Dear Harrieteers, for reasons I'll be blogging about later, I need a few great serious anapestic poems—classic or contemporary.  I have Swinburne's "Song in Time of Revolution" and Teasdale's "I Would Live in Your Love."  I don't need any light verse, even Carroll, or children's verse.  I know there are some serious gems out there waiting to  shine.  Please help me out with a few more . . .

Originally Published: May 7th, 2009

Annie Finch is the author or editor of more than twenty books of poetry, plays, translation, literary essays, textbooks, and anthologies, including the poetry collections Eve (1997), Calendars (2003), and Spells: New and Selected Poems (2012), and the long poems The Encyclopedia of Scotland (1982) and Among the Goddesses: An Epic...

  1. May 7, 2009
     Jane Raeburn

    Have you got Byron's "The Destruction of Sennacherib"? It's not his best stuff but it fits.\r

  2. May 7, 2009
     Jane Raeburn

    A quick cruise around Google also suggests Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" though one could argue its merits as poetry.

  3. May 7, 2009
     michael robbins

    Tennyson's "Break, Break, Break," natch.

  4. May 7, 2009
     Don Share

    Shelley's "The Cloud." There's a clutch in Lyrical Ballads... Arnold's "Rugby Chapel." \r

    O, wait, you asked for gems! So. Um, Aristophanes... Seneca...

  5. May 7, 2009
     Jason Guriel

    Daryl Hine's long poem In and Out is written in anapests.

  6. May 7, 2009
     Don Share

    Ah, yes. Hine said something like anapestic meter "looks like free verse but isn't," which I've never quite understood...

  7. May 7, 2009
     Colin Ward

    "How They Brought The Good News From Ghent To Aix" by Robert Browning \r

  8. May 7, 2009
     Don Share

    Good one, Colin! \r

    Curiously, there's a recording of Browning reciting this poem in 1889... and forgetting the words!\r

  9. May 8, 2009
     Colin Ward


    Good one, Colin! \r

    Thanks. There was an issue arising from the headless opening tetrameters emulating a pre-existing hendecasyllabic form but I won't bore everyone with the details. Both the poem and the argument were resolved into anapest.\r

    Curiously, there’s a recording of Browning reciting this poem in 1889… and forgetting the words!\r

    Yup. I heard that recording a few years back. Thanks for reminding me of it; it's a hoot!\r

    Hine said something like anapestic meter “looks like free verse but isn’t,”\r

    Tee-hee! Hey, people still mislabel Eliot's "Prufrock" and Elizabeth Bishop's 1979 "Sonnet" (the title wasn't enough of a clue?) as non-metrical. Ain't scansion fun? \r

    Best regards,\r


  10. May 8, 2009

    I don't know whether it's in anapests with the opening syllable missing from every other line, or in amphibrachs (the foot of limericks) with a syllable missing at the end of every other line; and most people would consider it sentimental Victoriana (though not "light," I don't think -- it intends to jerk tears); by some measures it was the most popular American poem in the 19th century, written in 1818 by Samuel Woodworth; and I love it: "The Old Oaken Bucket."\r

    How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,\r
    When fond recollection presents them to view!\r
    The orchard, the meadow, the deep, tangled wild-wood,\r
    And every loved spot which my infancy knew! . . .

  11. May 8, 2009
     Jason Guriel

    Don, I wonder if Hine means that there's a tendency, when scanning a line, to just give up and assume the line is free verse if one doesn't find iambs (or even trochees) right away? Just a thought...

  12. May 8, 2009
     Emily Lloyd

    I'll dig around, but "Annabel Lee" springs to mind as fairly heavily anapestic.

  13. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    yes, thanks Jane!

  14. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Thanks Michael--a good one though I was hoping for something a tad more regularly anapesetic, not as mixed/logodaeic...\r

    Break, break, break\r

    Break, break, break,\r
    On thy cold gray stones, O sea!\r
    And I would that my tongue could utter\r
    The thoughts that arise in me.\r

    O, well for the fisherman's boy,\r
    That he shouts with his sister at play!\r
    O, well for the sailor lad,\r
    That he sings in his boat on the bay!\r

    And the stately ships go on\r
    To their haven under the hill;\r
    But O for the touch of a vanished hand,\r
    And the sound of a voice that is still!\r

    Break, break, break,\r
    At the foot of thy crags, O sea!\r
    But the tender grace of a day that is dead\r
    Will never come back to me.\r

    -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

  15. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Thanks Don! "The Cloud" (what a clunker, for a poem about wisps) is too mixed with iambs as well. I do happen to consider "Rugby Chapel" a gem--an extraordinarily moving poem to me though maybe it's just because my dad seems to have been quite a bit like Arnold's--but it's too dactylic for these purposes; this is for a textbook so I need something very regular. \r

    However, you've hit one I think I can use with your pointing to Lyrical Ballads. (I love the term "clutch," like eggs--perfect--). I think "The Convict," right before "Tintern Abbey," might do the trick. Have to go read it properly but just wanted to say thank you!

  16. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Interesting quote from Hine. Maybe he meant that his immediate apprehension of anapestic poetry wasn't metrical, that he couldn't pick it up quickly--a lot of us have trouble hearing noniambic meters because we don't encounter them often.

  17. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Thanks Colin! I've already got some of this one. Doesn't it seem as if Browning or Tennyson would have written more anapests? Or Hardy? But I haven't run across any.

  18. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    what a gem. Is that "hip hip hooray" he is shouting at the end?

  19. May 8, 2009
     Don Share

    It was recorded, believe it or not, at a dinner party! After Browning falters, the other guests buck him up by shouting "hip, hip hooray," etc.!

