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Tag: iambic pentameter

“The Transformation of Io into a Heyfer” (IV) – Ovid

800px-Io_Argos_MAN_Napoli_Inv9556

   Io Wearing Bovine Horns Watched over by Argos on Hera’s Orders

                                                                                               (1st century AD)

 

           ______________

 

 

before moving forward with the trials 

of Io in Ovid’s poem, let me interject 

a few extracurricular opinions

 

a great work of art, be it poetry, prose,

a painting, a piece of music, is indicated 

by what you can read between the lines

 

this very Ovid is such an example, 

interrupted, as it is, by my

commentaries

 

but a better example, a more personal 

one, I would think, would be that of 

listening to music, and finding oneself 

wandering, often often, in all kinds of 

apparently unrelated areas of 

introspection, before being drawn 

back into the piece, the present, often 

unexpectedly, when it recaptures, with 

artful ingenuity, an arresting mixture of 

substance and style according to the

poet’s artistry, one’s errant attention, 

helping one find one’s way back home  

 

to rekindle again and again your 

attention, therein lies the art

 

the journey, the reverie, has been the

point of the music, where it is that the 

enchantment, and I use that word 

advisedly here, has taken you, that 

jaunt has been your part of the  

communication, which has turned it

into, indeed, a conversation

 

all art tries to do that

 

 

here are a few of my own reveries 

around Ovid’s poem, that it must be 

read as a cooperation in this instance  

between Ovid and John Dryden, who 

translated it, along with the help, here 

and there throughout the work, of a 

few other noteworthies, who must be 

acknowledged

 

it would be impossible to translate

alliteration, onomatopeia, other 

literary devices from one language 

to another, these exist only, and

specifically, in the individual 

vernacular, like fingerprints, the 

personal and particular impression 

of teeth, in people, for example 

 

of a more technical nature is the 

fact that though Dryden‘s verse

is in iambic pentameter

Shakespeare‘s shtick, a notably

conversational metre, Ovid‘s 

dactylic hexameter is of a heroic 

cadence, orotund and imperious,

like ceremonial music is 

unmistakably different from more 

lilting popular ditties

 

the point is that this translation of 

Metamorphoses must be read, in

my opinion, as a collaboration 

between Ovid for his substance, 

which is to say, the essential 

story, and John Dryden for his 

style

 

for better or for worse

 

otherwise we must learn Latin

 

 

an interesting element of the style,

meanwhile, I’ve uncovered, upon 

reading this text, is that the 

apostrophe that is often removed 

from verbs we see today with the 

e typically installed before the d, 

in the first line below, cry’d, for 

instance, reply’d in the next,

would’ve been that the poet was 

indicating, in his 1717, by the 

insistent elision, that the letter 

not be pronounced, where 

custom had earlier had it that it 

often was

 

for a more vivid impression, compare 

bless’d with blessed, both pronunciations 

still in use today, where the second 

spelling, the one with the e, is a 

throwback to a time when most of these 

participles would’ve been voiced in that

manner

 

1717, we learn, however incidentally, 

was a year when the English language 

was evolving, their is not was turning 

into their isn’t  

 

 

but back now to Ovid

 

                 Ah wretched me! her mournful father cry’d;
                 She, with a sigh, to wretched me reply’d:

 

how, between two profoundly 

different oratories, Inachus, Io‘s 

father, wonders, to translate 

 

see my exegesis above

 

                 About her milk-white neck, his arms he threw;
                 And wept, and then these tender words ensue. 

 

Inachus speaks


                 And art thou she, whom I have sought around
                 The world, and have at length so sadly found?
                 So found, is worse than lost: with mutual words
                 Thou answer’st not, no voice thy tongue affords: 

 

mutual words,a shared language


                 But sighs are deeply drawn from out thy breast;
                 And speech deny’d, by lowing is express’d. 

 

lowing, the sound a cow makes


                 Unknowing, I prepar’d thy bridal bed;
                 With empty hopes of happy issue fed. 

 

happy issue, children


                 But now the husband of a herd must be
                 Thy mate, and bell’wing sons thy progeny. 

