ON FREE VERSE.

Anatoly has a thought-provoking post today that I thought I’d translate and bring to the attention of those who don’t read Russian:

It sometimes happens that a field of study arises and organizes itself around some big problem, standing before it unignorable and demanding to be solved. It seems to me that such a thing happened, say, in linguistics. After European scholars realized the similarity of Sanskrit to Ancient Greek and Latin, it was soon understood that there was a Problem involved with explaining such coincidences, and in general with the systematic working out of the theory of the relationship and development of languages. Almost all the development of linguistics in the 19th century can be understood as an attempt to refine and solve this problem.
There is just such a Problem standing before scholars of literature, a large and natural one: to explain the transition of almost all world poetry to free verse during the 20th century. The rare exceptions—Russian poetry being one of them—do not abolish the rule. These developments took place at different times in different languages and cultures, but gradually all of them converged and arrived during the second half of the century at the same destination: what Gasparov called “international free verse.”
What was in the air in the 20th century to make free verse so attractive to authors and readers that was not in the air in, for example, the 19th? I have found nothing but generalities on this subject. And yet this Problem has the advantage that everything took place recently, and the articles, letters, manifests, and memoirs are still preserved, as are some of the participants. It may be that a convincing and interesting answer to this question requires the creation of new words and new sorts of explanation. It’s certainly better than dancing a ring-dance around the corpse of poststructuralism, or whatever it’s currently popular to occupy oneself with.

Anyone have any ideas, or know of any studies on the topic?


Incidentally, Anatoly’s current blog title, снег мрамор дерево спасибо, is the last line of a wonderful Lev Losev poem about Brodsky that I’d love to translate someday; I’ll post it here for those of you who read Russian (мильтон is a slang term for ‘policeman, cop,’ something of which I had been unaware myself—anyone know the etymology?):

ИОСИФ БРОДСКИЙ, ИЛИ ОДА НА 1957 ГОД
Хотелось бы поесть борща
и что-то сделать сообща:
пойти на улицу с плакатом,
напиться, подписать протест,
уехать прочь из этих мест
и дверью хлопнуть. Да куда там.
Не то что держат взаперти,
а просто некуда идти:
в кино ремонт, а в бане были.
На перекресток — обонять
бензин, болтаться, обгонять
толпу, себя, автомобили.
Фонарь трясется на столбе,
двоит, троит друзей в толпе:
тот — лирик в форме заявлений,
тот — мастер петь обиняком,
а тот — гуляет бедняком,
подъяв кулак, что твой Евгений.
Родимых улиц шумный крест
венчают храмы этих мест.
Два — в память воинских событий.
Что моряков, что пушкарей,
чугунных пушек, якорей,
мечей, цепей, кровопролитий!
А третий, главный, храм, увы,
златой лишился головы,
зато одет в гранитный китель.
Там в окнах никогда не спят,
и тех, кто нынче там распят,
не посещает небожитель.
«Голым-гола ночная мгла».
Толпа к собору притекла,
и ночь, с востока начиная,
задёргала колокола,
и от своих свечей зажгла
сердца мистерия ночная.
Дохлёбан борщ, а каша не
доедена, но уж кашне
мать поправляет на подростке.
Свистит мильтон. Звонит звонарь.
Но главное — шумит словарь,
словарь шумит на перекрестке.
душа крест человек чело
век вещь пространство ничего
сад воздух время море рыба
чернила пыль пол потолок
бумага мышь мысль мотылек
снег мрамор дерево спасибо

Comments

  1. John Emerson says:

    Off the top of my head: a lot European poetry followed French poetry during the 19th century, and the French were tired of the alexandrine, which they found constricting. Baudelaire and Hugo pushed the alexandrine to the limit, leaving not much for others to do except be second rate Hugos, Baudelaire’s, Racines, etc.
    The 19th century was also a time of conscious modernism and revolution, and the classic forms didn’t seem to fit that. Baudelaire played the pure form and impure content game to the limit, though Gide, Genet, and other picked it up in prose.
    There were precursors in the 19thc ike Whitman, Ossian, Aloysius Bertrand, Rimbaud, etc., and in a different way, Emily Dickinson.
    There are a lot of variables: rhyme, regular meter, and regular form. Free verse ispenses with all, though rhyme and meter sometimes slip in as flavorings.
    I also think, re modernism, that poetry before 1900 tended to be an integral part of the aristocratic world a world of elegance and order, whereas by the 19th c. poetry had lost its aristocratic functions and lived in a very different world.

  2. Re мильтон – I know this word from jokes and I’ve always assumed it’s derived from милиция / милиционер.

  3. Obviously, milton < milicioner.

  4. Ah, yes, of course it must be from милиционер—thanks, guys!

  5. and in a different way, Emily Dickinson.
    Emily Dickinson?! “In a different way” meaning “not at all”?
    Aside from that, your theory makes sense for French, but a lot of French fads stay in France, and there seems no a priori reason why this one should have conquered the world. (I wouldn’t call Whitman and Ossian “free verse” so much as imitations of Biblical style; not much 20th-century free verse resembles them.)

