The Founding of English Metre

The Founding of English Metre

The Founding of English Metre

The Founding of English Metre

Excerpt

This is not, I fear, a comfortable study. Its intentions and its methods are extreme. Its general purpose could scarcely be larger: to explain what metre is, why it exists, and how metre has developed in English literature. Its method is as narrow as can be: to examine in detail specimens of the verse of the one short crucial period of English poetry.

The six chapters trace the development of the iambic line in English fromTottel's Miscellany to Astrophel and Stella. There is a considerable literature on this subject, and the general course of the development seems agreed upon: the iambic line goes from a vigorous and disorderly beginning through a dull stretch to a vigorous and triumphant realization. It is not to revise this broad judgement that I write, nor do I make use of any new materials. Rather I intend to explain the development, that is, to show how and why it took place in each of its major stages in accordance with a developing contemporary body of expressed and unexpressed principles of metre.

The possibility of a new and more exact analysis of these things is suggested by certain discoveries of recent structural linguistics. I am not trained in the discipline of this science; I have only borrowed from it the materials for a theory of metre that allows metrical problems to be seen with reasonable strictness on their three levels, as metrical pattern, as the language of speech, and as the actual line of the poem. And I have adopted some of the linguists' simpler descriptive techniques in the interests of accuracy. An explanation of this metrical theory and of its use makes up the main body of this introduction.

The literary materials of the study are chosen from the works of the poets and the collections of poetry that were regarded in their own day and have been regarded since as the most important of the period for their contribution to literature. These include, of course, writers who were competent or outstanding in their metrical practice but exclude those like Thomas Tusser whose works provide chiefly . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.