 

bell’wing, bellowing 

 

Inachus fears Io will be mothering

calves

 

                 Oh, were I mortal, death might bring relief:
                 But now my God-head but extends my grief:
                 Prolongs my woes, of which no end I see,
                 And makes me curse my immortality! 

 

note that even the gods in this 

mythology suffer


                 More had he said, but fearful of her stay,
                 The starry guardian drove his charge away, 

 

The starry guardian, Argus

 

see above


                 To some fresh pasture; on a hilly height
                 He sate himself, and kept her still in sight. 

 

to sate, to refresh, satisfy

 

Io is still not out of the woods

 


R ! chard

 


 

“Metamorphoses” (The Giants’ War, XIII) – Ovid

800px-Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Deucalion_and_Pyrrha,_1636

      Deucalion and Pyrrha (1636) 

 

             Peter Paul Rubens

 

                 ___________

 

 

                                          for my mom and dad, my own

                                                   Deucalion and Pyrrha

 

 

at Cephysus‘ shrine, Deucalion and 

Pyrrha pray to the goddess of

Divine Justice

 

              O righteous Themis, if the Pow’rs above
              By pray’rs are bent to pity, and to love;
              If humane miseries can move their mind; 

 

humane, human


              If yet they can forgive, and yet be kind;
              Tell how we may restore, by second birth,
              Mankind, and people desolated Earth. 

 

the Pow’rs above are the deciding 

factors, can Jove, Neptune, the others, 

Deucalion asks, be moved by human[ ] 

miseries, can they forgive, can they 

restore…Mankind, people, people is

a verb here, the world again, the 

desolated, or desolate, the dismal, 

the forsaken, Earth

 

              Then thus the gracious Goddess, nodding, said;
              Depart, and with your vestments veil your head:
              And stooping lowly down, with losen’d zones,
              Throw each behind your backs, your mighty mother’s bones. 

 

losen’d zones, across wide areas

 

cover, veil, your heads, the goddess 

advises, stoop low, and throw your 

mother’s bones across wide areas, 

she instructs, however scandalously


              Amaz’d the pair, and mute with wonder stand,
              ‘Till Pyrrha first refus’d the dire command. 

 

Pyrrha is a counterpart for the Christian 

Eve here, contrary, defiant of Heaven, 

however eventually, Pyrrha, blameless, 

but which of the progenitresses came

first, which the chicken, which the egg, 

Eve or Pyrrha, is a question up for 

contemplation

 

              Forbid it Heav’n, said she, that I shou’d tear
              Those holy reliques from the sepulcher. 

 

surely, Pyrrha proclaims, Heav’n would 

never allow, Forbid it Heav’n, not to 

mention condone, that I should remove, 

tear, my mother’s bones, [t[hose holy 

reliques, relics, from their sepulcher, 

their grave, this would be profoundly 

unholy 

 

              They ponder’d the mysterious words again,
              For some new sense; and long they sought in vain:
              At length Deucalion clear’d his cloudy brow,
              And said, the dark Aenigma  

 

Aenigma, Sphinx, the oracle

 

                                                                will allow
              A meaning, which, if well I understand,
              From sacrilege will free the God’s command: 

 

if I can properly understand, decipher,

the meaning of the God’s command, 

Aenigma’s oracular words, however 

cryptic, in such a way, Deucalion 

declares, that our actions be not 

sacrilegious, nor offensive in any 

way to the gods, we may proceed,

he reasons

 

              This Earth our mighty mother is, the stones
              In her capacious body, are her bones: 

 

This Earth is our mighty mother, the

stones in her capacious body [ ] are 

her bones, no comma after body

 

the word order in each clause, note, has 

been reversed, instead of subject, verb,

object, we have object, verb, subject

 

but then, ever so felicitously, stones 

can rhyme with bones, and equally,

and as liltingly, we’re still in iambic 

pentameter

 

              These we must cast behind. With hope, and fear,
              The woman did the new solution hear:
              The man diffides in his own augury, 

 

diffide, distrust, augury, prediction,

Deucalion doubts, in other words,

his own calculations


              And doubts the Gods; yet both resolve to try. 