  6. John Emerson says:

    Dickinson’s meters and forms are very peculiar, as I remember. I’ll have to look again. As with Whitman and Ossian, it seems to have been a movement away from the neat forms which were becoming tedious (not just rhyme).
    The influence of French poetry was strong in a lot of countries, if I’m not mistaken. (“Paris, Capital of the 19th Century”). Everyone seemed to come to Paris at some point, even the stodgy Norse.
    I think that the transition is visible in Ezra Pound’s career. Some of his early stuff seems almost pre-Raphaelite, Edwardian, or Georgian, but the traditionalism of the forms in those styles makes them hard for me to read. I’m not a great Pound fan, but his early things seem to have a freshness that the others don’t have, despite common themes. (Pound is mostly “free verse” for the purposes of this argument, though a lot of it was in attempts at quantitative meter, etc.)
    I am a sort of a specimen of the transformation, because starting about 1880, to me rhymed verse sounds increasingly tedious by the decade.

  7. A chapter in a forthcoming book by Mikhail Gronas addresses precisely this question -
    http://www.amazon.ca/Cognitive-Poetics-Cultural-Memory-Mnemonics/dp/toc/0415997372

  8. I thought conventional wisdom had it that all of Emily Dickinson’s poetry could be sung to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” (or, to put it more technically, that it’s basically all ballad stanzas).

  9. John Emerson says:

    I was told that it was the theme to “Mr. Ed”. Probably Dickinson should be removed from my list.

  10. In a word: boredom.
    In another word: excitement.
    Though the question might be rephrased as: why such boredom, why such excitement, at such a time?
    Well, how about considering: where (italics) such boredom, where such excitement?
    And by “where” – not in which countries, but where, exactly, in those countries?
    In the cities.
    Free verse happened in cities.
    Could only have happened in cities?
    Well, where else the boredom, where else the excitement? The special boredom and excitement, that is, that characterise the pioneers of FV.
    By boredom we might say frustration at the inability or unwillingness of traditional poetic forms to describe, to resemble what was before them in the city.
    By excitement, the inspiration provided by the city. An inspiration that was the product of technological advances – advances that showed themselves in machines, buildings, clothes, consumer products. To that list must be added: forms of being; forms of consciousness. In short, new social arrangements, new social content, and so new ways of being.
    The city of the late 19th/ early 20th centuries exceeded, here, there, everywhere, the poetry of the 19th and before.
    For the history and origins of free verse look at the story of the city, the stories of the cities, the great cities of Modernism.
    There is more to say here.

  11. Roger Depledge says:

    Roger Scruton (1999) claims

    This fear of kitsch was one of the motives behind modernism in the arts. Tonal music, figurative painting, rhyming and regular verse—all seemed, at the time of the modernist experiments, to have exhausted their capacity for sincere emotional expression. To use the traditional idioms was to betray the higher life—which is why Clement Greenberg told his readers that there was, between abstract art and kitsch, no third way.

  12. A very interesting question… two wild guesses:
    1) Corresponding general upward trends in literacy and book publishing meant more people could read poetry for themselves instead of having to hear (or overhear) it being recited, whether at a casual gathering or at some event. A listening audience required poetry to be more amenable to the ear’s memory. (As far as I’ve ever been taught, a big part of early oral verse’s status was as a test of and testament to memory). The aural forms of meter and rhyme therefore became less significant, not necessarily because of aesthetic concerns but because their mnemonic effects became more evident and glared of didacticism to those who had moved on from heard-poetry to read-poetry. A more cynical version of this would be that rhyme and meter could have been a kind of defense-mechanism or intimidation-act of heard-poetry — that it is a way to say this is an act that not just anyone can do — and that this sense of exclusivity similarly moved from aural formulae to visual ones.
    – or –
    2) That the change wasn’t the result of differentiation between heard- and read-poetry but between poetry and popular music. I do not have a great knowledge of the history, but I believe that “folk” or “popular” music began to contend much more heavily with “classical” music towards the end of the 19th century — and once recording technology came about, the change was cemented. This is mostly speculation, but I would say that as this kind of music saturated the culture, it’s characteristic use of rhyme and meter began to crowd poetry out from using the same devices without begging comparison. (Why we can say “every” Emily Dickinson poem is sung to the same tune and why that seems like a fact we should hide if we want to take her seriously). So as rhyme and meter became the dominion of popular music in the public’s mind (or ear), poetry was pushed into free verse. Kind of funny how this would mean that our sense of “aristocracy” is flipped in this scenario: controlled and formal poetry is considered “aristocratic” and free verse “free,” but formalized songs are considered “folk” or “popular” and less structured (or less familiarly structured) songs are considered “operatic,” at least in popular usage today, which I think is just a nice way of saying “aristocratic” or “un-folk.”
    Anyhow, those are two completely speculative theories, which I doubt are 100% on the mark, but at least I believe they account for the fact of the global-ness of these changes. Literacy, publishing, popular music, and recording technology all seem to advance significantly worldwide during this time period.

