Allen’s observations on metrics in early Blake continues from – here
AG: Actually, it (prosody) is very complicated.
Student: It’s classical.
AG: It’s classical. In classical days, Greek days, they had these rhythms and they were dance rhythms, just like, say, a drummer could know a rhythm like know how to count. You’ve heard Indian tablas. All the very complicated …
AG: … and these are not dissimilar. And drum rhythms. These are not dissimilar to, I suppose, the notations for drum rhythms.
Student: So (poetry) is actually using….
AG: But, originally it came from dance. These were related to dance. To the choruses. And that’s why one is called “choriambic”, in fact. choriamb is dah-duh-duh-dah – That’s like the supreme …
AG: … Bom-buh-buh-Bom, Bom-buh-buh-Bom, Bom-buh-buh-Bom. So you can see a whole chorus going “Bom-buh-buh-Bom, Bom-buh-buh-Bom.” And then the speech that they would be chanting, simultaneously, would be the same.
Student: So it probably began as a chant.
AG: It would be supporting it. You know, “Oedipus, Come!” “Put out your Eyes” “Kill your dah-DAH.” [Editorial note – the allusion is to Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex here] “Oedipus Come! Put out your Eyes, Kill your da-DA!” So that you’d have a very powerful …
AG: … theatric vortex of sound and motion.
Well, then most writing in the Middle Ages, or the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, in Europe was done in Latin and Greek anyway. Church Latin and Greek, and Latin adapted the same Greek meters, I think. Or there was an adaptation. There was the same kind of count. Though the Greek count also included tones. They had the length of the vowel and they had the tone as well as the accent.
AG: So scholars and writers up to Renaissance time were generally involved with close study of Greek and Latin, and classic languages, and wrote poetry in those languages. But then, around the time of the break-up of the Church and the break-up of the Middle Ages, pre-Renaissance, writers began writing in their own native tongues: Provencal, Tuscan, French …
AG: … Catalan and English or Anglo-Saxon, and stopped writing in Greek and Latin. But then they had the problem, how do you measure the line? Because the Greek and the Roman was the line length. So then they had all sorts of variety of measurement of the line. Meanwhile the Church scholars had been devising these schemes to measure up Greek and Latin, although nobody any longer really knew how to pronounce Greek, actually. That was lost. The oral transmission of classical Greek was lost and nobody knows how it went and how the tones went.
Student: They had pitch notation.
Student: As well.
AG: Tones, yes.
Student: Because I’ve heard Ed Sanders sing Sappho.
AG: And he’s reconstructing it from what is known by scholars.
Student: And it makes sense just like, you know, when you have regular speech …
Student: .. you have different pitches …
Student: … that occur in different parts of the sentences.
AG: Exactly. So they were subtle enough to construct a line that would include the pitch. Construct a line….
Student: They had a notation …
AG: … that would include the pitch.
Student: … for it, right, when they….
AG: Probably, yeah. Yeah?
Student: But when he’s doing that, when Ed Sanders does that, he actually sings words.
AG: Well, he chants, you could say. It’s somewhere between speech and chants.
Student: He sings in a wider range than …
Student: … then maybe they do.
AG: No, they used a wide range of tones.
Student: Well, it’s only seven tones anyway. I mean….
Student: Well, that’s all there is in an octave is….
AG: Well, I don’t think they had tone. I’m not sure they had tones like that. I think they had middle tone, upper and lower tone. In other words just lifting and … well, I’m not sure, actually. I don’t know what the rules were.
Student: It’s called … it’s called….
AG: The Greeks had seven tones?
Student: Uh. What do they call that scale that has the seven tones? It starts with a “d”.
AG: Diatonic? Doric?
Student: No, uh, diatonic, yeah.
Student: Yeah, that’s it.
AG: Oh, I see.
Student: Yeah, it’s do re mi fa so la ti and that’s …
AG: They used that?
Student: … do re mi fa so la ti … yeah, I think …
AG: I don’t know if the diatonic series was used for speech, though.
Student: … (I think it was)
AG: Well, I don’t know. Maybe for chanting.
Student: Well, I figure that they were songs.
Student: The poems were … so, what’s his… was it Pythagoras who figured that out? He had the octaves and then he figured out the intervals.
AG: I guess. Somebody was telling me about that the other day. Who knew that? You?