  20. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Of course, Emily, thank you! Poe is prevalent in the trochaic section so I had avoided him, but of course Annabel Lee needs a mention, a lovely example of a light and slower touch with the meter.

  21. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    that is so poignant. I guess he was elderly. i can just imagine some of our elder poets now in a similar circumstance, and how everyone might buck them up. . .

  22. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    A terrific example of amphibrachs!!!! I know (and enjoy, i confess, wiping away a tear) this poem from way back but hadn't thought of it lately. I can use this elsewhere in the book--thanks, John. (please email me your last name if you'd let me list you in the acknowledgments). Which reminds me, while we're at it, i hope you all will please also feel free to post any amphibrachs, hendecasyllabics, cretics, alcaics, or what have you...

  23. May 8, 2009
     Don Share

    What's really weird is that it's a poem about remembering...

  24. May 8, 2009
     thomas brady

    Yes, Emily!\r

    "Annabel Lee" is anapestic, absolutely.\r

    Poe understood something crucial (and you see this in his "Rationale of Verse") which is that\r

    the anapest resembles an iamb, but is slightly longer in duration. (two shorts and a long v. one short and a long)\r

    and thus Poe cunningly uses iambs in the general anapestic rhythm to great effect, which contributes to the 'slow' and 'stately' and 'passionate' feel of the meter.\r

    Also, he makes the lady's name, 'Lee,' the caesura of the poem, and the importance of the caesura was something he also understood.\r


  25. May 8, 2009
     Don Share

    Speaking of anapestic Swinburne (we were, weren't we?), this is from ole Merwin's intro to Craig Arnold's first book, Shells, drawn to my attention by Katy Evans-Bush:\r

    "There is a story, probably apocryphal, from the days when the New Criticism was in flower and one of its eminences, the English critic and poet William Empson, who wrote Seven Types of Ambiguity, was teaching in the United States. He is said to have been impressed at the time (the 1940s) by the critical sophistication of some of the students and then increasingly exasperated to find how tenuous was the link between their analytical smartness and any personal feelings. Finally, one day he dismissed the class saying, “Don’t come back until you can tell me you’ve been reading Swinburne by moonlight with the tears running down your cheeks.”

  26. May 8, 2009
     Colin Ward


    He is said to have been impressed at the time (the 1940s) by the critical sophistication of some of the students and then increasingly exasperated to find how tenuous was the link between their analytical smartness and any personal feelings.\r

    Alas, today we seem to have the opposite problem. One wonders which is worse.\r


    You mentioned that you'd like a few contemporary examples. This concrete elegy is written in anapests and might be an interesting challenge for students to decurginate (i.e. realign into its rhyming meter):\r \r

    As for amphibrachs, one of the most popular ballads of our time is in almost perfect amphibrachs:\r\r\r

    Perhaps equally well-known would be this poem-song that slips back and forth between amphibrachs and anapests:\r\r\r

    Best regards,\r


  27. May 8, 2009
     thomas brady

    So much for 'escape from emotion!'\r

    Actually Swinburne once caused the tears to stream down my cheeks--I was suffering, because Swinburne's poetry is so awfully tedious. I think Swinburne was often in pain--trying (unsuccessfully) to write like Poe.

  28. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Yes, Poe goes down in the annals of prosody as a "timer," not a "stresser," to use Harvey Gross's distinction.\r

    The combination of anapests and iambs in "Annabel Lee" is decidedly graceful, so much better done than the same technique in Shelley's "The Cloud."

  29. May 8, 2009
     Don Share

    I went innocently to the library once to look up a few lines from Swinburne - and was faced by an entire bay and a half of a seemingly-endless multivolume set of his collected works. It extended about as far as the eye could see.

  30. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Actually, I’ve been planning a little blogpost in honor of Algernon. You can duke it out there to your heart’s content, Thomas, but the beauty of Empson’s comment in this anecdote is that the harder you try, the more leaden-eared and stone-hearted you will come across … better just give up in advance.\r

    Honestly, have you read “Song in Time of Revolution” lately? Or “The Garden of Proserpine”? Then there are the Sapphics for Aphrodite:\r

    Saw the white implacable Aphrodite,\r
    Saw the hair unbound and the feet unsandalled\r
    Shine as fire of sunset on western waters;\r
    Saw the reluctant\r

    Feet, the straining plumes of the doves that drew her,\r
    Looking always, looking with necks reverted,\r
    Back to Lesbos, back to the hills whereunder\r
    Shone Mitylene;\r

    Heard the flying feet of the Loves behind her\r
    Make a sudden thunder upon the waters,\r
    As the thunder flung from the strong unclosing\r
    Wings of a great wind . . .

  31. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Thanks Colin. Leonard Cohen has such a great rhythmic ear.

  32. May 8, 2009
     Don Share

    That's really wild, Annie! I can picture you with that ungainly carton...\r

    Anyway, tho' not a big fan myself, my flabber was temporarily gastered by this line from "Evening on the Broads": \r

    "Cover the brood of her worlds that cumber the skies with their blossom." \r

    Worthy of John "Wheels" Wheelwright.. or dare I say Ashbery!

  33. May 8, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Don, yes, a line like that is worth a lot of volumes to find.\r

    (if anyone else is wondering about the ungainly carton, it is from a comment that flashed here momentarily before i decided to save it for the swinburne post.)