  13. rootlesscosmo says:

    It would probably be worth while to examine just where and when rhymed, metered verse became the predominant sort, where it did. (I have no idea whether Japanese poetry obeys anything like the rules of pre-Modern English verse.) Did both constraints arrive (in a given language’s poetic practice) at about the same time? Were they demonstrably in imitation of an admired older model, say Homer or Horace? I’m wondering, in short, whether the conventions the Modernists overthrew might not themselves have been a departure from a much longer, more widespread tradition.
    Also: malt certainly does more than any policeman can to justify God’s ways to man.

  14. Seems like a reasonably close parallel to the abandonment of traditional tonal and/or rhythmic structures in much 20th century classical music.
    Interestingly, Soviet composers like Prokofiev and Shostakovich were some of the most prominent to resist this trend. (But Stravinsky, who lived in the West, exemplified it for much of his career).
    Was there any divide between Soviet poets and exiled/expatriate Russian poets in terms of the style of their verse?

  15. Dickinson is willing to sacrifice every other matter of form to rhyme and scansion, including the actual grammar of her language. She writes things like “I lost a world the other day / Has anybody found?” In the English language, Miss D., we do not use “found” without an object. So I think “in a different way” is just right.
    There is also “patterned free verse”, like Amy Lowell’s “Patterns”. Each line belongs to one of only a few metrical patterns, and there is a pattern to how they are used and to the rhymes, but it is not a rigid pattern — which is the point of the poem’s content. As a whole the poem is the most perfect merger of form and content I can imagine. No other form would have done for this content; no other content would have so perfectly fitted this form.

  16. Everyone seemed to come to Paris at some point, even the stodgy Norse.
    Monet came to Norway. Painted a bridge in Sandvika.
    Roger Scruton (1999) claims
    This fear of kitsch was one of the motives behind modernism in the arts.

    Although he’s a good explainer of philosophy I wouldn’t trust Roger Scruton on the visual arts, if I were you. There’s nothing remarkable about the rest of the quotation and I don’t know what “This fear of kitch” refers to, but Scruton is way too conservative (with a big & small C) to be able to write about modern or postmodern art in any meaningful way.

  17. Pound is mostly “free verse” for the purposes of this argument
    He wouldn’t agree with you. As his pal Eliot wrote, “No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job.” Pound’s verse, while breaking free of the traditional rhymed iambics, is very carefully measured. I agree, though, that’s it’s an important station along the way to “scribble down any old bunch of words, arrange it in lines of irregular length, and presto: a poem!”
    David F.: Your suggestions are interesting, but any general theory has to be able to account for why Russian poetry, subject to similar conditions of rising literacy, staunchly resisted the trend (it’s amusing to see commenters at Anatoly’s blog saying they never heard of free verse until now, and don’t understand what makes it poetry: that sort of ignorance has been impossible in most of the rest of the world for the better part of a century now).

  18. David F: our sense of “aristocracy” is flipped in this scenario: controlled and formal poetry is considered “aristocratic” and free verse “free,” but formalized songs are considered “folk” or “popular” and less structured (or less familiarly structured) songs are considered “operatic,”
    What about Shakespeare? Didn’t his aristocrats speak in rhyme and his commoners speak prose?

  19. Dave Lovely says:

    “William Carlos Williams (in “Dangerous Calamus Emotions”) [says:]
    him and that Jesuit, them with the variable feet —
    they changed it!
    Walt Whitman, he means, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.”
    Guy Davenport, writing about Jonathan Williams (from Jacket 38)

  20. Dave Lovely says:

    …incidentally, hat, I hate to tell you this, but there are still quite a lot of people who don’t understand what makes free verse poetry: ‘poetry’ isn’t poetry unless it rhymes is still a pretty standard view

  21. John Emerson says:

    Thank you, John Cowan, But I think I’m wrong.

  22. I think there’s one good for free verse’s popularity in english – the small market for poetry leading to a situation were poets write for other poets.
    In other words, poetry is what writers who call themselves poets write.

  23. Russian hasn’t submitted to free verse because it hasn’t exhausted the possibilities of normal verse. Russian’s declensions give the possibility of rhyming a greater variety of different word types together, making the verse more flexible.
    “Was there any divide between Soviet poets and exiled/expatriate Russian poets in terms of the style of their verse?”
    You’ll probably find that post 1930 soviet poetry is similar to emigre poetry except for subject matter. Before that, there wouldn’t have been must expirementation in emigre writing in general as this would have aligned them with the revolution as a large number of the prominent innovators in verse were supportive of the revolution or just left of the general emigre community.
    PS how do you get the quotes from previous posts to come out in italics?

  24. Dickinson is willing to sacrifice every other matter of form to rhyme and scansion, including the actual grammar of her language.