Student: Well, I wasn’t telling you about you it, but he figured out the octave and he figured out the intervals, like the perfect fifth …
Student: … and that those harmonic structures … and I think that the diatonic scale the do re mi fa so la ti …
Student: … breaking up the twelve tone scale into a seven and the pitches….
AG: Yeah that’s according to a string plucked from the center and then …
Student: Yeah, measuring the distance …
AG: … quarters. Yeah.
Student: … of it.
AG: However, when they speak of tones in Greek prosody, I don’t know if they mean all seven. Whether there’s maybe …
Student: Oh, I see.
AG: … then mean just high and low. But there may have been seven tones, I’m not sure.
Student: Yeah, I don’t know whether that was it.
AG: Whether there was a book of rules, I don’t know. Because I think these rules were figured out by later grammarians. Roman grammarians and scholars of a somewhat decadent age, trying to figure out how the Greeks did it.
Student: Yeah, like to reconstruct it.
AG: Yeah. And then there was another cycle of grammarians and scholars — the Church scholars and Renaissance scholars — who began in Renaissance times or a little before, the 11th to 14th centuries, writing in provincial languages, writing in their own demotic languages. And then they had the problem (that) they were all intelligent people, learned scholars, trained in high toned Greek and Latin prosody, and then they had to try and apply what they knew, or they immediately, instinctually tried to apply what they knew to their own languages. So they transferred the notation – this looped line and a long line – to their own language to count the accent.
Then there was a big argument, particularly in Sir Philip Sidney’s day – (Edmund) Spenser, Sidney, and Thomas Campion – there was a big controversy, (as there is now) between metrical verse and free verse – in those days there was a big controversy between counting vowel length – classical style – or accent.
But, in any case they used these same vowel-length markings. In other words, as the poetry went in transition from classical to English or French, or whatever, (but) in English particularly, they transferred the classical markings. So all these young scholars who went to Oxford and Cambridge and studied Greek and Latin, and that was their big education. Then, when they began writing in English, (they had) all that as a background and they were able to make use of Greek and Latin prosody forms.
But on the other hand, it was still imposing Greek and Latin rhythmic thinking on the English. So the French got out of it by counting syllables, actually. So they didn’t count. French alexandrine is a count of syllable, rather than accent. Twelve or fourteen syllables are their basic line. But English blank verse wound up to be basically (an) iambic line or iambic pentameter – five feet – duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah – pent – ameter. Five feet to a line. And iambic – Duh-dah. Light/heavy. And poetry tended to simplify those accentual meters.
So that’s why it’s interesting, when you get to Blake and you actually look at his lines, you find that he hasn’t got oversimplified meters, but they’re really complicated and very varied from line to line and they hang together as if he must have known some Greek and studied classical prosody and was really designing something interesting. So that’s why I brought this out – [Editorial note – Allen refers to the class hand-out here] – to show you how subtle his ear, how learned and subtle and varied his ear is. It isn’t.. Blake isn’t all “Tyger, Tyger” – dah-duh dah-duh dah-duh dah-duh dah-duh – or, he’s not all real simple-minded nursery rhyme. It’s “The wild winds weep” – and the minute you look at it, you say, “Well, that’s a very strange line.”
So, then we get to “Lo! to the vault/Of paved heaven” – duh-dah-duh-duh-dah – that’s the choriambic. “Lo! to the vault” – and there aren’t many examples of choriambic in English. There’re very few writers that use it as a continuing sequence. “Lo! to the vault/Of paved heaven” — duh dah duh dah. “Of pa-ved heav-en.” Well, it depends how you pronounce it. “A paved heaven” or a “pa-ved heaven”. I was saying that is trochaic. Duh dah duh dah duh.
Peter Orlovsky: Both lines: “Lo! to the vault/Of paved heaven”?
AG: No. “Lo! to the vault” is choriambic.
Peter Orlovsky: Oh, I see.
AG: You might put that in pencil.
Peter Orlovsky: I don’t have a pencil.
Peter Orlovsky: Oh, I don’t want to take yours. You got one?
AG: There’s some pencils in my …
Student: I have some.
AG: … room here. –
“With sorrow fraught/My notes are driven:” “With sorrow fraught/My notes are driven:” – (those are more or less iambic. duh dah duh dah duh dah duh dah dah. “With sorrow fraught/My notes are driven,” right? Iambic? Does that make sense? See, “Lo! to the vault” – choriambic. “Of paved heaven” ) – And I was hearing that as a dah duh dah duh, which is more trochaic, like “Tyger, Tyger”, where the accent is first. It says “OF pa-VED hea-VEN,” but the inclination of the line is dah duh dah duh.
