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  #11  
Unread 07-17-2022, 04:47 PM
Jonathan James Henderson Jonathan James Henderson is offline
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Matt,

Perhaps, though I read John's comment to be addressing poems/poets rather than critics like Tim's did.
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  #12  
Unread 07-17-2022, 04:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Q View Post
You started your first post with a quote from another member decrying contemporary critics as "fools" and "sophists". This might be what John's responding to.

Matt
I'll have a fuller response to Jonathan's comment later, but I just want to say quickly that this is a misreading of my tone when I said that scansion is fake and that anyone who cares about it is a crank. After all, I care about it! I wrote a whole post about it! I use it in the vast majority of my poetry! I use it in my critiques on this board! I just think it's best to do so with a hearty irreverence for it; doing so helps keep it in its proper place.
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  #13  
Unread 07-17-2022, 05:12 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Rose,

I'm a bit lost. Did you think I was referring to your post?

When I refer to Jonathon's "first post", I mean his first post on this thread, post #1. And I'm referring to the member quoted there who actually uses the words "fools" and "sophistry", hence the quotation marks.

Matt
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  #14  
Unread 07-17-2022, 05:13 PM
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Ohhhhhh yes I did very much get myself confused, on account of being Unable To Read.
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  #15  
Unread 07-17-2022, 05:23 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Reading's overrated
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  #16  
Unread 07-18-2022, 02:48 PM
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I posted this in response to a similar issue on Metrical. Maybe it's relevant here:

Thinking back at how oral tradition, with its necessary repetition and patterning of speech to help a singer/speaker/listener remember and repeat (I'm an honorary folklorist), and recalling that some think the beats of our hearts and rhythms of our strides might be a cause for measuring,

I wrote down "Meter is Poetry's Matter," the soul of spoken, sung and written poetry. But a little rhythmic "bating" on the side can be fun!

Now where's my drum?
it's time to walk.
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  #17  
Unread 07-18-2022, 02:57 PM
Jonathan James Henderson Jonathan James Henderson is offline
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Nice thought, Ralph. I think of Pound's statement that poetry withers the farther it gets from music; though I'm less sold on his corollary statement that music withers the further it gets from dance. The music of meter (and sound and rhyme) and its variations is something that was unique to poetry, and I've never been convinced that the freedom gained by eliminating them was worth the cost. Plenty have disagreed, of course, and the best free verse has its own music and rhythm, and even arhythmic poetry (like most of Ashbery that I'm reading now) has its virtues and pleasures; but I don't find most of them a fully worthy replacement for meter (and rhyme) personally.
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  #18  
Unread 07-18-2022, 03:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Allen Tice View Post
We can both be right in our practice.
Hi Allen! I want to acknowledge our disagreement, and simply note that I hope my bracketing "truths about meter" make clear why I am happy to allow that we are both right in our practice. Meter is a tool for doing things with the sonic properties of language. We are (often) trying to do different things with those properties; naturally we will have a different relation to meter. I would never insist that my way of relating to meter is the right way. (I would, and would often, insist that is a better way than I often see being used for ends similar to mine.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan James Henderson View Post
I don't entirely follow here; perhaps some examples would help. It seems perhaps you're saying that meter should be a spice that's thrown in rather than the main dish from which variations or "natural speech" deviates from?
No, sorry for the unclarity. I am fine with poems that are wholly metrical throughout. I'm talking about how to scan them: I think scansion (in the case of regularly metered poems!) should capture the base pattern underlying a line, but not the full details of its realization. Your own example line is a great instance of what I mean:
Bright star, Would I were steadfast as thou art
In its original context, I think there is really only one defensible way to scan this line:
Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art
The opening foot could be either an iamb or a trochee; I think it's gotta be the former in this context because the star is being addressed, while "bright" merely modifies it. It's going to take a stronger stress. It's a very heavy iamb, yes—but that's rhythmic, not metrical variation.

The second foot has to be an iamb because of the I/thou contrast; that forces the stress onto "I". The third foot is an obvious iamb.

Then the last two feet combine into a double iamb, again because the I/thou contrast demands a stress on "thou" that dominates the meter's tendency to promote "as". So here we have the spondee that proves the rule as it were: pseudo-spondees in English largely appear as part of double iambs (or double trochees in falling meter).

While I can see the reasoning behind most of your scansion (however strongly I disagree with it), I gotta say that I think pronouncing "steadfast" as a spondee is just deranged. It's a natural trochee (but displaced in the poem across two feet). If the line were as follows:
Bright star, Would I were steadfast as a cart
The "as" would take a noticeably stronger stress than "-fast". I genuinely cannot imagine what you are hearing here. I don't really know how to argue for this (beyond citing the dictionary, which will confirm that 'steadfast' in isolation is a trochee)—I too can only trust my ear. And I cannot rule out that my ear is no superior to yours, which hears differently, however much I might like to. Which is why in the end any strong opinion about meter turns into crankery. But I do so enjoy mucking about in the crankery, so thanks for the opportunity.

In the background of this is again my conception of what makes scansion a useful tool: it's that it shows the base similarity underlying both the Keats line and a line like, I dunno
The cat had sat upon the gnatty mat.
or
All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Basically the same base pattern (except the double iamb substitution); highly variable rhythms.