    Here’s the second stanza (of two) of the poem (# 181) that is offered as exemplifying this ‘willingness to sacrifice’:
    A Rich man – might not notice it -
    Yet – to my frugal Eye,
    Of more Esteem than Ducats -
    Oh find it – Sir – for me!
    This stanzaic metrical scheme is sometimes called the Ballad. Its stanza is composed of two couplets, each having a first line of four iambs, followed by one of three iambs:
    da da da da da da da da
    da da da da da da
    The third line in the stanza above scans (well, ‘fails’ to scan):
    Of more esteem than Ducats [??] -
    Also, the two couplets end-rhyme “Eye” with “me” (you see the pun; it’s a poem about loss and grief) – well, ‘fail’ to rhyme.
    Many (maybe most) of Dickinson’s many, many poems are ‘ballads’, at least from the textbook-of-meter slant, but, as in # 181, she puts “rhyme and scansion” at play frequently — not ‘sacrificing’ them, but rather building their anticipations into the surprise bursting her poems – and their attentive readers.

    And Dickinson never ‘sacrifices’ “the actual grammar of her language” (“actual”?). Rather, correct grammar is, for her, ‘correct’ in the sense that it’s something ‘upright’ against which to slant.
    For example, an objectless transitive verb, like ‘to find’, might be an invitation to wonder about cause-and-effect in the case of that action.
    It must also be noted that the verb ‘to found’ – also a transitive verb, to be sure – is probably ‘in’ # 181, especially in relation to what ‘Somebody’ could ‘find’/”found”: “a World”.

  25. Yikes. Apologies for the extended boldfaced stream of words; that emboldened print was meant to end after and only to include the word “frequently”. Correctable, [Ed.]?

  26. [ahem] I should have written “that emboldening of print”. Eh, bah.

  27. there are still quite a lot of people who don’t understand what makes free verse poetry: ‘poetry’ isn’t poetry unless it rhymes is still a pretty standard view
    Oh, sure; it’s the never having encountered the concept of free verse that amused me.
    deadgod: done!

  28. keith100: PS how do you get the quotes from previous posts to come out in italics?
    With HTML code, like this: <i>PS how do you get the quotes from previous posts to come out in italics?</i>

  29. I would suggest that the spread of literacy and of the average person coming to read as a form of recreation might have something to do with it. The patterned form of poetry has it’s origins in the traditional bardic epic storytelling of oral cultures as a memory aid and survives today in nursery rhymes.
    As the majority of people in society became literate to a decent degree the social need for the strict rhythmic pattern disappeared.

  30. I wrote some of my ideas here
    http://shkrobius.livejournal.com/183557.html
    A reasonable question to ask before answering the puzzle is how and why did Europeans start to rhyme. Rhyming is not European tradition, it was learned from the Chinese via Persians and Arabs, and it was introduced pretty late in the game. If we look objectively, rhyming is as artificial as Leonine verse and similar word games; one can argue(following Milton) that such games belittle true poetry. It is said that it helps to memorize, but the Greeks remembered Iliad without its assistance. The only use of rhyming I can see is slowing down the change of language itself: the poem is struggling to last a bit longer by enforcing meaning, pronounciation, and spelling of the vernacular. This explains why Russians stick to rhyme: their poets view themselves as prophets talking to posterity. The posterity must be speaking “their” Russian to fully appreciate their poems. And they did succeed.

  31. снег мрамор дерево спасибо, is very much like Blok’s famous
    Ночь. Улица. Фонарь. Аптека.
    Blok wrote much of his poetry in free verse.
    This is not to argue with Anatoly’s point about Russian poetry being an exception in the world of vers libre, but just to be fair: there has been a lot of experimentation in Russian
    literature with free verse. Gogol’s Dead Souls (1842) is a poem in prose, much admired by Andrei Bely (himself a free verser) and Nabokov. Turgenev wrote a beautiful series of ‘poems in prose’(1870-80s). Khlebnikov’s poems are often in vers libre. There was a group of poets in 1920s calling themselves ‘nichevoki’ (nothingers) who only used nouns in nominative in their poems. Modern poets often write in free verse.

  32. dancing a ring-dance
    is it the same as a round-dance?

  33. rootlesscosmo:
    Japanese poetry

    is translated both into English and Russian in vers libre:
    On the white sand
    Of the beach of a small isle
    In the Eastern Sea
    I, my face streaked with tears
    Am playing with a crab.
    На песчаном белом берегу
    Островка
    В восточном океане
    Я, не отирая влажных глаз,
    с маленьким играю крабом.

  34. One could smooth out the meter a bit, in this way:
    On the white beach
    Of an island
    In the Eastern Sea
    I, face streaked with tears,
    Play with a crab.

