Accentual/syllabic metre

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Neville Briggs
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Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Neville Briggs » Mon Jan 10, 2011 4:15 pm

If anyone has seen Will Moody's comment on Collaborative Poem no 2, Cypress Ridge.
I heartily agree Will.

There is an insistence by some " authorities " in the bush poetry scene that metre in bush poetry must be accentual/syllabic.

I got bagged by a " judge " once because I wrote as trochaic tetrameter....
" more sophisticated offerings ...stolen hearts and minds away" I was told the metre was out. And again bagged for ....
" Bright red coats and royal blue trousers " supposedly metre is out.
The metre is not " out "

I think this approach is too narrow. Strict accentual/syllabic metre I feel is best used in short comedy pieces, when you see it applied to long narrative ballads it can make the verse very dreary.

Accentual verse is more flexible and expressive. And bush poets know this because I hear them doing it all the time in performance, but we go through this strange contortion that what passes in performance does not necessarily apply in written work
For the life of me, I CANNOT SEE WHY.

Anyway ...who has the authority to say what bush poetry must be ? What is the basis of the authority for those who say what bush poetry must be ?
I've often wondered.

And of course if anyone chooses to stick to accentual/syllabic..so be it, may they do well.

Neville
Last edited by Neville Briggs on Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Peely » Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:16 pm

G'day Neville

I know exactly what you are talking about. If you look at some examples of older poems, you might ask is the metre out in these? From "The Man from Snowy River":

But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay... (stressed syllables in bold for those that are unsure)

If you read the word power as I do (as two syllables) you might come to the conclusion that the metre is out. Another school of thought would say that Paterson has made an anapestic substitution here and that the metre is OK. When the poem is performed, it sounds fine.

Another example from Paterson:

And the hurrying people daunt me and their pallid faces haunt me...

Hurrying is clearly three syllables and is therefore a dactyllic substitution in an otherwise trochaic line. Again, when performed the line sounds fine.

The final two lines of Saltbush Bill are another good example:

And Saltbush Bill on the Overland will many a time recite
How the best day's work that he ever did was the day that he lost the fight

Both lines have seven feet (therefore seven stressed syllables). The feet that are used and the way that they are combined are different in both lines. The second last line is more predominantly iambic with the final line being more predominantly anapestic. When recited, both lines sound fine.

An example from Paterson that is worth a look that has much more variation than these is "Lost". Most of "Lost" is written in hexameter (he does slip into heptameter in a few lines if I remember correctly) but the lines are mostly written using different combinations of iambs and anapests. Compare the following two lines:

"He ought to be home," said the old man, "Without there's something amiss"
Though far and wide they sought him, they found not where he fell

The first is the opening line of the poem, the second is the opening line of the seventh stanza. In the first line, it is predominantly anapestic, the second is predominantly iambic. This is quite a popular poem for reciting purposes.

I have always found Paterson's "A Mylora Elopement" quite interesting as well. The poem changes structure several times (different metric structures and different rhyming) throughout but it is well worth a read.

Paterson was not the only poet that I have picked up on these things on either. I have seen examples in Lawson (but can't think of a title of a particular poem that illustrates this), CJ Dennis (Pitcher Show) and John O'Brien (Come Sing Australian Songs to Me). I can illustrate examples from these if anyone is interested.

It appears that some of these past masters of bush poetry were aware of what you are referring to anyway Neville.

Regards


John Peel
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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Neville Briggs » Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:54 pm

Thanks John,

What about Lawson's "Middleton's Rouseabout"

Tall and freckled and sandy
Face of a country lout
This was the picture of Andy
Middleton's rouseabout.

Does that scan ?

There was a large anthology of Australian Poetry published by a major publishing house recently. The only poem by Henry Lawson's to be included was Middleton's Rouseabout.
What do you think of that ?



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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Peely » Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:54 pm

G'day Neville

I scan it:

Tall and freckled and sandy
Face of a country lout
This was the picture of Andy
Middleton's rouseabout.

The a lines scan slightly differently to each other - the first begins with a trochae, the second with a dactyl. The b lines scan the same as each other.

You would think that Lawson would get much more coverage than only a single poem. But then again, if it has a major focus on modern poetry (particularly free verse), I would not be all that surprised. You would think that it might be something of his that is a little more popular if they were only going to run with one poem though. I am sure that if I started listing some of my favourite Lawson poems, they might not necessarily be other people's favourites.

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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by manfredvijars » Mon Jan 10, 2011 7:02 pm

In some words such as 'country' and 'lily', stresses can be pushed - Paterson, Lawson and others have done it, and some words such as 'power' and 'fire' can be treated as single or multiple stressed words.

There have been award winning poets who have had their work knocked back on what appears to be 'pedantic' pickings. That hasn't turned them into "complainers" against the genre saying the rules/definition should be changed to accomodate them. They went on to write excellent pieces, and continue to do so.

Maybe what needs to be asked is What are we writing for - I mean what are we REALLY writing for? Catharsis? Expression? Pleasure? Make a statement? Win competitions (appease judges)? Challenge judges in competitions? Change the definition of Bush Poetry? Make a difference in the world? Gain immortality? Or something else?

Might I suggest that we just write the best we can knowing it's a journey or a process in which we may get better over time?

Heather

Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Heather » Mon Jan 10, 2011 7:36 pm

Might I suggest that we just write the best we can knowing it's a journey or a process in which we may get better over time?
Wise words Manfred. Poetry, is a journey.

Heather

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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Zondrae » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:01 pm

may I add,

No matter how much longer I have left in which to write, I would not be so brazen as to compare myself with any of the old masters.

I do note however that the metre can be carried over more than one line.
That is line one with one pattern and line two with another as long as it is consistent from stanza to stanza. And then there is the pattern where one stanza is in one style and the next different. Then the third reverts to the same as the first and the fourth the same as the second. (A Song Of Rain CJ Dennis). Also, look as the way "The Faces In The Street" Lawson, sits on the page! Seven line stanzas with the fifth and sixth being very short. But again, consistent throughout the piece.

We should be released when we see such variety/ However, like learning a muscal instrument - we must become proficient with the basic (scales) before we attempt the symphony.
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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Maureen K Clifford » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:40 pm

Geez after reading Peely and Nevilles post I thought I might take up ballet dancing as I don't have the seven feet required for this lark and don't have the energy any more to run any number of syllabic metres - get puffed going up and down the stairs these days. :lol:
I do have webbed feet however so thought that perhaps Swan Lake could be my forte and hopefully not my Swan song as the rivers rise :lol: :lol:

As for the anipestic substitution I am completely out of antipasto but do have a good supply of cheese an crackers if anyone is hungry also some peanuts.

Cheers

Maureen
Last edited by Maureen K Clifford on Mon Jan 10, 2011 9:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Heather

Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Heather » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:48 pm

Maureen you crack me up so much! :lol: Dancing with webbed feet, now that should be a sight! Cheese and crackers would be grand thanks Mauzzie. :D

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Re: Accentual/syllabic metre

Post by Maureen K Clifford » Mon Jan 10, 2011 9:06 pm

You're most welcome Heather - any one else like a little whine? :?

Cheers

Maureen
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I may not always succeed in making a difference, but I will go to my grave knowing I at least tried.

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