  34. May 8, 2009
     Kevin St.Jarre

    Hi Annie. This is definitely a bit older, but I really like some of what ol' Bill did here. Anyway, hope it helps.\r

    My banks they are furnish'd with bees,\r
    Whose murmur invites me to sleep;\r
    My grottos are shaded with trees,\r
    And my hills are white-over with sheep.\r
    I seldom have met with a loss,\r
    Such health do my fountains bestow;\r
    My fountains all border'd with moss,\r
    Where the hare-bells and violets grow.\r

    Not a pine in my grove is there seen,\r
    But with tendrils of woodbine is bound:\r
    Not a beech's more beautiful green,\r
    But a sweet-briar entwines it around.\r
    Not my fields, in the prime of the year,\r
    More charms than my cattle unfold:\r
    Not a brook that is limpid and clear,\r
    But it glitters with fishes of gold.\r

    One would think she might like to retire\r
    To the bow'r I have labour'd to rear;\r
    Not a shrub that I heard her admire,\r
    But I hasted and planted it there.\r
    Oh how sudden the jessamin strove\r
    With the lilac to render it gay!\r
    Already it calls for my love,\r
    To prune the wild branches away.\r

    From the plains, from the woodlands and groves,\r
    What strains of wild melody flow?\r
    How the nightingales warble their loves\r
    From thickets of roses that blow!\r
    And when her bright form shall appear,\r
    Each bird shall harmoniously join\r
    In a concert so soft and so clear,\r
    As – she may not be fond to resign.\r

    I have found out a gift for my fair;\r
    I have found where the wood-pigeons breed:\r
    But let me that plunder forbear,\r
    She will say 'twas a barbarous deed.\r
    For he ne'er could be true, she aver'd,\r
    Who could rob a poor bird of its young:\r
    And I lov'd her the more, when I heard\r
    Such tenderness fall from her tongue.\r

    I have heard her with sweetness unfold\r
    How that pity was due to – a dove:\r
    That it ever attended the bold,\r
    And she call'd it the sister of love.\r
    But her words such a pleasure convey,\r
    So much I her accents adore,\r
    Let her speak, and whatever she say,\r
    Methinks I should love her the more.\r

    Can a bosom so gentle remain\r
    Unmov'd, when her Corydon sighs!\r
    Will a nymph that is fond of the plain,\r
    These plains and this valley despise?\r
    Dear regions of silence and shade!\r
    Soft scenes of contentment and ease!\r
    Where I could have pleasingly stray'd,\r
    If aught, in her absence, could please.\r

    But where does my Phyllida stray?\r
    And where are her grots and her bow'rs?\r
    Are the groves and the valleys as gay,\r
    And the shepherds as gentle as ours?\r
    The groves may perhaps be as fair,\r
    And the face of the valleys as fine;\r
    The swains may in manners compare,\r
    But their love is not equal to mine. \r

    --William Shenstone \r
    Part 2 of his Pastoral Ballad

  35. May 9, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Thanks Kevin! yes, this is very helpful!

  36. May 9, 2009
     Alicia (AE)

    I don't know if this has already been mentioned in the comments, but of course James Dickey's early work (The Early Motion) is heavily anapestic. He calls it in his preface, the "night-rhythm, something felt in pulse not word. How this anapestic sound was engendered by other poetry, good or bad--by Tennyson, Swinburne, and also by Poe, Kipling, and Robert Service--I cannot say, except to assert that I had read these poets, and I have always liked heavy recurrence of stress." "The Lifeguard," "The Poisoned Man," "In the Lupanar at Pompeii"--there are scores of them. Yes, there are plenty of amphibrachs & iambs in the mix (which seems to be part of the anapestic system in English--such poems do not want to count syllables). \r



  37. May 9, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Very helpful, Alicia, thanks! I'd call these poems, which are often truly compelling, for the most part heavily anapestic free verse, and some passages are genuinely anapestic, sometimes for a stanza or two--wonderful anapestic trimeters, which are a fine length for this meter and one you don't see a lot of. \r

    I've discovered in my continued researches for this section of the book that the Victorians, at any rate, did tend to count the syllables quite carefully. Like any other meter, including iambic, anapests have inspired the full range of tastes re level of substitution.\r

    Thanks again!\r


  38. May 9, 2009
     thomas brady

    Thank you, Annie.\r

    This proves my point--at least to my satisfaction. Perhaps this makes you weep, I don't know. This is just my opinion.\r

    Saw the white implacable Aphrodite,\r
    Saw the hair unbound and the feet unsandalled\r
    Shine as fire of sunset on western waters;\r
    Saw the reluctant\r

    Feet, the straining plumes of the doves that drew her,\r
    Looking always, looking with necks reverted,\r
    Back to Lesbos, back to the hills whereunder\r
    Shone Mitylene;\r

    Heard the flying feet of the Loves behind her\r
    Make a sudden thunder upon the waters,\r
    As the thunder flung from the strong unclosing\r
    Wings of a great wind . . .\r

    Before I get swept away by the passion and beauty of this passage, I first have to ask myself, is it the "implacable" Aphrodite's "feet" which "shine as fire of sunset" and do they do so because the feet are "unsandalled?" Or is it the "hair unbound" which "shines as fire on sunset on western waters?" \r

    Is there just something about "white implacable" that resembles the "fire of sunset?" \r

    And what is the "saw the?" Is this a command? Is Swinburne telling us to saw the lady in two? \r

    So many quesitons. Why are the "plumes" of the doves "straining?" \r

    And when we hear "a sudden thunder upon the waters," which is caused by "the flying feet of the Loves" are the "flying feet" striking the waters with a thunderous sound? But if the feet are flying...oh never mind.\r

    Swinburne's poetry IS wretched. It's Edward-Bulwer- Lytton-Bad-Writing-Contest wretched. \r

    My opinion, only. Didn't Pound like Swinburne? That might weigh in my favor, I don't know...\r


  39. May 10, 2009
     Colin Ward


    Yes. Speaking of rhythmic ears, the exquisite blend of demisyllables and dactyllic substitutions in the trochaic "Sapphics for Aphrodite" leave no question as to why Eliot and Pound, today's H. Miller and Peter J. Ross, and, as far as I know, all serious prosodists in between regard Swinburne as the undisputed master of meter in his time. I look forward to your blogpost on him.