  35. What’s the meter of badminton? There’s a hard one, friends. Poink, poink, poink. “break, break, break, / On thy cold gray stones O Sea.” A momosyllabic meter. And tennis? Tennis is a slow duple meter. Papoink, papoink, papoink, “Two roads–diverged–in a yell–ow wood.” Hm. “yellow” doesn’t work. Fault–thirty love. Love means nothing in tennis, as you know. Frost said that free verse was like playing tennis without a net. Lawn Tennyson. Marianne Moore was a lifelong tennis player but not a good meterist. She had a pet crow and she circled her rhyme words with ifferent colored pencils. Mina loy once said, Imagine a tennis player who wrote poems. “Would not his meter depend on his way of life?”

    Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist

  36. d
    Loy

  37. mollymooly says:

    Painting was changed by the photograph, music by the phonograph, plays by the kinematograph.
    I can’t think of any similar technological innovation changing poetry. Unless it somehow relates to the abandonment of the elevated declamatory style of public speaking, which was hit by radio broadcasting: has that happened in many languages; and has it happened less in Russian than other languages?

  38. Japanese poetry:
    Japanese poetry did not rhyme, but it was rigidly defined in terms of numbers of syllables per line (5-7-5 etc).
    Free verse was an import from the West in the 20th century. Modern poetry and traditional forms like haiku and tanka/waka occupy two totally separate worlds in Japan. There is virtually no overlap. And, if my memory serves me correctly, there is no word for “poetry” in general in Japanese. The normal equivalent to “poetry” or “poem” is 詩 shi, but neither haiku nor waka is ever described as 詩 shi. 詩 shi is reserved for Chinese-language poetry (漢詩 kanshi) and Western-style poetry.

  39. Blok wrote much of his poetry in free verse.
    Come, come. I know of two poems of his in free verse; there may be a few more, but if you flip through a collection of his at random you will be extremely unlikely to come across them. And the same is true for Russian poetry in general, even 20th-century poetry. I take your point that the phenomenon exists in Russian, but it would be simply false to claim that the situation is in any way parallel.
    And surely you are not suggesting that “Ночь. Улица. Фонарь. Аптека” is in any way free verse; that’s as bad as JE’s suggesting the same about Emily Dickinson. To refresh your memory, here’s the first stanza:
    Ночь, улица, фонарь, аптека,
    Бессмысленный и тусклый свет.
    Живи ещё хоть четверть века —
    Всё будет так. Исхода нет.
    If that’s free verse, then all verse is free.

  40. A momosyllabic meter
    Used by mothers or by the Knights of Momus?
    I, face streaked with tears,
    Play with a crab.

    Badminton or tennis?

  41. And if I may say so, there’s no need to cry just because you’re losing to a crab. Crabs have been around longer than people; they have experience as well as extra limbs.

  42. I like John Emerson’s explanation the best. Much of the general stuff written above is good at explaining why the world may have been ripe for accepting the new fashion, but the idea that it originated in a particular highly influential tradition makes more sense than saying that it “spontaneously” erupted all around the world.
    One might equally ask why Western musical scales have become dominant around the world as opposed to traditional scales found in Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, African, or American Indian music. I think the answer lies in the spread of Western culture as a part of pervasive Western influence around the world, not in some coincidental “convergence”.

  43. Badminton or tennis?
    Well, alright, what about:
    I, face streaked with tears,
    Toy with a crab.

    Of course, no reason has been adumbrated for the tears. I have one:
    I, face streaked with tears,
    Scratch at a crab.

  44. A momosyllabic meter
    Used by the Knights of Momus?

    Brilliant. I’m glad someone spotted my, er, deliberate mistake.

  45. A momosyllabic meter
    Used by the Knights of Momus?

    Brilliant. I’m glad someone spotted my, er, deliberate mistake.

  46. And there’s no such thing as a free verse (when all around me are enjambed).

  47. And there’s no such thing as a free verse (when all around me are enjambed).

  48. Verse is born free, but everywhere it is enjambed.

  49. Verse is born free, but everywhere it is enjambed.

  50. shi is reserved for Chinese-language poetry (漢詩 kanshi) and Western-style poetry.
    why Western musical scales have become dominant around the world
    everybody sees what one wants to see, i always thought that European music and if to think about it free verse were influenced by Asian and African styles?/forms of poetry and music, one’s ear catches Asian melodies or jazzy tunes all over the western pop music anyway
    that modernism in art in the beginning looked pretty similar, imitational to the traditional, but non-European styles of anything artful
    but i’m not of course a remotely arts expert, it’s just my impression
    in my language poetry doesn’t rhyme too, i’m not very sure about how to describe in English its attributes, but there is i guess a poetical meter and there is the same head sound, letter in the lines and that’s all what makes it poetry
    the important thing is not its form but the images it describes imo
    i’d agree with the theory of reversal of poetry to its original forms and traditions maybe

  51. same head sound, letter in the lines
    I think it’s called alliteration in English, and it was a feature of Anglo-Saxon poetry, later revived by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
    You are probably right that there was influence from Asian and African styles in the change to blank verse, just as there was strong influence in the plastic arts (painting etc). Was it because Europeans now had a broader world to draw upon, rather than just Classical Greek or Roman?