 

when my mom is up against a 

dilemma, she calls on my dad,

gone some over thirty years now,

come on, Daddy, let’s go, she 

says, and confronts the issue 

with transcendental, by very 

definition, conviction

 

see above

 

              Descending from the mount, they first unbind
              Their vests, and veil’d, they cast the stones behind:
              The stones (a miracle to mortal view,
              But long tradition makes it pass for true) 

 

what follows will seem miraculous

to mortals, Ovid says, but the story 

has been around for such a while,

which is to say by long tradition, 

that we let it pass for true

 

              Did first the rigour of their kind expel, 

 

the stones begin to lose, expel, their 

firmness, the rigour of their kind


              And suppled into softness, as they fell; 

 

suppled, became supple


              Then swell’d, and swelling, by degrees grew warm;
              And took the rudiments of human form. 

 

stones are being transformed, 

metamorphosized, into humans 

 

the Bible, if you’ll remember, would 

have it be clay


              Imperfect shapes: in marble such are seen,
              When the rude chizzel does the man begin; 

 

chizzel, chisel


              While yet the roughness of the stone remains,
              Without the rising muscles, and the veins. 

 

as the sculpture is being fashioned, 

certain parts of the human anatomy, 

the muscles, for instance, the veins, 

are not yet revealed, uncovered, 

discovered, extracted, by the 

chizzel, from under the roughness 

of the stone

 

think of Michelangelo, or Rodin,

sculpting

 

              The sappy parts, and next resembling juice, 

 

sappy, from sap, which, emanating 

from stones, would be next to, but 

not as limpid as, juice, or the liquid

required to create humans


              Were turn’d to moisture, for the body’s use:
              Supplying humours, blood, and nourishment; 

 

the circulatory, and notably viscous, 

system


              The rest, too solid to receive a bent,
              Converts to bones; and what was once a vein,
              Its former name and Nature did retain. 

 

veins, which hadn’t received enough 

sappy parts to become part of the

circulatory system, retained their 

name of vein, but as understood in

relation to rocks, geological veins

presumably replicated, in this story 

of the Creation, in human bones


              By help of pow’r divine, in little space, 

 

in little space, in no time at all


              What the man threw, assum’d a manly face;
              And what the wife, renew’d the female race. 

 

the stones that the man, Deucalion

threw became men, those that 

Pyrrha tossed became women 

 

              Hence we derive our nature; born to bear
              Laborious life; and harden’d into care.

 

we’ve inherited, through the labours 

of Deucalion and Pyrrha, our driven

nature, harden’d into, or conditioned, 

condemned, to care 

 

for better, I infer, or for worse 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

“Metamorphoses” (The Giants’ War, XII) – Ovid

after-the-storm-1872.jpg!Large

      “After the Storm (1872)

 

            Gustave Courbet

 

                __________

 

 

                  A thin circumference of land appears;
                  And Earth, but not at once, her visage rears,
                  And peeps upon the seas from upper grounds; 

 

as the land begins to peep[ ] through 

the water, a circumference of land 

appears, a circle of Earth within the 

earlier universal water

 

to rear, to raise upright, boldly, the better,

here, for Earth‘s visage, Earth‘s face, to 

peep[ ] upon the seas from newly gained 

upper grounds

 

                  The streams, but just contain’d within their bounds,
                  By slow degrees into their channels crawl; 

 

streams, just recently redefining their  

boundaries, or bounds[b]y slow 

degrees settle, become waterways, 

channels, rivers, rivulets, rills

 

I love crawl here, incidentally, the slow, 

insidious, infiltration of a territory, silent 

and immutable, as [t]he streams, at the 

dispassionate pace of nature, find their 

individual course

 

                  And Earth increases, as the waters fall. 

 

the waters fall, the waters recede


                  In longer time the tops of trees appear, 

 

[i]n longer time, after a while

                                                         

                  Which mud on their dishonour’d branches bear. 

