Shelley –  Nineteenth-Century Poetry continues – (28)

Allen Ginsberg on Shelley’s “Hellas” continues from here

AG:  Do you know much about this at all?  About his thinking in this one?  It’s like a great clanging symphonic rhyme.  Dum-dah-dom-dah, duh-dah duh-dah dah-dah“The world’s great age begins anew.”  It’s actually, just looking at it as sound, “The world’s great age begins anew” – “world’s great age” is three long vowels, or three stressed accents, which usually in Greek verse forms the beginning of a majestic or powerful statement- duh-dah-dah-dah, duh-dah duh-dah.  So anything that would begin duh-dah-dah-dah has to do with unobstructed statement, (like a final statement, or an ultimate historical or personal statement.  It’s called … what is it?  Three long vowels, what’s that called in prosody, do you know? – Spondee if it’s two. Three if it’s … I forgot what they call three, but it’s a regular Greek verse form or Greek verse foot when you have dah-dah-dah.

Student:  Trochee?

AG:  No, trochee would be dah-duh. [Editorial note – It’s called a molossus]. It’s a line that is not much used in 20th century rhymed English poetry, because people don’t know how to use (it) or how to make statements like that very often.  But when you hear a sound like that, you know you’ve got somebody who’s a real poet, (unless he’s just trying to fill out the form).

Do you find this poem confusing or complicated?  Except for the references it’s pretty clear.  I always liked this because …what is the verse form?  “The world’s great age begins anew,/The golden years return..” –  (four and three).

The world’s great age begins anew,/The golden years return,/The earth doth like a snake renew/Her winter weeds outworn – (four-three, four-three) – Then, “Heaven smiles, and faiths and empires gleam,” -(“Heaven smiles, and faiths..” -“Heaven smiles, and faiths and empires gleam,” – well, I don’t know how you’d count that –   “Like wrecks of a dissolving dream.”  So it’s four-four).  So it’s a ballad meter to begin with?

Student:  It’s four-three.
AG:  Four-three is the ballad meter.
Student:  Common measure.
AG:  “As I went out one….”  “As I went out….”
Student:  Eight total and six…
AG:  Yeah.  What do they call it?  What do they call it?  Poulter’s measure, or something like that?
Student:  No, common measure.
AG:  Common measure.
Student:  Common hymn books, common hymn books used it.

AG:  Uh-huh – “If only God would look on me and make me like to him, then I would go to heaven once and that would be my whim.”  Duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah, duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah, duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah, duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah.  Duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah, duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah, duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah, duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah.

Except that he does a turn on it –  duh-dah-dah-dah duh-dah duh-dah.  “The world’s great age begins anew.” –  So he’s fitted it in, if you had to count the long syllables or the heavy syllables as “The world’s great age begins anew.”  So you’ve got “The world’s great age begins anew,” –  you actually (have) five heavy beats- if you pronounce it that way.  But the paradigm or the scheme in the back of his head is duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah, rather than duh-dah-dah-dah.

If you’re working in rhymes or in meters like this, if you’re working in meters, you can expand and twist it around and turn it into heavy statements or lighter statements, depending on your ear.  But it’s pretty much ear, and I think sometimes it’s inborn ear, some kind of ear that you just have like a jazz musician.  Either you have it or … I don’t know if you can develop it.

to be continued 

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-five-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately. sixty-nine-and-a-quarter minutes in

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