Basic Poetics – Ballads – (Bonnie George Campbell)

AG: The next (ballad up for discussion) is Bonnie George Campbell“. That has a funny lilt in it . It’s sometimes written out in couplets rather than four-line stanzas. Is anybody good at dactylic or anapestic – da-da-da  da-da-da  da-da-da  da. Anybody want to read that?. That’s short enough, we might want to read it through – “Bonnie George Campbell”. Would anybody.. has it through enough to want to try?
[One student volunteers]   – Okay

Student: It’s a fast-paced kind of poem

AG: Just to get the.. just to get the dactylics going…

Student:  “Hie upone Highlands/and lay upon tay/Bonnie George Campbell/rode out on a day/He saddled, and bridled/so gallant rode he./And hame cam his guid horse/but never cam he./Out cam his mother dear/greeting fu sair./Out cam his bonnie bride/riving her hair./”The meadow lies green,/ and the corn is unshorn/The barn, it is empty,/the baby unborn!”/Saddled and bridled/ and booted rode he/A plume in his helmet,/a sword at his knee./But toom cam his saddle/all bloody to see./Oh, hame cam his guid horse,/but never cam he.”

AG: Yeah. It’s got a really solid.. That’s a new contribution to the ones we’ve heard (in terms of rhythm). So that would be.. what? – anapest or dactyl?. According to.. you’ve got the music sheets [Allen is refering to his classroom hand-out listing classical meters] –  (The) top sheet will tell you. But, what is it? – It’s da-da-da  da-da-da  da-da-da  da. So it starts with dactylic, right? – “And Bon-nie George Campbell rode-out on-a-day”. So it continues dactylic. But then – “He saddled – and bridled – so gallant – rode he” – then he switches to anapest.

Student: Anapestic

AG: Yeah. Everybody following that? .”He sad(dled)…”. So it’s kind of interesting. It starts with dactylic but then it shifts over to anapest, but it does go back and forth (which you can do with that kind of triple-syllabled foot). And if you look at page six-hundred-and-forty-one (in the Norton Anthology) – (Lord) Byron‘s “Destruction of Sennacherib” – you’ll find a – (page six-forty-one of Norton) – you’ll find a.. I guess it’s the anapest, yes, anapestic, isn’t it – da da-da da da da-da-da da-da-da – “The Assyrian came down like a wolf on his fold/And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold/And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea/When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galiliee” – Anybody know(s) that? Have you read that before? Anyone,  raise your hand if you have..that’s.. [only a few Students raise their hand] – Only a few people? – I  guess in nineteen.. when we went to school in…1902 (sic!) …everybody had to memorize that poem, all schoolchildren, all grade-school children had to memorize that poem, from 1880 to 1920, everybody in a grade-school had to get up in front in the assembly hall and say, “The Assyrian came down like a wolf on his fold/And his cohorts…” – Why don’t we do that thing. Shall we do that?

[Allen orchestrates a group-reading, with himself as the lead voice] – one, two, three – “The Assyrian came down like a wolf on his fold/And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold….”….”And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,/Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!”  –  That..  the alternative is more like the waltz –da-da-da  da-da-da  da-da-da da-da-da da – “Hie upone Highlands/and lay upon tay..” – Shall we try “Bonnie George Campbell” (in unison)?  – (it’s page one-oh-five, back to “Bonnie George Campbell”) – It’s interesting… Has anybody.. The reason I’m doing this is I don’t know if people have ever actually pronounced this kind of anapestic and dactylic line aloud ever, so, unless you actually do pronounce it physiologically, it doesn’t get into your body as a physiological habit-pattern. In other words, if you begin entering it into your body physically, then it’ll take in your nervous system and you’ll be able to reproduce it, whereas if you just read it mentally, it doesn’t have any effect on the whole body, so it’s interesting to do it aloud. But, remember, it moves back and forth between dactyl and anapest – [Allen leads a second group-reading] – Hie upone Highlands/and lay upon tay..”…”Oh, hame cam his guid horse,/but never cam he.” – That’s pretty good- “Saddled and bridled/ and booted rode he” – I think that probably.. it may have been that Byron picked up his  “Assyrian came down like a wolf on his fold” probably from familiarity with that “Saddled and bridled/ and booted rode he”, probably from this one ballad, I would guess (it) was a big influence on Byron if it was known (I imagine it was known).

[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately sixteen-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in] 

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