  52. You are probably right that there was influence from Asian and African styles in the change to blank verse, just as there was strong influence in the plastic arts (painting etc).
    but not in music?
    but i’m glad you recognize that too, yeah, a broader world and perhaps acceptance by Europeans of the newly discovered worlds’ art forms as high art too maybe

  53. I’m sure there is in music, too. What I was referring to was the change-over to European musical scales, quite unlike the musical scales that were originally used in China, India, Japan, etc. Modern Chinese and Japanese music seems to me to be pretty much derived from the Western tradition in terms of scales used, even though there may be echoes of older musical forms in actual melodies. But musical theory is not something I know a lot about….

  54. Also, there was apparently a lot of musical experimentation starting in the late 19th century, possibly influenced by other musical traditions. But popular music doesn’t seem to have been influenced a lot by “high music”.

  55. John Emerson says:

    There have been two transformations of music, the first (I say) is when classical music started breaking down and becoming more tempestuous, chromatic, dissonant, and free form starting around 1880 or so (Satie and Musorgsky, thank you very much, not Wagner whoe was the exhaustion of the old style), and then starting about 1910 or 1920 when jazz and blues took over (definitely African influenced, the blue scale is a western approximation of an African scale).
    One result is that the new classical styles (after 1880) fell through the cracks, being unacceptable to classical traditionalists but not funky enough for the jazz-blues-rock audience. I listen to that stuff, in fact it’s one of my favorite styles, but since 1950 or so it’s been pretty stagnant audience wise.
    Some jazz musicians were influenced by Stravinsky and Bartok — Coltrane Monk and late Miles Davis come to mind — but even jazz has returned to older styles. Frank Zappa tried to develop modernist pop but he’s one of a kind.

  56. “high music” and musical theories i don’t know at all of course, i mean i enjoy listening to the classical music, but that’s all and pop music is music as any other imo, just there are good and bad exemplars like in any other things and phenomena :) ( i don’t know how to say it in English, phenomena?, in my language its yums, uzegdel – things and intangible things)
    Russian melodies/music are very distinctive, but European or American music sometimes sound pretty close to ‘ethnic’ sounding, their musicians are willing to include “foreign” elements in their music i guess

  57. it’s
    i know it’s that, utter ignorance, of course, but i bundle together jazz and rock and other genres together with pop, but folk and classical music are kinda placed into one distinction, cz then i thought they are like the whole institutions in themselves named and unnamed only, while “pops” are like more individuals by themselves
    and anything “contemporary” sounds pretty boring to me at first, then after some time and repeated listening i kinda start to get it, but sometimes just don’t

  58. Nijma: Thanks for the information on coding italics

  59. Kári Tulinius says:

    deadgod: The third line in the stanza above scans (well, ‘fails’ to scan):
    Of more esteem than Ducats

    I’m confused. Are you saying that the stresses are in the wrong place? The stresses are in the right place.
    I don’t have an answer to why free verse took over the world like it did but it, like most changes to Western culture in the 20th Century, probably has something to do with the World Wars. I have a friend who argues that European culture in some way ceased to be after the First World War. There was a great desire in Europe to break with the old and start anew.

  60. I, my face streaked with tears
    Am playing with a crab.

    I didn’t know one could weep over crabs; I thought it was reserved for oysters (in iambic trimeter and tetrameter):

    ‘I weep for you,’the Walrus said:
    ‘I deeply sympathize.’
    With sobs and tears he sorted out
    Those of the largest size,
    Holding his pocket-handkerchief
    Before his streaming eyes.
    ‘O Oysters,’ said the Carpenter,
    ‘You’ve had a pleasant run!
    Shall we be trotting home again?’
    But answer came there none –
    And this was scarcely odd, because
    They’d eaten every one.

  61. Keith100, de nada, the same format with b=bold and blockquote=blockquote works here as well, but if you want to code links you’re on your own–I use a text editor that comes with free blogs.

  62. But, John: have you heard Shostakovitch’s version of “jazz”? Not his fault, I guess.

  63. I’m not sure what is considered to be “international free verse”. Wikipedia considers free verse to be several things, some without meter, and some of them with particular characteristics of meter, beginning with English biblical translations in the 1300′s and later the KJV, which was imitated by Walt Whitman. Columbia Encyclopedia declares:

    Free verse is a literal translation of the French vers libre, which originated in late 19th-century France among poets, such as Arthur Rimbaud and Jules Laforgue, who sought to free poetry from the metrical regularity of the alexandrine. The term has also been applied by modern literary critics to the King James translation of the Bible, particularly the Song of Solomon and the Psalms, to certain poems of Matthew Arnold, and to the irregular poetry of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. The form is probably most closely associated with such English and American poets as Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and T. S. Eliot who sought greater liberty in verse structure. Other poets who used the free verse form were William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, and Marianne Moore.