  40. May 10, 2009
     Colin Ward

    P.S.: If anyone is curious about the sapphic form there is an article on it here:\r

  41. May 10, 2009
     thomas brady

    Trying to 'sound Greek' in English is pedantry, not poetry.\r

    The boxy meter and jagged rhythm of the Sapphic runs counter to strong emotion; think of herky-jerky jazz; then think of the swell, the long yearning wave, of an operatic aria by Puccini. Swinburne-ism is bulky and quixotic, a masterpiece of folly.

  42. May 10, 2009
     thomas brady

    This is doggerel:\r

    Here----where the world is quiet;\r
    Here, where all trouble----seems\r
    Dead winds' and spent waves'----riot\r
    In doubtful----dreams of dreams;\r
    I watch the green field----growing\r
    For reaping folk----and sowing,\r
    For harvest time----and mowing,\r
    A sleepy world----of streams.\r

    So is this:\r

    In the greenest growth----of the Maytime,\r
    I rode----where the woods were wet,\r
    Between the dawn----and the daytime;\r
    The spring was glad----that we met.\r

    And this:\r

    O sleepless heart-----and sombre soul unsleeping,\r
    That were athirst----for sleep and no more life\r
    And no more love, for peace----and no more strife!\r
    Now the dim gods of death----have in their keeping\r
    Spirit and body and----all the springs of song,\r
    Is it well now----where love can do no wrong,\r
    Where stingless pleasure has no----foam or fang\r
    Behind the unopening----closure of her lips?\r
    Is it well now----where soul from body slips\r
    And flesh from bone divides----without a pang\r
    As dew----from flower-bell drips?\r

    And this:\r

    When the hounds of spring are on----winter's traces,\r
    The mother of months----in meadow and plain\r
    Fills the shadows and----windy places\r
    With lisp of leaves and----ripple of rain;\r
    And the brown----bright nightingale amorous\r
    Is half assuaged----for Itylus,\r
    For the Thracian ships and the foreign----faces,\r
    The tongueless vigil, and----all the pain.\r

    And this:\r

    Before the beginning----of years\r
    There came to the making----of man\r
    Time, with a gift----of tears;\r
    Grief with a glass----that ran;\r
    Pleasure with pain----for leaven;\r
    Summer, with flowers----that fell;\r
    Remembrance fallen----from heaven,\r
    And madness risen----from hell;\r
    Strength without hands----to smite;\r
    Love that endures----for a breath;\r
    Night, the shadow----of light,\r
    And life, the shadow----of death.\r

    And this:\r

    For a day and a night----Love sang to us, played with us,\r
    Folded us round----from the dark and the light;\r
    And our hearts were fulfilled of the music he----made with us,\r
    Made with our hearts and our lips while he----stayed with us,\r
    Stayed in mid passage his pinions----from flight\r
    For a----day and a night.\r

    The content of this verse, never mind the balking rhythm, is banal in the extreme. If one were forced to read a great deal of this, I can see how one would either jump off a very high castle tower, or turn to free verse.\r

    If there were no Shakespeare or Milton or Pope or Poe or Byron or Tennyson or Keats or Shelley, this might pass for a diversion for a while, and students of versification and poetry might learn a thing or two by it, and maybe even be inspired by it occasionally, but as it is, Swinburne is a sad purgatory of de-inspiration, a grinding up a hill, a suffering, an unlearning.

  43. May 10, 2009
     clarinda harriss

    I give myself assignments that I think are difficult, just to keep myself on my toes, and one such assignment (and one that I come back to occasionally)is to write a serious poem in anapests. I attach two of them here (upon the glorious Moira Egan's suggestion):\r

    What I Sing When I Clean\r

    (an exercise in anapests)\r

    Oh, my love, it was love made me throw\r
    the lugubrious dark eucalyptus away\r
    and replace it with heather, warm labial purple,\r
    and hang the bare window with curtains of lace\r
    (I made them myself from an old tablecoth)\r
    so the neighbors will have to peer sharply\r
    to see us cavorting half nude in the livingroom\r
    heated by Mozart or hard rock, with your\r
    supple voice athrob at my earlobe, and laugh\r
    at us, envious.\r
    Sweetheart, I visited\r
    Ireland without you, that lace place and heather \r
    place, not having met you, and yes, I loved it,\r
    I loved it for fields lit with gorse \r
    and white primrose among the old stones–\r
    and yet never was ever one glimmer of heather there. I\r
    had to wait for the season: the season is now.\r

    - - -\r

    Language Instruction\r

    In the mid-nineteen fifties, blond Adam A. Aronson,\r
    newly enrolled in a college nearby, decided I lacked\r
    both experience and knowledge and rolled up his\r
    sleeves for the tutoring. Opened my private school\r
    uniformed mind with the blue of his Dachau tattoo \r
    & his eyes. “Now I will teach you my language,” \r
    said blond Adam Aronson, putting his wordly-wise\r
    tongue in my mouth. He called me his own moja droga, \r
    Polish & harmless, I’m told, like “dear little love,”\r
    and soon I was begging him Please, on my knees, \r
    to show me the rest, to press his mouth to the small\r
    tender swelling that covered my heart & teach me\r
    some more about uniforms hanging from skeletons,\r
    how he found out that his mother & sisters had\r
    died in the officers’ brothel, how he & his father\r
    got out, how he got his steel teeth. I wanted him, \r
    wanted him in me, wanted his mind & his life \r
    to flow in through the part of him good girls like \r
    me couldn’t call by its name. But he told me that\r
    somebody else ought to teach me that--later, when \r
    I was older, not jail-bait. His English was perfect. \r

    - - -

  44. May 10, 2009

    Perhaps this has already been mentioned (haven't the stamina to scroll up), but Paul Muldoon's villanelle "Milkweed and Monarch" is heavily anapestic and just swell.