 

for which the only solution here, would

be, I thought, however ironically, a

shower, rain

 

but I digress

                 
                  At length the world was all restor’d to view;

                  But desolate, and of a sickly hue:  

see, for instance, above


                  Nature beheld her self, and stood aghast,
                  A dismal desart, and a silent waste. 

 

desart, is desert, even my spellcheck 

insisted

 

meanwhile, back on Mount Parnassus

our two survivors, look around

 

                  Which when Deucalion, with a piteous look
                  Beheld, he wept, and thus to Pyrrha spoke: 

 

let me point out that what follows, 

which is to say when Deucalion 

… thus to Pyrrha spoke, we have 

an extended monologue, rather 

than a narration, the poet, Ovid

has given a voice to Deucalion

his character, his creation

 

I was reminded of Shakespeare‘s 

monologues, especially since the 

metre is iambic pentameter,

Shakespeare‘s signature poetic

rhythm 

 

it should be noted that this translation

of Metamorphoses is from 1717, a

century and a very year after 

Shakespeare‘s demise, in 1616, time 

for poets to have imbibed his already 

profound influence

 

nor could they not have been marked

by the spirit of their own time, and the 

many transformative epochs since 

Metamorphoses had been written, in 

the year 1, that would’ve affected the 

translation 

 

the original Latin text, for instance,

was in dactylic hexameter, not 

iambic pentameter

 

                  Oh wife, oh sister, oh of all thy kind
                  The best, and only creature left behind,
                  By kindred, love, and now by dangers joyn’d;
                  Of multitudes, who breath’d the common air,
                  We two remain; a species in a pair:
                  The rest the seas have swallow’d; nor have we
                  Ev’n of this wretched life a certainty.
                  The clouds are still above; and, while I speak,
                  A second deluge o’er our heads may break.
                  Shou’d I be snatcht from hence, and thou remain,
                  Without relief, or partner of thy pain,
                  How cou’dst thou such a wretched life sustain?
                  Shou’d I be left, and thou be lost, the sea
                  That bury’d her I lov’d, shou’d bury me.
                  Oh cou’d our father his old arts inspire,
                  And make me heir of his informing fire,
                  That so I might abolisht Man retrieve,
                  And perisht people in new souls might live.
                  But Heav’n is pleas’d, nor ought we to complain,
                  That we, th’ examples of mankind, remain. 

 

cou’d our father, JoveDeucalion asks,

breathe into me his inspiration, his old 

arts, his informing fire, so that I could 

reconstitute Man, retrieve him, and 

supply the perisht people with new, and

presumably more honourable, souls

 

                  He said; the careful couple joyn their tears: 

 

He said, or this he spoke, and the

couple joyn their tears


                  And then invoke the Gods, with pious prayers.
                  Thus, in devotion having eas’d their grief,
                  From sacred oracles they seek relief;
                  And to Cephysus’ brook their way pursue: 

 

Cephysus, or Cephissus, was a river god,

associated with the river Cephissus, which 

runs through Central Greece

 

                  The stream was troubled, but the ford they knew; 

 

the ford, the way across the stream


                  With living waters, in the fountain bred, 

 

living waters would gush from a 

spring, around which a fountain 

would’ve been built

 

                  They sprinkle first their garments, and their head,
                  Then took the way, which to the temple led.
                  The roofs were all defil’d with moss, and mire,
                  The desart altars void of solemn fire.
                  Before the gradual, prostrate they ador’d;
                  The pavement kiss’d; and thus the saint implor’d.

