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Tag: iambic pentameter

“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