  45. May 11, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Thomas, by the number and force of your anti-Swinburne posts, forgive me, but "methinks me gentleman doth protest too much." Give it a few years and perhaps you will find that a part of you, on some level, appreciates his particular kind of skill and genius. I'm not going into great or repeated detail on this (mostly because, as you may have surmised, I am procrastinating on a seriously impending ms. deadline this week) but here is one set of answers to your questions on his sapphics. Yours were serious, good=faith questions and I didn't want them to wait.\r

    First, two clarifications: I assume you are reading the passage aloud either physically or inside your mind--certainly one can't appreciate Swinburne unless it's through the physical ear, whether spoken or unspoken, as discussed in my listening to poetry post. \r

    Second, please remember that he is primarily a religious/spiritual poet, and interested primarily in conveying the experience of visceral encounters with the intangible.\r

    With those thoughts in mind as background, here are my thoughts on your questions:\r

    is it the “implacable” Aphrodite’s “feet” which “shine as fire of sunset” and do they do so because the feet are “unsandalled?” Or is it the “hair unbound” which “shines as fire on sunset on western waters?”\r


    Is there just something about “white implacable” that resembles the “fire of sunset?”\r


    And what is the “saw the?” Is this a command? \r


    Why are the “plumes” of the doves “straining?”\r


    And when we hear “a sudden thunder upon the waters,” which is caused by “the flying feet of the Loves” are the “flying feet” striking the waters with a thunderous sound? But if the feet are flying…oh never mind.\r


    Swinburne’s poetry IS wretched. It’s Edward-Bulwer- Lytton-Bad-Writing-Contest wretched.\r



    My opinion, only. Didn’t Pound like Swinburne? That might weigh in my favor, I don’t know…\r


  46. May 11, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Many thanks Clarinda.

  47. May 11, 2009
     Don Share

    EP on Swinburne, particularly "The Ballad of Life," having said he was reading S. with "new eyes" - "... the great Swinburne, the high priest, the lifter of the hearts of men. His vision of our marvellous vitality, of our power for survival!"

  48. May 11, 2009
     Joshua Weiner

    Thomas Hardy's The Ruined Maid (I didn't see anyone mention it).

  49. May 12, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Thanks Josh! "The Ruined Maid" is in amphibrachs, in spite of Harvey Gross calling it anapestic--but amphibrachs are helpful for this week's project also.

  50. May 12, 2009
     Colin Ward


    “The Ruined Maid” is in amphibrachs \r

    Only if one believes that metered lines tend to lose their rhythm as they progress. It strikes me that such an approach will make it more difficult to identify Eliot's "Prufrock" or even Blake's "Tiger" as iambic. No?\r

    Those who believe that lines tend to find their cadence as they proceed will agree with Harvey Gross, Robert McDowell, J.O. Bailey ("A Handbook and Commentary"), William H. Roetzheim ("A Giant Book of Poetry"), Arthur Mortensen ("Expansive Poetry and Music Online: Prosody") and numerous others a Google search away. My search for "The Ruined Maid" + "amphibrachs" was nowhere near as fruitful. Can you cite a few authorities who consider "The Ruined Maid" to be amphibrachic? \r

    by J. O. Bailey \r
    - THE RUINED MAID is a dramatic dialogue, humorous in tone, between a debauched town girl and an innocent friend from Dorset. The "anapestic base meter is..."\r

    The Giant Book of Poetry\r
    By William H. Roetzheim\r
    - Form: Anapestic tetrameter.\r,M1\r

    "Expansive Poetry & Music Online: Prosody" with Arthur Mortensen \r
    - Hardy's anapestal, four beat or tetrameter line\r

  51. May 12, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Dear Colin,\r

    One question to ask would be whether any of these folks identity ANY passage of poetry as amphibrachic. My guess is they probably don't. So I would submit that they are calling this poem anapestic by default, because if you don't recognize the existence of amphibrachs, then anapestic with a consistent iambic substitution in the first foot would be the next best way to describe it. \r

    I am not one of those Saintsburyan people who loves to throw obscure feet into scansions seemingly just to make things more complicated. But still, there are poems in English (such as limericks, or "The Old Oaken Bucket," or Auden's "Where are you going") that are clearly amphibrachic, and I would put "The Ruined Maid" in this category. \r

    Its rhythm is quite different than that of a "truly" anapestic poem such as, say, "The Night Before Christmas." In amphibrachs, not only does every line start with one stress instead of two; this different rhythmic effect is continued in the way the phrases are disposed throughout the poem. If you recite a limerick aloud as amphibrachs and then as anapests, you'll hear that one way of reading sounds more natural in terms of the phrasing. I have written in amphibrachs myself, and if someone reads my amphibrachic poems as if they were reading anapests, it seems to me they miss quite a bit of the effect I intended. The distinction is not as clear in every poem as it is in some poems, but that doesn't mean it isn't a distinction worth recognizing in the cases where it is clear.\r

