More on Meters

AG: So there’s tone and pitch and then there’s the long and short vowel, and then there’s a light and heavy accent. So there’s…  Actually, Greek meters did consist in there.. that’s something interesting, these guys, particularly (Ben) Jonson, knew Greek, Greek meters consisted, as modern classicists classify them, (modern classicists classify them, Greek professors classify them), as – stress, accent and quantity (and that’s a little confusing, what’s stress and what’s accent?) – But, usually.. the terminology which is used nowadays, which has been useful for Greek… terminology used for analyzing Greek poetics (which would be useful to use even in English) to bring out awareness of all three parts is – the stress is what I’ve been talking about (the amount of air expelled from the stomach or the abdomen in order to emphasize and put stress on.. what do you call it?- I don’t want to use the word accent  for stress – weight – on the pronunciation of a syllable). And very often, you’ve got to remember, when there’s weight on the syllable, when there’s stress or weight on a syllable, there’s also a slightly higher pitch (just like I was doing now!) – when you put weight on syllables there’s a slightly higher pitch. So now,”pitch”, the Greek professors use the word accent to refer to pitch (when they say stress and accent and quantity. They just happen to use that word these days), Accent  (coming) from a Greek professor’s mouth, means the tone or pitch. – [to Student] _ Did you have any Greek?

Student: Pardon?

AG: Did you have any Greek?

Student: No

AG: Anybody here get any Greek? . Well I did  Shakespeare with Latin, less Greek, so we’re all in the same boat. We had a little Latin and less Greek. Jonson had lots of both. Accent then is.. refers to pitch or tone, high and low vowels. And (Ezra) Pound has that little phrase – “Follow the tone-leading of the vowels” – If you’re a poet and you really want to write well -“Follow the tone-leading of the vowels” (that is to say, from line to line make some sort of parallel musical tones going up and down, from line to line you can do it, (tones going up and down). Or if you’re hearing those tones, then you can attempt.. then you can arrange your lines so (that) there’s some little element-shadow of the tone pitch in it too. Musical possibilities.

Then the third was length or quantity (which we’ve gone over at great length before) – the length of time it takes to pronounce the vowel – long or short. indicated generally by.. in Greek prosody ( or, if we were doing it in English) – [ Allen moves to the blackboard} – This is a long line,  this is for stress, this is for length. And there’s also the.. for. .if you want to know, (I think we might make (use of) of that later), for the tone, there are markings for tones. The markings for tones are the accents – the acute and the grave and the circumflex  {Allen continues writing on the board ] Akhilleus, Akhilleus – the first line of the Iliad -“Sing, O.. muse of the wrath of Achilles, Peleus’ son, the ruinous wrath that brought down woe on  all the Trojans..Roman warriors”, something like that –  [Editorial note – “Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son, Achilleus/  and its devastation which pains thousandfold upon the Achaians” in Richmond Lattimore’s translation]  –  In the Greek, it’s Akhilleus – Ak-hi-le-us – so that means up and down  – (if I read)  Akhilleus, or Akhilleus, the vowel tone’s – “eus”  – so..Akhilleus – so that’s the grave -The vowel that goes up is that -goes up..goes up – goes high – goes high as that, the acute always goes down, down to the ground and … Maybe it comes from (a) French grammarian, using their local marking, but that’s what the Greek professors now use also for marking, rule-of-thumb Greek as they figure it might have been pronounced – up, down and circumflex (tho’ in Greek prosody there may have been four distinct tones, four different tones – three are known, or three are.. because we don’t know what they were, so now modern.. Alexandrian gammarians and beyond that have..classic grammarians who try to analyze it after the fact, you know, like scholars, made all sorts of rules that nobody knows how originally Greek was pronounced, but,.. so nowadays, that they use it mostly marked high (acute, sort of high) – acute, grave and circumflex)

Student:  What’s the circumflex?

AG: This is that. (Allen points to the board)

Student: (Up and down?)

AG: Up and down – Akhil-le-us. Akhil-le-us –le-us le-us- 

Student: Are there any English (terms)?

AG: Yeah, yeah, it takes English. It’s amazing.. Well, you just have to have an English-sensitive ear and then you can think about it a while and all of a sudden you realize – you- re-a-lize (sic), that/you’re/talking (sic) – in exactly the same way…  – you  “re-a-lize” , no, really, for certain very delicate things – you “re-a-lize” (and when you “re-a-lize” it – Wow!) – Like Wow! (you see, that’s it). It’s amazing. Actually, I was having this long conversation with this Greek professor at Duke University and started trying to imitate in English these effects that he was doing and I thought, “Gee, I never thought of that before,. Obviously..” Because he thought it was from some remote foreign language that didn’t apply to actual speech or that they had some kind of poetical speech that didn’t seem to fit the English habits, or English tone-habits, or Americanese – but.. I’m not a linguist but in these I can hear speech tones and when he gave me that outline, I said,”Oh, sure” (“Oh-sure”) “Why not?” – And then we started making it like a game, of making up…saying words in such a way that it would fit those marks. And if you do that, then you begin to develop, will begin to develop some sort of sensitivity to the possibilities. Now whether this is good in writing poetry, helpful in writing poetry, I don’t know, but certainly it’s helpful in reading it alod, if you’re reading your own poetry,and developing a variable..variable spectrum. I think it’s helpful in writing,because once you get sensitive…

Student: What about (you’re teaching here) that new bop prosody, have you ever analyzed it, technically, you know, through these forms, with the metric noted – short lines, long lines….?

AG: Well, I’ll tell you. No, we never did it theoretically like this, as I’m doing now, and it was late..I’m coming sort of late in life in being interested in…

[Audio for the above can be found here, beginning at approximately eighty-one minutes in and continuing till approximately eighty-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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