 

the gradual is a hymn sung within

the context of a full religious service

 

desart here is again desert, but in

this instance signifying deserted

 

the saint, an anachronism here, 

for saints were not at all even a

concept at the time of Ovid

would’ve been Themis, goddess,

at Delphi, on Mount Parnassus

of Divine Justice

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

“How I Didn’t Get Myself to a Nunnery” – Suzanne Lummis‏

"Ophelia" - Arthur Hughes

Ophelia (1852)

Arthur Hughes

_________

according to Suzanne Lummis Ophelia
“g[o]t outta town”

Suzanne Lummis is Ophelia here, this
is a dramatic monologue, I can’t tell you
how much I find that exciting

you’ll want to run to the source, of course,
to find pertinent references, so I’ve linked
a few for you from the text below to their
counterparts in Hamlet“, if it’s coloured,
just click, otherwise a couple of asterisks
explain two probably too obvious items,
in which case you’ll forgive me my
infelicitous impertinence, my unintended
and hapless presumption

thanks

How I Didn’t Get Myself to a Nunnery

That girl they found ensconced in mud and loam,
she wasn’t me. Small wonder, though, they jumped.
To a conclusion. Water puffs you up,
and we pale Slavic girls looked much alike—
back then. Deprivation smooths you out.
Yes, that was the season of self-drowned maids,
heart-to-hearts with skulls, great minds overthrown.
And minds that could be great if they could just
come up for air. Not in that town. Something stank. *

But me, I drifted on. I like rivers.
And I’m all right with flowers. I floated
on a bed of roses—well, O.K., rue
and columbine
. It bore me up not down.
That night I made a circle with my thumb
and finger, like a lens, and peered through it
at the moon—mine, all mine. My kissed-white moon.
“Moon River wider than a . . .” Mancini/
Mercer wrote that, sure, but I wrote it first.

You wonder where I’m going with all this?
Where water goes. It empties into sea.
Sold! I’d take it—the sea or a fresh life.
Some other life. A good man—good enough,
fair—fished me out. He’d come to quench his thirst.
No sun-god prince,* of course, like him I’d loved,
still loved. (Some loves don’t die; not even murder
kills them.) I married his thatched hut, hatched chicks—
kids running underfoot. Don’t cry for me,

Denmark. I’d learned the art of compromise
back there, in the black castle—then came blood,
ghosts. Something in me burst. If not lover,
father, king, ** then whom can you trust? Alone,
I took up some playing cards. I played them
into skinny air. A voice said, Swim or drown.
It said: Your house caught fire, flood, caught fear—
it’s coming down. No one loves you now, here.
By land or water, girl, get outta town.

Suzanne Lummis

* i.e. Hamlet, of course, prince of Denmark
** Hamlet, Polonius, Claudius

our debt to Shakespeare in literature
is enormous, after even 400 years –
“Hamlet” was written in 1602 – his
literary form, his countless neologisms,
his stories, his blueprints, transformed
into ballets, paintings as above, operas,
have become our myths, our moral and
philosophical standard, our modern
Olympus, the measure of our time,
our epoch, Shakespeare is our Iliad

only Beethoven in music has ever
matched this, in the visual arts, no
one

you’ll notice that the poem itself is a
monologue, in answer, in homage, to
Shakespeare, it’s in iambic pentameter,
also his wont

mine too, incidentally

Richard

 

XXXl. Thou comest! all is said without a word – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXXl. Thou comest! all is said without a word

Thou comest! all is said without a word.
I sit beneath thy looks, as children do
In the noon-sun, with souls that tremble through
Their happy eyelids from an unaverred
Yet prodigal inward joy. Behold, I erred
In that last doubt! and yet I cannot rue
The sin most, but the occasion – that we two
Should for a moment stand unministered
By a mutual presence. Ah, keep near and close,
Thou dovelike help! and, when my fears would rise,
With thy broad heart serenely interpose:
Brood down with thy divine sufficiencies
These thoughts which tremble when bereft of those,
Like callow birds left desert to the skies.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