    There's a whole discussion in the book Meter in English, edited by David Baker and based on an essay by Robert Wallace, about whether amphibrachs exist in English. I recall that most of us, poets and prosodists, who contributed to that book said that yes, they do. But still it's not suprising that many current writers don't acknowledge the amphibrach, given its relative rarity and the general lack of awareness of any meter, let alone triple meters. Dipodic meters are in a similar boat--very few people recognize or acknowledge them at the moment, and instead they hear, and label, dipodic poems as iambic or trochaic instead.\r

    BTW, I would call Blake's "Tyger" trochaic, and "Prufrock" free verse (though I have a chapter in The Ghost of Meter devoted to its many iambic lines). That's how I hear them best after many years thinking about it. But Robert Wallace would scan "The Tyger" as iambic, and "The Ruined Maid" too; he believed that iambic was the only meter in English. And of course the hardcore linguists are laughing at all of us, and not using any of these terms, and talking about weak and strong positions. Still, I find the traditional terms, including amphibrach, are useful for helping me hear the distinctive rhythm of a poem better, which is for me the point.

  52. May 12, 2009
     Colin Ward


    One question to ask would be whether any of these folks identity ANY passage of poetry as amphibrachic. \r

    I'm sure they do. Anyone who has read a limerick about a man from Nantucket knows amphibrachs exist. The issue in the hendecasyllabic lines of "The Ruined Maid" is the same as that which arises from "Tyger":\r

    "Tyger, tyger, burning bright"\r

    The question is how to resolve hypometric lines. To wit, is the syllable "missing" from the front of the line, in which case "Tyger" is iambic and "The Ruined Maid" anapestic, or "missing" from the end of the line, making "Tyger" trochaic and "The Ruined Maid" amphibrachic? \r

    If, as in the case of "The Ruined Maid", there are no "perfect"/prototype lines the issue can be resolved only by convention. It boils down to a simple question: Do we start our scan at the beginning or the end of a line? In another thread I mentioned the advantages of "back-scanning": lines of verse take a while to find their rhythm, making their ends more reliable than their beginnings, while pauses and rhymes (where present) will draw attention to the ends of lines. You seem unconvinced by the case for "back-scanning" so far. Fair enough.\r

    If there are perfect prototype lines there is really no room for debate. To wit:\r

    BTW, I would call Blake’s “Tyger” trochaic, \r

    "Tyger" has 14 hypometric (i.e. could be either trochaic or iambic) lines, SIX lines of perfect iambic tetrameter and ZERO lines of trochee.\r

    "Tyger" is clearly iambic just as Shakespeare's hypermetric "To be or not to be; that is the question" is iambic, and for the same reason.\r

    and “Prufrock” free verse \r

    This is perhaps the most compelling case for "back-scanning". "Front-scanners" will have a devil of a time getting past the copious anacrusis of "Prufrock" to see its heterometrical and hypermetrical nature. Indeed, on another forum one such reader kept us all in stitches trying to scan the anacrusis even after it was pointed out to him! \r

    If one can accept, even for a moment, the orthodoxy of "back-scanning", one can see "Prufrock" in an entirely new and wondrous light. Here, in a casual--casual, mind you!--conversation on Usenet, we see a partial scansion by the master, Peter John Ross: \r\r

    Amazing, no?

  53. May 12, 2009
     Joshua Weiner

    Yeah, you're right. What happens at the end of each line, though, it seems as if, because the last foot is iambic, the final amphibrac slides into an anapest. I love the triple feet here. All best.

  54. May 12, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Hi Colin,\r
    I'm a big believer in back-scanning but only when I'm not clear on how to scan a line that's in a metrical context I recognize. I wouldn't use backscanning to determine the overall meter of a poem--that seems counterintuitive to me; one of my favorite things about meter is its connection with common sense, and another is the way it makes it enjoyable to read poems aloud. So if you don't know what meter a line is in until the line is over, that violates both of those principles for me. \r

    I do know exactly how many iambic pentameters and other iambic lines are in Prufrock, because I scanned the entire poem just as your friend in the link was doing, and also the Quartets and The Wasteland, when I was writing the Eliot chapter of Ghost of Meter. And I agree, there are loads of iambs. But since there's no predictable "metrical contract" established by the poem--you can never predict what the meter of the next line will be--I would still call it free verse. \r


  55. May 12, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Yes, that iambic final foot is pretty common in amphibrachs. I learned that from a Russian scholar, and it solves a lot of scansion issues. The Russians know amphibrachs better than anyone because there is such a long, and central, tradition of amphibrachic poetry there.

  56. May 13, 2009
     Colin Ward


    I’m a big believer in back-scanning but only when I’m not clear on how to scan a line that’s in a metrical context I recognize. I wouldn’t use backscanning to determine the overall meter of a poem–that seems counterintuitive to me; \r

    It is counterintuitive, which is why most people start out as front-scanners. Once they consider the advantages of back-scanning, including its ease, reliability and the fact that complex metrical poems like Prufrock are clearly meant to be back-scanned, developing metricists will usually make the switch to orthodoxy. I concede that it takes a while to grok. \r

    This is hardly the only thing counterintuitive about verse, though. As you have no doubt experienced, more fundamental is the veridical paradox that perfect meter is rarely best. "How can perfect not be best? Isn't 'perfect' the definition of 'best'?" Gack!\r

    So if you don’t know what meter a line is in until the line is over, that violates both of those principles for me. \r