    I know the Nordic skalds have been discussed on some earlier thread, but probably not with regard to French poetry forms. Hollander in The Skalds: a Selection of Their Poems, With Introductions and Notes (out of print) says the Old Germanic format, a four-beat measure with alliterations falling on two or three of those beats and every long line divided into two half lines, is the device used for practically all Old West Germanic (Anglo-Saxon, Old High German, and Old Saxon) poetry, Beowulf frequently being cited as an example, and says it “remained in popular favor in England down into the Middle Ages”. Skaldic meters were more complex; Snorri Sturleson listed them with examples in Háttatal, the last (3rd) section of his Prose Edda.
    So if England, Germany, and the Nordic areas were all using alliterative poetry forms based on the dróttkvætt, where did end-rhyming poetry come from and what was “international” about it? Maybe the Russians considered anything French to be “international”.

  64. SnowLeopard says:

    One might equally ask why Western musical scales have become dominant around the world as opposed to traditional scales found in Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, African, or American Indian music.
    I haven’t sorted it out yet, but there seem to be several contributing factors behind that particular phenomenon. One especially interesting factor may be Western harmony, because harmony imposes significant restrictions on your choices of pitches and intervals. I have so far searched in vain for a non-Western tuning system that has served as the basis for a significant harmonic tradition, and if anyone is aware of one, I would be delighted to learn about it. I am aware, by contrast, of a number of non-Western polyphonic traditions, most notably in Africa and Polynesia, but they appear (to my untrained ear) to be primarily imitative in nature and do not use harmony as a mode of expression per se. If you find harmony an attractive mode of expression — and it does seem to be at least as accessible as Khoisan imitative polyphony, Indian ragas, and Arab maqams — your choice seems to be either to adopt the Western tuning system and take advantage of the ready-made theory books, notation, musical instruments, and community of millions of people who are already well-versed in it — or stick with your native tuning system, develop most of these things more or less from scratch, and hope that it sounds good. I’m not aware of anyone *not* in the West who has pursued the latter option, but would certainly like to know more if someone can point me to a book or recording.

  65. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics‘s entry distinguishes loosening of forms within traditions and the later self-conscious avant-garde. It’s also notable for including Russians and Hungarians among the names it rattles off (of necessity, since it’s only a few pages).
    Google Books offers some vintage humor by Benjamin de Casseres: Vers Libre in vers libre. This is from more or less the time of Eliot’s “Reflections on Vers Libre.”

  66. That Wikipedia listed a rather implausible title, “A Confession between G.B.S. and the Dictionary,” so I found it and fixed it. I’m not sure what the (ar) / (ms) / (ss) is about.

  67. That ‘Confession’ was a piece in an American literary magazine called The Smart Set (Mencken was one of its editors). I’m guessing, but ar = article and ss = short story. ms ?? Some kind of “sketch”? Probably not “manuscript”, “Microsoft” (no pee-pee jokes please; nor ‘gags’), nor “Mississippi”.
    That Benjamin De Casseres looks interesting: “I never read women writers … because I think in the arts women ‘do not belong.’ Sex is their art; let them stick to it.” I hope he means this crap as much as I hope he’s kidding.

  68. language hat (and Nijma), that Japanese poem that Sashura provides in English and Russian looks to me like its about the loneliness of romantic abandonment. A “crab” scuttles away sideways, etc. (Of course, much “Japanese”, whatever else it’s about, is also ‘about’ being pierced by the ephemerality of all things.)
    (Grumbly Stu, I’d keep the “white sand” (if it’s in the Japanese words!)- I’m thinking the islands of the Eastern Sea generally have pretty rocky beaches (?). “White sand” in this poem indicates, to me, ‘comfortless luxury’.)

  69. I suppose I wasn’t clear enough. The piece was actually titled, “A Conversation between George Bernard Shaw and the Dictionary,” as one could guess before even seeing it. You don’t have confessions between people. I linked to it in The Smart Set.
    Could be ms means that the NYPL collection contains the original manuscript and that’s where the Wikipedist got it.

  70. influence from Asian and African styles in the change to blank verse
    I think what’s meant here is free verse. Blank verse is unrhymed but (generally) metrical poetry. The drama of Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Webster is mostly (> 50 %) written in “blank” verse – “blank” meaning (I guess) that the lines are not yoked together by end-rhymes. Better for the verisimilitude of dramatic poetry (?), where the lines are, however fictively, spoken by characters (well, actors) you can hit with a tomato.
    Vers libre in French (then, well, everywhere) poetry represents, or is constituted by, ‘freedom’ from a lot of things, including rhyme and meter (especially from Racine’s Alexandrine meter), but also artificiality of address, elevation of content, and so on. So that the soul’s movement toward and away from meaning could be suggested by trash blowing in the street.
    Rimbaud’s ‘prose poems’ are, of course, “free” even from being ‘verse poems’, but, for example, Le Bateau ivre (The Drunken Boat), as far as I can tell, both rhymes and is metrically regular. Likewise Laforgue: poems like Solo de lune play with rhyme and meter, but move in and out of regularity often enough to be called “free” of it. But he has wonderful poems like the sonnet La premiere nuit that seem (to my tiny French) quite regular.
    -
    The contentious embrace of regularity and ‘freedom’ in poetry is pretty hard to divide theoretically without counterexamples mushrooming so enthusiastically that you can’t tell the wood from the mushrooms. I think two generalizations are pretty hardy, anyway: a) As spoken poetry comes to imitate or reflect everyday conversation, it’ll become “free” of regularity sooner than conversation will become regularized. b) And what Pound said: any poem that’s effective and beautiful is not going to be “free”, no matter how impossible it is ultimately for the intellect to schematize the articulations of sound and sense.

