered. But that hasn't been the case, at least for me; the poems I keep reciting to myself are almost all accentual or loose iambic. There was some metrical theorist, I forget who, who proposed that an irregular number of unstressed syllables "strengthens" the stressed ones. In any case, I suppose there's some good reason accentual meter persists so strongly in nursery rhymes, counting and clapping games, and other children's verse. And as Tim points out, accentual verse goes much further back in English poetry than accentual-syllabic verse does.

Here is one accentual poem I love, by Richard Wilbur. It's 3-5-3, with some lines that arguably deviate from the pattern (and one line that inarguably does, for a good content-driven reason).

THE WRITER

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, dark, wild

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.
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Old 06-11-2003, 09:13 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Gloria, I am sorry to be so long in responding to you. Mezey thinks accentual-syllabic verse is mankind's greatest invention since the wheel, and he's probably right. Of the 30,000 lines I memorized in boyhood, 95 percent were accentual-syllabic. Nonetheless, I adore accentual and loose iambic, and I think our poetry is the poorer for not exploiting these traditions. The Writer is a triumph, and Dick has now written The Reader, which will appear in the expanded edition of Mayflies coming out in Britain from Waywiser. Here the addressee is not his daughter Ellen but his wife of 63 years, Charlee. When Mezey arrived at West Chester he read me a glorious new poem in loose iambics. In Steele's interview in the new Formalist, he argues against any laxity in the IP line, which he feels has infinite flexibility. At the same time he grants that wonderful pentameter poems have been written loosely (Frost's Mowing, for instance.) He feels that "loose" is far more justifiable in the short line, which is my metier. These things can be debated endlessly, but I firmly believe that had I not slaved away at strict IP in my twenties, I should never have developed the gift to try something harder.
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