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But hav- ing not paused there, we are likely to experience the need to pause in line 4 as almost physiological. Each of these two statements about the villagers buried in the churchyard opens with a modify- ing phrase and then proceeds to subject and predicate. The second sentence sounds so much like the first as to seem merely a reassuring restatement of it. The couplet version of these four lines still comprises three sentences, but the sentences now seem more detached from each other.

Stanzaic poems 85 No one sings in pentameter, nor even very easily in uninterrupted tetram- eter. The heroic quatrain is well suited for slow speech, its long lines bending toward dramatic utterance. Long meter sometimes moves more rapidly than pentameter, but it tends to work well in deliberative, meditative contexts. At both ends of our period Isaac Watts and William Cowper contribute scores of fine hymns in common meter to English poetry and English piety. But common meter can readily sing another tune when out of church. In fact, the term ballad stanza is sometimes used interchangeably with common meter, but it may also refer spe- cifically to the variant of common meter with the rhyme scheme abcb.

In this looser form it appears less frequently in literary poetry than in the oral trad- ition. In all of these cases the closure of the quatrain is emphatic and signifi- cant. The 28 syllables of common meter quatrains 8—6—8—6 , the 32 syllables of long meter quatrains 8—8—8—8 , or the 40 syllables of heroic quatrains 10—10—10—10 become clear-cut blocks of meaning. Considering couplets in Chapter 2, we saw the importance of being alert simultaneously to the larger unit, the verse paragraph, which may vary greatly in length according to sense and syntax.

But in stanzaic poetry there is typically no intermediate larger unit between the rhymed section and the whole poem. The stanza, so to speak, is the verse paragraph. Short observations on longer stanzas Discussion of eighteenth-century odes often leads to technical considerations of Greek and Roman practices that are unlikely to be of much help or inter- est to the modern reader not already familiar with Pindar and Horace.

But chiefly, a twenty-first-century reader needs to understand that the loft- ier odes of the eighteenth century were often associated with sublimity, diffi- culty, abrupt or absent transitions, and distance from ordinary speech. Greek odes were composed for choral performance, probably closer to chanting than actual singing but conspicuously stylized and unconversational. What we may miss is that the elaborate stanzas tended to announce themselves to eighteenth-century readers as public, ceremonial poetry.

Stanzaic poems 87 As the ode illustrates, a stanzaic form can operate as much through the expectations it arouses in its historical context as through intrinsic properties. The Spenserian stanza is an interesting case in point. The form was so fully identified with Spenser by the eighteenth century that any poet adopting it immediately announced that he was writing in imitation of The Faerie Queen —6.


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Spenser was much admired in the period, not only by mid-eighteenth-century poets such as Thomas Warton, who in The Pleasures of Melancholy praised him in opposition to Pope, but also by Pope himself. Still, his archaic poetic diction — self-consciously antique even in the s — had come to seem somewhat quaint by the eighteenth century, and to adopt his stanza was usually to adopt the language of his romance, with some humorous sense of incongruity or displacement.

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Interestingly, this is a decidedly historical development, which seems not to have yet occurred in the middle of the seventeenth century when Sir Richard Fanshawe published his Canto of the Progresse of Learning in Spenser- ian stanzas. Eliot would two centuries later in The Waste Land, to help construct an ironic urban realism. The effect is not really one of parody so much as contrast and dialogue, between poetries of pastoral innocence and polluted experience. The simplicity and innocence that came to be imputed to Spenser despite his obvious sophistication as poet and political figure could be invoked through imitation in the service of nostalgia, quaintness, and mild comedy.

A Poem. If we are predisposed toward certain ways of reading when we see a poem in ballad form, it is not because the ballad stanza must carry only certain kinds of poetic experience but because we have read or heard many ballads that share certain subjects and moods.


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  8. These are matters of convention, not brain circuitry. When a stanza is not so commonly used as to convey any particular expectations, we may respond in very different ways to the same form. One set of examples may illustrate the point. An Ode.

    Twentieth-Century English Literature

    It is hard to imagine an epistolary or didactic poem, for example, succeeding in this lyric stanza, just as it is hard to envision a non-parodic blank verse satire. But the range of possibilities within a given form is always broader than the experience of a few poems would suggest. Satiric poetry is most usefully seen as part of a poetic continuum. Rosenheim, Jr. We can get only so far with the distinction that a mode is a manner or attitude as we might speak of a satiric tone, for instance , while a genre is a distinct kind of literature, usually with recognizable formal features prose narrative, say.