Peter Orlovsky: Well, what is that one?
AG: That would be …
Peter Orlovsky: “Of paved heaven”?
AG: … trochaic. I would guess that, my inclination is to call it trochaic. You could call it either way, iambic or trochaic because it’s “Of pa-ved hea-ven.” So it’s got one extra syllable, which could make it fall, depending how you wanted to call it, either trochaic or iambic.
Peter Orlovsky: Is it a trochee.
Student: Could you use the one three syllables forms to deal with that extra syllable?
AG: Well, it’s five. Yes, you could.
AG: But you could over-complicate the line. I’m trying to say the line is basically like the “Tyger, Tyger” line – “Tyger, Tyger”..”Of paved heaven” – there’s enough similarity there so you could say … See, it isn’t a hundred percent anything, because it’s an irregular line with one extra syllable, and you have the right to call it iambic, if you want to consider it as duh-dah duh-dah dah, or you have the right to call it trochaic if you want to consider it as duh dah duh dah dah. Tyger, tyger. Paved heaven.
Student: So it’s up to (the individual)?
AG: So it’s up to you, but the way you would guide yourself is what (would it be) if you were pronouncing it, how would you lean your accent. “Lo! to the vault/Of paved heaven.” I would say that’s “Tyger, tyger, tyger.” So I would call that trochaic.
And the next line “With sorrow fraught/My notes are driven:” — that goes on an on as iambic. Duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah-dah. Iambic there. “With sorrow fraught/My notes are driven.” So if I had to call it anything, I’d call those two iambic. You don’t have to call them anything. You don’t have to name these lines. There’s no need for it. I’m just saying if you want to examine it mindfully and see what their construction is, you could do a little thing with it, knowing (this stuff).
Okay, going on to the next. “They strike the ear of night,/Make weep the eyes of day;” – duh dah dah duh dah duh dah/duh duh dah duh dah. Well, there’s a lot of variation in it, but mostly iambic. “They strike the ear of night,/Make weep the eyes of day” – duh dah dah duh dah duh dah.
Well, that’s a nice one. “They make mad the roaring winds,” – duh dah dah. Well, they make mad” – duh dah dah. “They make mad” – if it were a three, that’d be a bacchius — “They make mad” Of the three syllable lines, the bacchius – “They make mad.” And then “the roaring winds,” – well, that’s more iambic – “the roaring winds.” – But “They make mad” is bacchic — bacchius. Or, it’s a variable of your iambic, and “make mad and the roaring winds,/And with tempests play” – duh dah dah duh dah. Or you could say – “They make mad” – you could also consider, if you wanted, anapest. “They make mad” “the roaring winds,” “And with tempests play” – because the “and with tem-pest” is somewhat anapestic. “And with tempest play.” Right? Is this clear so far? Is there anybody that’s lost? Or too badly lost?
Peter Orlovsky: I’m totally lost.
Peter Orlovsky: I don’t want to say anything, though.
AG: Well, what I’m doing is, these lines are not, the lines I was just doing – “They make mad the roaring winds,/And with tempest play” — they tend toward anapest. They aren’t exactly anapestic, but they tend toward anapest in that anapest light/light/heavy, light/light/heavy, duh-duh-dah, duh-duh-dah, and these are “they make mad”, “the roaring winds,” “and with tem”, “pest play.” So if the rhythm of duh-duh-dah, duh-duh-dah, duh-duh-dah is called anapest, then this line tends toward anapest. Irregular anapest. Okay? However, with “They make mad”, “make mad” is definitely two solid accents. “They make mad.” So if you wanted to count that, if you were interested in that, you could point out that it fit the bacchius. this.
Peter Orlovsky: Yeah, I got that down.
Peter Orlovsky: And the roaring winds?
AG: No, no, not the bacchius. Yeah, the bacchius. Duh-dah-dah.
Peter Orlovsky: What is “the roaring winds”.
AG: “(T)he roaring winds. Duh-dah duh-dah. That’d be iambic. If you could consider it by itself, that fragment would be iambic: “the roaring winds.” If you considered it by itself.
Peter Orlovsky: What’s the other one, then: “and with tempests play.”
AG: Duh-duh-dah duh-dah. Well, it’s “and with TEMpests PLAY” — that’s mostly, the first part, “and with TEM” is anapest.
Peter Orlovsky: Just end with?
AG: “… -pests play”.