Pope is of course the master at illustrating the range of rhythms you can get within a single consistent meter.
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  #19  
Unread 07-19-2022, 01:54 PM
Jonathan James Henderson Jonathan James Henderson is offline
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Rose,

I do want to say upfront we agree on the notion of not insisting our way of reading meter is the right way. I've read enough disagreements on the matter to realize that differences arise in large part because people weigh differently the paradigms that give rise to meter: the stress-timing of English, the hierarchy of grammar, and the regularity and conventions of meter. I also think we agree on the idea that, ultimately, rhythm is more important than meter. The old thread I linked to was mostly me arguing for the importance of rhythmic scansion in addition to more typical metrical scansion.

However, I do find this subject fun to debate, if only because, like with all such disagreements, it forces my brain to work to try to drill down the source of the disagreements and diagnose them. So, with that in mind, to our disagreement over the Keats line: it seems we only disagree over "bright star" and "steadfast". Of these, I think steadfast is more ambiguous, and I can see the argument for treating it as a natural trochee. Here are my arguments against that.

1. Steadfast

1.1. Double iambs were very atypical in classical metrical poetry. I won't say they never happened, but I can not, off the top of my head, think of any examples or poems in which they were common. To me, spondees and trochaic inversions are much more common. This is arguing from the "conventions" of meter, like I said above.

1.2. The second argument requires agreement on "Bright star" and "thou art" being spondees, because I think if we accept both then we can argue that there's a strong spondaic pattern in this line.

1.3. Rhythmically, one effect of double iambs is that one tends (again, because of stress-timing paradigms) to rush over the unstressed words. This is something Pope demonstrated in his Essay on Criticism. So we would be forced to read "fast as" quicker than anything else in the line. To me, this really disrupts the overall rhythm, whether or not you want to call that rhythm iambic or spondaic. The paradigm of stress-timing and the overall rhythm of IP wants (if we're not stressing "as") to have stresses bracketing "as."

1.4. In terms of natural speech, I think it would be just as common to say "steadfast" as a spondee, especially to someone with an intuitive flair for rhetoric. The reason is that by saying "steadfast" as a spondee you give the term the same kind of sonic solidity that it's describing. Of course semantically both steadfast as a spondee or trochee means the same thing, but try saying it as a spondee in a phrase like "he was steadfast in his beliefs:" doesn't it give the feeling that by saying it as a spondee it makes him seem more "steadfast" than if you said it as a trochee? To me, this cuts to the heart of the art of meter, the ability to find metaphoric connections in the strong/weak dichotomy of stress and whatever is being described.

1.5. In your rewrite of the line I would agree with you, but that's because your rewrite isn't analogous. The article "a" never takes stress in English, which leaves us with two options: make steadfast a spondee and "as a cart" as a natural anapest (scanned as IP it would make "fast as" a trochee and "a cart" an iamb), which would violate metrical conventions of meter; or, do as you say, and treat steadfast as a natural trochee and stress "as." The latter works here because "as" is not followed by a word like "thou" that wants to take stress, unlike in the original, so we're not violating the stress-timing or grammatical hierarchies paradigm. The original gives us the flexibility of treating steadfast as a spondee. We don't have to, hence the ambiguity, but I think the other arguments above argue why we should.

Those are the arguments for "steadfast" being a spondee. Here are mine for "Bright star," which is similar.

2. Bright star

2.1. First, consider that "bright star" is being used as an address. If you replaced it with a monosyllabic proper name, like Jane Starr, you wouldn't say it as an iamb or a trochee, you would absolutely say it as a spondee. In fact, I would be surprised to hear anyone say this as a clearly discernible iamb or trochee, and I bet any objective vocal analysis would find it's either an actual spondee, or so close as to make calling it an iamb or trochee rather absurd.

2.2. In natural speech, monosyllabic adjectives really want to take stress, and monosyllabic long-vowelled adjectives REALLY want to take stress. You yourself say that it's a "heavy iamb," which acknowledges the fact of different levels of stress in natural speech; but that provokes the question: at what point does a syllable/word become "heavy" enough to consider as a spondee? Yes, we can take the view that meter is relative so that labeling a foot is only concerned with the relationship between the two syllables of that foot; but I think this is a rather myopic view, and however much it may help to clarify meter, it really obscures rhythm, which isn't something I think we should be doing.

***

One way to treat this, that I wouldn't terrible object to, is to say that the spondaic trio reading is more rhythmic than metrical, though that does get into the slippery relationship between the two. However, to me, if we're going to be strict meterbators then we might as well just read the entire line as IP, including stressing "as." This, IMO, treats meter more as the ghost from which the spondaic rhythm (as I hear it) emerges from. Any deviation from that and there will be inevitable debates about conventions and natural speech imperatives and whether either argues for or allows metrical substitutions, and that goes as much for my spondees as your double iamb.

As a conclusion, I'll reiterate that, like you, I don't think there's a definitive answer to this, but I do find discussing the different readings and the things that give rise to it valuable in clarifying my own thoughts on the matter if nothing else.

Last edited by Jonathan James Henderson; 07-19-2022 at 02:10 PM.
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  #20  
Unread 10-25-2022, 02:05 AM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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"I love the smell of napalm in the morning."
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