    In many cases, the boundaries between tone, subject matter, and even medium can blur. This reorientation has the advantage of recognizing the social dimension of literary experience: the person picking up a comedy or a detective story brings to the experience expectations and kinds of attention that have been learned culturally — from others and through time. No reader is an island, and eighteenth-century read- ers came to poems, including satiric poems, with historically shaped generic expectations. The branch of satiric poetry that is its own genre is for- mal verse satire, largely a Roman invention.


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    This is the kind of writing the Roman rhetorician Quintilian c. Their poems are usually in the first person, combining exposition and episode. Such narrative as they contain is anecdotal rather than sustained. The first-person speaker of these works is better regarded performatively than confessionally, a persona rather than a strictly autobiographical subject.

    By the beginning of the eighteenth century Hor- ace and Juvenal had been translated and imitated several times, and Dryden and others had written thoughtful criticism distinguishing their voices and themes, thus helping promote formal verse satire to a higher literary status than it enjoyed in the Renaissance. We find satires that are like epics, like pastoral eclogues, like georgics, adopting parodically the kinds of diction and conventions appropriate to the other genres. They may contain more sustained narrative, and the first-person speaker tends to disappear or greatly recede.

    The two greatest narrative poetic satires of the period are The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad, both mock-heroics. Since I discuss these poems at some length elsewhere in this book, this chapter will concentrate on the particular eighteenth-century achievement of first-person satiric poetry. Juvenal is of a more vigorous and masculine wit; he gives me as much pleasure as I can bear.

    But this contrast represents both authors at their extremes, as many writers recognized, and modern classicists still debate how to read the tone of these satirists. The Horatian stance was by far the more popular, but Juvenal was, as we will see, an important model for Johnson, Charles Church- ill, and William Cowper. The Universal Passion. In Seven Characteristical Satires.

    About this book

    Most use fictional, generic names and depict foolish rather than vicious behavior. Epictetus was a Stoic philosopher, Jacob Tonson a leading London book publisher. With what, O Codrus!

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    The flower of learning, and the bloom of wit. Thy gaudy shelves crimson bindings glow, And Epictetus is a perfect beau. How fit for thee, bound up in crimson too, Gilt, and, like them, devoted to the view! Thy books are furniture. Know, Fame and Fortune both are made of prose.

    Is thy ambition sweating for a rhyme, Thou unambitious fool, at this late time? Be wise with speed; A fool at forty is a fool indeed. On Fame and deepens the wit of self-implication. What can I do? The poem ends with some of those neighboring women visiting Leapor and asking to read her work in manuscript — for want of some- thing better to do on a rainy day. Again, the speaker who is able to recognize her own comic role automatically assumes more reliability than the characters around her who lack perspective and any capacity for irony.

    Here is Creech: [P. What shall I do Trebatius? There are I scarce can think it, but am told There are to whom my Satire seems too bold, Scarce to wise Peter complaisant enough, And something said of Chartres much too rough. Not write? You could not do a worse thing for your Life. But talk with Celsus, Celsus may advise Hartshorn, or something that shall close your Eyes. Pope imagines more detailed prescriptions, including sexual intercourse with a wife rather than simply get- ting tired Creech or swimming the Tiber Horace for calming the sleep- less body.

    That mock prescription fits the unmarried Pope, as, with varying degrees of irony, do the jokes about being in awe of the rich Pope had several aristocratic friends all his life , not paying his lawyer the old friend Fortescue is being paid in verse , and nodding in company during the day Pope report- edly dozed off once while speaking with the Prince of Wales.

    In the Horatian formal verse satire Pope finds a means of combining gen- ial self-characterization, ethical conversation, and social engagement. Imitat- ing freely and usually expanding the Horatian originals by half or more, Pope invokes the weight of classical tradition even while writing poems dense with contemporaneity.

    About this book

    This rhetorical position has great potential strength. The poet can persuade both because he is following a revered classical author and because he is not. He is reliable, in other words, as one who senses strongly the force of both tradition and change.