The Prosody of Chaucer and His Followers: Supplementary Chapters to Verses of Cadence

The Prosody of Chaucer and His Followers: Supplementary Chapters to Verses of Cadence

The Prosody of Chaucer and His Followers: Supplementary Chapters to Verses of Cadence

The Prosody of Chaucer and His Followers: Supplementary Chapters to Verses of Cadence

Excerpt

Since writing Verses of Cadence I have learned much about the prosody of the Middle Ages which has thrown additional light upon the prosody of Chaucer, Hoccleve, Lydgate, and others. The chief benefit of my investigations has been the ability to give further evidence for the nature of Chaucer's prosody, a theory at which I had arrived as the result of a growing aesthetic dissatisfaction with the conventional way of reading him. I realize, too, that it was a partial theory and did not cover from the point of rhythm all the types of verse that Chaucer used. The prosody of the ABC exemplifies the real meaning of verses of cadence, that of Hous of Fame a modified one; and that for Troilus and Criseyde and the Canterbury Tales is essentially a rediscovery of a prosody (over-simplified though it had become) generally accepted until Child's 'Observations' began to exert its influence in the latter part of the 19th C.

Scholars have long been teased by Chaucer's statement:

To make songes / dytees bookys
In ryme or elles / in cadence
As thou best canst / in reverence
Of love / and of his servants eke
That have his servyse soght and seke . . . (622-626)

As the result of curiosity about this statement their scholarly investigations have thrown much light on the origins, meaning, and significance of cadence in medieval prose, and particularly that of Chaucer, but none on the meaning as applied to his poetry. I now realize that although Chaucer occasionally uses cadence in the Troilus and the Canterbury Tales, it is not in general the meaning of cadence as understood by the men of the Middle Ages. His prosody in these poems is an outgrowth of the original meaning of the term. And, strictly speaking, I was wrong to apply the term to those poems. The reason that scholars have failed to see the meaning of the term arises from their persistence in clinging to the iambic theory of his versification. The passage about cadence is itself an example of cadence. Line 615 is cursus trochaicus, 616 is cursus planus, 617, 618, 619 are cursus tardus.

There is nothing in the first three chapters of Verses of Cadence that I feel needs alteration. Their purpose was to show that the . . .

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