    It is a basic principle that no line should be scanned in isolation. In the case of hypometric and hypermetric lines, not only will we not know the exact meter when the line is over, we may not comprehend it until the stanza or even the poem is over--if then! This brings us full circle to the need for a conventional treatment of "unresolved" poems like "The Ruined Maid". \r

    But since there’s no predictable “metrical contract” established by the poem–you can never predict what the meter of the next line will be–I would still call it free verse. \r

    Interesting. Can you cite a definition of free verse that allows for [hetero]meter throughout, or a definition of meter that requires the predictability that you mention?\r

    As one more log to the fire, here is Jough Dempsey quoting Miller Williams:\r

    “Prufrock” is not written as free verse as is usually assumed, but:\r

    "...tightly metrical blank verse with the five-stress lines frequently broken into two and three feet or one and four feet, these scattered about the poem, and with scattered rhyme throughout, and the standard blank verse resolving device (as in Shakespeare’s scenes) of a terminal rhymed couplet."\r

    - Williams, Miller. “The Pleasures of Poetic Rhyme and Meter.” Writer’s Digest July 1996: 33-36, 49.\r

  57. May 13, 2009
     Don Share

    I’m not trying to threadcrap here, but I honestly thought that George Saintsbury’s doomed, cadaverous attempts at scanning famous poems taught us to be very wary of metrical gross anatomy!

  58. May 13, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Yes, as I said in my first comment on this topic above, "I am not one of those Saintsburyan people who loves to throw obscure feet into scansions seemingly just to make things more complicated." Occam's razor is needed in prosody perhaps more than anywhere!\r

    Colin, the "metrical contract" is a term of John Hollander's. It simply means that the reader builds up an expectation from the beginning of a poem as to what meter (or free verse) it will be in, and a poet who honors that contract throughout will have certain advantages in terms of affecting the reader.\r

    Leaving off the final unstressed syllable is a very common variation in trochaic verse. What you are calling hypometrical, I would call headless (acephalous) or footless (missing the final syllable). What you are calling hypermetrical, I would call an extra-syllable ending. I recognize both kinds of lines in all meters, not just in iambic.\r

    I assume that you are assuming all metrical lines are by default iambic. This is a common position, but one with which I happen to disagree, as to me it leads to contortions and feels too Saintsburyian. We don't have to agree. My own position is explained in an essay called "Metrical Diversity" that's been published in a few places.\r

    Thanks for the engaging discussion of prosody.

  59. May 13, 2009
     Colin Ward


    I assume that you are assuming all metrical lines are by default iambic \r

    No, I'm not. If I gave anyone this impression I apologize. I can assure you that if "Tyger" had 6 lines of trochee and zero lines of iambic I'd be saying it was trochaic. \r

    I confess I don't know what George Saintsbury has to do with this. I'm not adding syllables to the beginnings of lines any more than you are adding them to their ends. We're simply trying to see how hypometrical lines are resolved within the context of a poem and prosody standards. Of course, not all such resolutions will be as cut and dry as "Tyger".\r

    the reader builds up an expectation from the beginning of a poem as to what meter (or free verse) it will be in \r

    Understood. In the case of "Prufrock", though, Eliot obviously wants to avoid that "contract". He wants the poem to sound like the "rambling" of an old man; perfect, symmetrical or predictable meter would run counter to that goal. Instead, he surprises us with each line, all within its scrambled heterometrical structure. IMHO, this is a significant part of the beauty and innovation in "Prufrock". (It also explains its alleged role as "la Macheide" in debates over the subsequent decline of metrical work and study but we can leave that discussion for another day.)\r

    Notwithstanding Frost's efforts, it seems to me that there has been a trend in modern verse away from predictability in general. This was the case long before A. Michael Juster's first curgina or the advent of the DATIA. We've seen it in the move towards imperfect rhymes and less transparent rhyme schemes, the trend towards "rhyming at the limit of memory" rather than, say, heroic couplets, and the resurgence of hypometrical, hypermetrical and heterometrical verse.\r

    I trust we agree that Eliot expects scanners to begin at the ends of Prufrock's lines. To me, that speaks volumes.\r

    Thanks for the engaging discussion of prosody. \r

    You're welcome, Annie. Thanks for beginning it. I always enjoy your threads; you are among the few bloggers to address the elements of poetry. Not surprisingly, your bloggings are among the most informative and popular in terms of responses. Kudos!

  60. May 13, 2009
     thomas brady

    Sorry, Colin, I'm on Annie's side here:\r

    LET us/ GO THEN/ YOU and/ I (beat)\r
    WHEN the/ EVE-ning is /spread OUT/ a-gainst the SKY\r

    Prufrock's first two lines have every foot a poem can have.\r

    Trochee;dactyl;iamb;(quick) anapest\r

    It might help to see it this way:\r

    Lovely spheroid, lovely ball,\r
    Grab the thing as it rebounds against the wall.\r

    If that's iambic, trochaic does not exist and thus versification does not exist. \r

    Anacrusis is used at the start of a piece of music. Verse does not have the luxury of such a 'lead-in,' and you especially can't use anacrusis in line after line to utterly change the rhythm!\r