______________________

it is a natural instinct nearly to read such
a poem in iambic pentameter, until you get
to the end of the verse, pause, and then do
the same thing with the next line, applying
a rhythm to each phrase, much like toneless
singing, after all, one surmises, it’s a poem,
words without the tune, it has a beat

but the beat in Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s
poems, though staunch, is steeped in the
less evidently accented constructions of
prose, looser and less regimented, for
realism

like Beethoven, Elizabeth Barrett Browning
is breaking out of the Classical mode and
introducing the overflowing elements of
the Romantic personality, personal
expression dominating form the better
to reflect a new cultural reality

it’s interesting to note that Beethoven as
well found the key to representing that
new revolutionary spirit through the
manipulation of beat, both achieving
thereby the very pinnacle of consummate
artistry, icons of their, however great their
own personally chronologically distant,
age

but read the poem as though it were an
everyday sentence, the poetry will be clear,
beautiful, even wondrous, the rhythms not
immediately apparent though always
present and profoundly sure

both music and poetry would attempt
to sound like real life, to speak more
intimately and therefore truthfully,
while others will attempt to make
poetry out of mere prose, watch me,
we live in different times

about the poem, compare you are
the wind beneath my wings
“,
for a
not dissimilar sentiment, watch
Patti Labelle make powerhouse
poetry out of mere prose

Richard

psst: more about wings

XXV. A heavy heart, Belovèd, have I borne – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXV. A heavy heart, Belovèd, have I borne

A heavy heart, Belovèd, have I borne
From year to year until I saw thy face,
And sorrow after sorrow took the place
Of all those natural joys as lightly worn
As the stringed pearls, each lifted in its turn
By a beating heart at dance-time. Hopes apace
Were changed to long despairs, till God’s own grace
Could scarcely lift above the world forlorn
My heavy heart. Then thou didst bid me bring
And let it drop adown thy calmly great
Deep being! Fast it sinketh, as a thing
Which its own nature doth precipitate,
While thine doth close above it, mediating
Betwixt the stars and the unaccomplished fate.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

__________________

despite a rigorous rhyme scheme and a mostly
strict iambic pentameter here, which is to say
each verse is given five, or penta, metres, or
beats, where iambic means that the accent is
on the second syllable of each of those five
individual metres, ta-da, ta-da, ta-da times
five, should your Greek be understandably
amiss, Elizabeth still manages to skew the
pace of the piece again in this instance,
turning her poetry, as always, into a more
direct and purposeful prose

just try to follow the sentence metrically as
in a more traditional poem, or song, you’ll
block her headlong and unfettered propulsion

alteration of the beat is not much different
from what composers were doing then with
music, the early eighteen-hundreds, not much
different indeed at all, and which they did for
the very same particular reason, greater
authenticity, the truth part of the iconic
imperatives of beauty and truth

incidentally, where Elizabeth was trying to
invigorate poetry by giving it the apparent
immediacy of prose you might’ve noted
that in my own flurry of literary tidbits,
however ever so humble, I’ve been quite
consciously peppering prose rather with
the elements of poetry, for better or for
worse, but in my mind to reflect a less,
dare I say, prosaic, more inherently
enchanting, vision of the world

Richard

Vll. The face of all the world is changed, I think – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

Vll. The face of all the world is changed, I think…

The face of all the world is changed, I think,
Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul
Move still, oh, still, beside me, as they stole
Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink
Of obvious death, where I, who thought to sink,
Was caught up into love, and taught the whole
Of life in a new rhythm. The cup of dole
God gave for baptism, I am fain to drink,
And praise its sweetness, Sweet, with thee anear.
The names of country, heaven, are changed away
For where thou art or shall be, there or here;
And this . . . this lute and song . . . loved yesterday,
(The singing angels know) are only dear
Because thy name moves right in what they say.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

______________________

there are only two statements here, “The face of all the world
is changed”
and “The cup of dole / God gave for baptism, I am
fain to drink”,
in either case et cetera

the metre is iambic pentameter, the beat is of course
Shakespeare’s, famous for his own immortal sonnets, and
probably an inspiration for Barrett Browning, who uses as
well his archaic, even in the nineteenth century then, “thou”,
“thee”, “thine”

think about it

the metre is concealed by the flow of the sentence, which
can only be effectively blurred by inordinate, dare I say,
blinding, passion, which Elizabeth has of course in spades,
declaring utimately with these historic sonnets the inner
workings of love for the very ages

but to our consternation, and utmost admiration, this flow
of unfettered sentiment rhymes, and even technically
deserves to be considered a poem, an even masterpiece

Richard