Peter Orlovsky: Is anapest?
AG: “(A)nd with tem-” is anapest. “pests play.” Basically, it’s an anapestic line. Duh-duh-dah duh-dah. I don’t think there are names for lines of five syllables, otherwise that would probably have a name of its own. In other words, they go up to four syllables and then it breaks down to three and two. A line of five syllables would then be broken down and analyzed to three syllable and two syllable.
Student: Is that because of the Greek? That they went up to four?
AG: I don’t know, actually. I think just logically, if you get up to five and six…. Pardon me?
Student: If you started breaking five there would be … the list would have to be this longer … combinations you’d be….
Student (3): You know how you (count…)
AG: If you notice, it says here, if a verse or a line is complete, it is called acatalectic. If a syllable is wanting, if you need an extra, if a syllable is missing, it’s catalectic. If a foot or a syllable is extra, it’s hypercatalectic. It’s pretty nice to know that terminology. Acatalectic, catalectic and hypercatalectic. I would say the line that you asked (about), “Come hither, sleep.“? – remember? the third line? [of Blake’s “Mad Song”] – “Come hither, sleep.” You could consider that, “the wild winds weep and the night is a a-cold, come hither sleep.” Well, I was trying to say you could fill in the comma there with a syllable – “Come hither, my sleep.” So you could say that this line is missing a syllable in a way, and so you could say, if you wanted to, that it was acatalectic, pardon me – catalectic. It was wanting a syllable. Catalectic. I don’t know if that would be what a scholar would (call it), but anyway.
There are a couple of other meters here in the last (section) – “Like a fiend in a cloud/With howling woe,” – well, those are duh-duh-dah, duh-duh-dah.” That’s anapest again. “Like a fiend in a cloud…”
Peter Orlovsky: Just “Like a fiend in a cloud” is anapest?
AG: No, it says, “Like a fiend … in a cloud.”
Peter Orlovsky: “Like a fiend in a cloud” – that’s anapest?
Student: Aren’t those bacchius?
AG: Duh-duh-dah duh-duh-dah? “Like a fiend in a cloud.” No, if it were bacchius you’d have to consider the word “a” to be an accented syllable. “Like a fiend in a cloud.” If you were saying it “Like a fiend in a cloud.” “With howling woe.” Duh-duh-dah duh-dah. Duh-dah-duh dah.
Student: Just iambic?
AG: Well, you could either say that’s iambic, or you could, if you want, count that as di-trochaic, or, I mean, di-iambic – double iamb. In the four-beat syllables, in the four-syllable meters, there are di-iambic, or di-spondaic, or di-trochaic. You know, double them up. Okay.
Peter Orlovsky: “With howling woe” was what?
AG: “With howling woe” was basically iambic.
Peter Orlovsky: Iambic?
AG: Or double-iambic, known as di-iambic.
However, now we get to something really interesting, the third line: “After night I do croud.” “After night I do croud.” Now, you break that up by the caesura – Remember the caesura? The rest? “After night I do croud.” Where is the rest there? Where would you guess the rest to be?
Student: After “night”?
AG: Okay. Then, “After night”- and what is “After night”? And “I do croud”? They’re both symmetrical, kind of. And they seen to be two feet of three syllables each. Dah-duh-dah, dah-duh-dah.
AG: No. The “ter” is lighter than the “af” – “After night.” I read them as heavy, light, heavy: heavy, light, heavy. Heavy light heavy, heavy light heavy.
Student: (Heavy light heavy?)
AG: The middle syllable of each is unaccented.
Student: So it’d be the last one. Because the first syllable is accented.
AG: Can anybody find it?
Student: Cretic? Cretic.
AG: Right! That’s what I got. amphimacer, or cretic. Amphimacer or cretic. “After night I do croud.” This one.
Student: You’ve got all these memorized!
AG: Dah-duh-dah, dah-duh-dah. Hear?
Student: (You hear it at) poetry readings.
AG: Does that make sense?
Student (2): I don’t know. I get anapestic. “After night I do croud.”
AG: Well, anapest would be … except you were saying, “After night I do croud”; the “I” is just about as heavy as the “croud.”
Student (2): The “I” is a little heavier.
AG: And “after” – – “af” is heavier than “ter.” Yeah, well, you could do it either way. It depends how you want to pronounce it. I would say, “AFter NIGHT I do CROUD.” So that would make it the cretic. It wouldn’t have to be. Nothing has to be here. It depends how you pronounce it.
