Herrick’s Daffodils

AG: And then there’s a very nice one “To Daffodils”.. in term of the meter count, no, in terms of the syllable count. Dig what he’s got there –

“Fair Daffodils, we weep to see (eight syllables) /You haste away so soon (six syllables)/ As yet the early-rising sun (eight syllables)/Has not attain’d his noon (six syllables)/ Stay, stay, (two syllables)/ Until the hasting day (six syllables)/Has run (two syllables)/ But to the even-song (six syllables) / And, having pray’d together, we (eight syllables)/Will go with you along. (six (syllables)

We have short time to stay, as you, (eight)/ We have as short a spring; (six)
As quick a growth to meet decay, (eight)/As you, or anything. (six)/ We die (two)/ As your hours do, and dry (six)/Away, (two) /Like to the summer’s rain; (six)/Or as the pearls of morning’s dew, (eight)/Ne’er to be found again (six)

So its eight-six-eight-six-two-six-two-six-eight-six-.eight-six-eight-six-two-six-two-six-eight-six – funny, and it’s all one little organic web, one little organic piece of mucus or something! – ..well, anyway, it’s one little organic formation. It’s the sort of thing that you would, you know, spend a couple of hours over, you know, just arranging it for fun, you know, making it prettier, making it even. Then, the meter s interesting too. For the first line, it’s.. what would that be? – it’s a four.. I would think it’s a four-syllable meter – “Fair Daffodils, we weep to see” – it’s “Fair-daf-o-dils”, sort of, like heavy, heavy, light, heavy -“Fair-daf-o-dils”, but you could say it as iambic – “Fair/ daf o/ dils/We weep/to see” but it isn’t that – it’s ” “Fair Daffodils, we weep to see”. So, “fair-daf, o-dils/ We weep to see”. So it’s kind of.. it has that tendency toward I think it’s called the four-foot meter (does anybody have those (listings of meters on the) sheets?.- [Allen peruses the hand-out] – ionic, maybe? – is it ionic, or epitrite, epitrite..epitrite tertius.. looking at epitrite tertius which is long, long, short, long (“tertius” because the short comes in the third spot, third place) Epitrite primus is..”In dread midnight” (in-dread-midnight) , Epitrite secondus would be “dread in midnight”, Epitrite tertius would be “Midnight in dread”: – and then Epitrite quartus, or fourth, would be “Midnight dread was hot hard heavy”, “Midnight dread is hard heavy”, or “Midnight dread a hot hot heavy”. “Midnight dread a hot hard heavy night song sound ear-full thoughtless” “earful thoughtless” – “Midnight dread a hot sound ear-full thoughtless” – epitrite fourth.. fourth foot… Those are our natural speech rhythms.

And the problem is if you are studying.. (and we are studying, meters, a little), and if you just study the American meters or the English meters, as taught, you get all bound up in a little box of iambic, trochaic, anapest or dactyl, but you don’t get to those really interesting open-figured ones.  And the hero of that ear is Ezra Pound, because he was the one in the twentieth-century that cracked open.. “to give the pentameter the heave..”, [ Canto LXXXI} ,”to break the pentameter, that was the first heave”, and to break the iambic dance of the ear, which everybody had said was the.. the great English iambic pentameter (was) “the only true English meter, goop goop!”, as Kenneth Koch said in his poem “Fresh Air” (iambic pentameter, “the only true English meter goop goop” – (the only honest English meter) ), a long poem about the change in prosody that Kenneth Koch wrote in the (19)50’s, “Fresh Air”. It was in the Don Allen anthology, a very funny commentary on what we’re talking about.

So I get more and more interested about sort of trying to lay this out, these kind of meters out, because..you’re not supposed to be doing this in class dirty or something!, but it’s not what I’d intended, but I just became more interested in it, becoming conscious of it. Do I have your permission to continue this way?

Student: Yes

AG: …because I think it’s really great, interesting. I don’t think it’s ever done, it’s hardly ever done, you know, it’s rarely (done), why? I don’t know.

{Audio for the above can be heard here, begining at approximately seventy-three-and-a-half  minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-nine-and-a-half minutes in}


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