    The following is simply ridiculous:\r

    Let us go then, you and I, \r
    (iambic trimeter with anacrusis) \r
    When the evening is spread out against the sky \r
    (iambic pentameter with anacrusis) \r
    Like a patiient etherised upon a table; \r
    (iambic pentameter with anacrusis) \r
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, \r
    (iambic pentameter with anacrusis) \r
    The muttering retreats \r
    (iambic trimeter) \r
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels \r
    (iambic pentameter) \r
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells; \r
    (iambic pentameter) \r
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument \r
    (iambic pentameter with anacrusis) \r
    Of insidious intent \r
    (iambic trimeter with anacrusis) \r
    To lead you to an oberwhelming question... \r
    (iambic pentameter) \r
    Oh, do not ask, 'What is it?' \r
    (iambic trimeter with anacrusis) \r
    Let us go and make our visit. \r
    (iambic trimeter with anacrusis)\r

    But thanks for the laugh!\r


  61. May 13, 2009
     Gary B. Fitzgerald

    Thomas and Colin...round three. \r

    It's like deja vu all over again. :-)

  62. May 14, 2009
     Michael Gushue

    I'm hesitant to intrude on the erudition, but I'm surprised no one's mentioned the old chestnut (are there such things as new chestnuts) The Boys by O. W. Holmes. It's how anapests were drilled into me, and first two lines can be recalled at will.\r

    Has there any old fellow got mixed with the boys?\r
    If there has, take him out, without making a noise.\r

    Though the rest of the poem doesn't support it, I've always found these lines to be kind of creepy.

  63. May 15, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Nichael Gushue, Thank you! TI've read many fine anapestic riffs by the Fireside Poets this week, but this one by Holmes is quite a gem--creepy opening, yes, but an unusually self-consciously (ie self-awarely) masculine tribute to masculinity, leading up to quite the crescendo:\r

    Yes, we're boys, --always playing with tongue or with pen,--\r
    And I sometimes have asked,-- Shall we ever be men?\r
    Shall we always be youthful, and laughing, and gay,\r
    Till the last dear companion drops smiling away?\r

    Then here's to our boyhood, its gold and its gray!\r
    The stars of its winter, the dews of its May!\r
    And when we have done with our life-lasting toys,\r
    Dear Father, take care of thy children, THE BOYS!

  64. May 15, 2009
     Annie Finch

    Thank you Colin! I appreciate your saying so. It's a great community to be engaged in, and I'm continually delighted by things I learn and think about at Harriet.

  65. May 15, 2009
     thomas brady

    I really appreciate the discussion here. Metrical issues are crucial in poetry. \r

    The ubiquitous types of New Critical interpretation tend not to address the immediate impact a poem has on a reader. \r

    It is precisely this lack of immediacy which leaves the field wide open for the meddling pedant, the namby-pamby commentator, and a whole host of learned, self-important, and banal interpreters.\r

    I’m acting in a play currently, and during rehearsal the cast and director ponder all the layers of the script. This pondering is not an end-in-itself, but aims to enhance the immediacy of the performance which will occur in “real-time.”\r

    “Hello” can be spoken in a thousand different ways and convey almost as many moods. In contemporary drama, actors in rehearsal will play the New Critic to “hello.” \r

    Shakespeare’s lines--short on ordinary language and long on poetry--are profound enough to short-circuit the necessity (or luxury!) of layered interpretation.\r

    Actors back in Shakespeare’s day barely had time to memorize lines; pieces of the script were flung at the actor as they were written; we know this is how Shakespeare’s dramas were “published.” Shakespeare’s cunning language provided 'built-in performance’ for the actors who did not have time to think about performance. \r

    If a gesture, joke, word, speech, sign, or any interpretation of a play’s script are not understood by the audience in the 'real time’ of the performance, then that performance suffers. A post-mortem commentary cannot rescue the expression of the play itself.\r

    The expression of the poem itself has a 'real-time’ existence which will never be rescued by post-mortem commentary, especially in terms of popular, public reception. The public can be defined merely as the interested interpreter who is pressed for time, who tends to experience art in 'real-time.’ \r

    The metrical character of a poem is the soul of its performance, the soul of its 'real-time’ existence. Once imagistic, symbolic, philosophical interpretation commences, we are in a realm which is NOT necessarily interesting to the public. \r

    The pressed-for-time public lives in a 'real-time’ universe, not the one of pedantic post-mortem commentary.\r

    Poetry is not science or philosophy for the few. \r

    The public responds to temporal art in 'real-time.’\r

    Verse is 'real-time’ poetry. Verse is poetry’s art.

  66. May 15, 2009
     Michael Gushue

    De nada, Annie!\r

    I've enjoyed the discussion. I've been unable to poohpooh Holmes since reading Lewis Thomas describe The Deacon's Masterpiece as an image of living organisms, living cells, and the ideal death.

  67. May 15, 2009
     thomas brady


    Thanks for linking the entire Swinburne poem above.\r

    Swinburne's poetry always threatens to turn to stone. \r

    I find his tropes bizarre and his verse wooden.\r

    There ARE moments of beauty...\r

    I'm prejudiced by Poe, as you know, who felt it quixotic to write English like Greek. \r

    Poe felt poetry should be liquid and delicate, but also that it should sound like prose as much as possible, and that it should make sense.\r

    You should read Poe's review of Channing--Emerson's friend. It was this review that elicited Emerson's angry 'jingle man' remark.\r\r

    Here's just a sample:\r

    I hear thy solemn anthem fall, \r
    Of richest song, upon my ear, \r
    That clothes thee in thy golden pall, \r
    As this wide sun flows on the mere.\r

    Now let us translate this: He hears (Mr. Channing,) a solemn anthem, of richest song, fall upon his ear, and this anthem clothes the individual who sings it in that individual's golden pall, in the same manner that, or at the time when, the wide sun flows on the mere – which is all very delightful, no doubt. \r

    I can just imagine what Poe would have done with Swinburne!\r

    Thanks again, Annie!\r