Student (2): How do you learn it if nothing has to be?
AG: Oh, it depends how you pronounce it.
AG: If you pronounce it as heavy/light/heavy, heavy/light/heavy, then it would have to be called cretic. If, as he says, you want to pronounce, “after NIGHT, i do CROUD,” then it’s definitely (anapestic).
Student(2): But there’s a way that it’s intending to be read.
AG: Well, how do you know how he intended? Nobody knows how he intended it, because he ain’t here to talk it.
Student (2): Right.
AG: So you use your common sense. How would you say it if you were saying it? How would you say it if you had those words to say? How would you say it?
Student (2): “After night I do croud.”
AG: Well, the way you just said it was, “After night I do croud,” — so “I do croud” would be cretic.
Student (2): It also depends on how you’re reading the lines around it, too.
AG: Yes, of course. How you would read that particular line would depend on how you did the one before and after.
Student (2): Yeah.
AG: So, in this case, “Like a fiend in a cloud/With howling woe/After night I do croud,” — so it leads me to (be), say, a little bit more heavy on the “after” than might otherwise be – “Like a fiend in a cloud/With howling woe/After night….” – See, he’s saying, “After night I do croud,” so there’s some emphasis on the “after” part here, to make sense. In order for this line to make sense you’d have to emphasis “after” a little bit.
Peter Orlovsky: What does he mean, “After night I do croud”? What does the whole line mean, anyway?
AG: That he’s going to go into the night, that he’s turning his back to the east, that he’s denying the sun, that he wants to stay in the land of night and dreams and death and sleep and darkness and depression. He’s mad. He’s mad. “After night I do croud.”
So I finally decided that it was amphimacer or cretic. ” And with night will go “duh-duh-dah, duh-dah”. That’s easy enough. – “I turn my back to the east” – What would we make of that? – “I turn my back to the east.”?
Student: Are there two accents? Hypercatalectic.
Student: It’s hypercatalectic iambic.
Student (2): Or two iambs and an anapest.
AG: Well, the hypercatalectic part would be the “to the east,” right?
AG: But that’s an anapest. Duh-duh-dah.
Student: It ends with an anapest.
Student (2): Well….
AG: (So) you could call it hypercatalectic iambic. Or you could … yeah, why not? Well, they’re identical. It could be called, just like six is – (or) you could say six is four and two, or three and three, or is two and two and two, or is one and one and one and one and one and one – they’re all six. It depends how you want to break it down. And you break it down in the way you pronounce it. Does that make sense? That you would analyze it according to the emphases you would give it when you were talking it (or) pronouncing it, so that it is arbitrary. If you just decided (to read) the syllables (up) mechanically, and the accents (up) mechanically, you could (go) anywhere. But, if you’ve got the problem of actually pronouncing it, then you’ve got some guidance.
But I say, “I turn my back to the east”: Duh-dah-duh-dah-duh-duh-dah. So I was gathering that as epitritus tertius –“I turn my back..” – “I turn my back to the east.” I’ve got it as epitritus tertius and an anapest – “I turn my back to the east.” – Because I was taking the caesura as “I turn my back/to the east.” After “back” was where I put the caesura, or cut. So epitritus tertius would mean heavy-heavy-light-heavy. Heavy-heav-light-heavy. That’s the next-to-the-last in the scheme, next-to-the-last in this synopsis. Epitritus. “I turn my back” – “I turn my back.”
“From whence comforts have increas’d.” And then, “For light doth seize my brain/With frantic pain.” What is “For light doth seize my brain”? Does anybody want to try that one? “For light doth seize my brain.” “For light doth seize my brain.”
Student (1): Epitritus primus, or something.
AG: I thought epitritus primus myself. “For light doth seize.” What was yours?
Student (2): Second epitritus
AG: Second epitritus you had? No, because if it was second epitritus it would be “for LIGHT doth seize.” “for LIGHT doth seize,” but it’s “For LIGHT DOTH SEIZE.” It’s light heavy heavy heavy. Light accent, heavy heavy heavy. One light accent and three heavies. Okay, listen, “For light doth seize” “For light doth seize” are equal. “For” is not so equal as “light”: “For light doth seize” — right? If you’re just taking that as a four-syllable line. “For light doth seize.”
Student (2): “For light doth seize.” Dimeter?
AG: Well, you could, but actually if you were pronouncing it you’d say “For light doth seize.” And the “doth” is pretty strong.
tape ends here – to be continued