  71. Yes, MMcM, “Conversation” – I didn’t notice the discrepancy even after going to the linked page, which was why I repeated the error – made a deeper order of mistake, you might say.
    (I do think “confessions” can be exchanged by (and so “between”) “people”, and, “between” a person and a book, a “confession” could be expressed. [eh] Figuratively.)
    I’d thought of some Library having a “manuscript”, but the wikipedia page uses the ms designation, and the link you provide (to the google Books page) is to (I think) a book-bound copy of the magazine itself – ie. so why would wikipedia refer to a manuscript (would typescript be more accurate?), when some form of the original magazine is extant? Do they mean that the pieces called articles or short stories are not available in manu- or typescript??

  72. Kari, what I’d meant to indicate by “[??]” was a missing stress. That line:
    Of more esteem than Ducats -
    is ‘supposed’ to have four iambs, but it’s only got three, + one limping, ‘feminine’ syllable. The stresses are in the “right” places – but, in accordance with Ballad regularity, there aren’t ‘enough’ of them.
    (The point being – my new phrasing – that Dickinson is both metrically regular and ‘free’ — and, pace John C.’s claim, simply doesn’t “sacrifice” anything to preserve “scansion”.)

  73. Kári Tulinius says:

    Thanks, deadgod, that makes sense now.

  74. Snowleopard: One especially interesting factor may be Western harmony, because harmony imposes significant restrictions on your choices of pitches and intervals. I have so far searched in vain for a non-Western tuning system that has served as the basis for a significant harmonic tradition, and if anyone is aware of one, I would be delighted to learn about it.
    I’m not clear as to what you mean by harmony, nor what you mean by Western harmony. “Significant restrictions on your choices of pitches and intervals” are everywhere to be found. In accordance with my minimal first-hand experience, I will mention only northern Indian “classical” music, and Turkish music.
    For about a year, I dabbled with learning the sarod, after having become fascinated with ragas, ghazal and other vocal music, and so on. I hardly need point out that such music is toto caelo different from Western music. I am in no way able to hold forth on this subject. I just want to mention something that I first noticed then: that there is definitely harmony there in the form of “significant restrictions on your choices of pitches and intervals”, but that much of the harmony is, as it were, distributed over the performance time of the music, instead of being time-sliced in the shape of chords. Also, what is happening is that performers are playing music in a tradition, part of which is being formed as you hear what they play. These performances are not a reproduction of a piece of music whose score you could buy from a music publisher and flip through critically as the music is played. Harmony is not something which is assumed to “exist” – rather, it is a joint venture.
    Turkish scales often contain a tone that sounds to me like something between an E and an E-flat (in C major). Initially it may jar on the non-Turkish ear, but all you have to do is listen to the music as a whole, and harmony is established. Over the last 10-20 years, I have been hearing all kinds of experimentation with Turkish disco music in Cologne. Western disco has had a heavy influence – that’s why I say “Turkish disco music” – but when you listen to the stuff played on the German Turkish television channels, and in the social joints where older folks hang out playing cards and drinking tea, you hear very little of that disco stuff.
    Snowleopard: your choice seems to be either to adopt the Western tuning system and take advantage of the ready-made theory books, notation, musical instruments, and community of millions of people who are already well-versed in it — or stick with your native tuning system, develop most of these things more or less from scratch, and hope that it sounds good. I’m not aware of anyone *not* in the West who has pursued the latter option, but would certainly like to know more if someone can point me to a book or recording.
    I couldn’t understand this, unfortunately. The “latter option” is “stick with your native tuning system …”. You seem to be taking “native” as meaning non-Western, and so considering such systems as being found among many non-Western peoples. So I could point you to such peoples *not* in the West, in response to your request. Maybe you meant the “former option”. However, in this comment thread many claims have been made that the Western tuning system has been adopted by many non-Western peoples. So I could point you to these peoples *not* in the West, in response to your request.

  75. Bathrobe: One might equally ask why Western musical scales have become dominant around the world as opposed to traditional scales found in Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, African, or American Indian music.
    Western musical scales, and types of music, have been added to the musical repertoire of many countries, but what evidence do you have that they have become “dominant” there ? You may have heard a lot of “cross-cultural” music, and other furrin music on American “art” radio and television, but you might consider that what you are hearing is a selection of music that program producers think would appeal to, or be appreciable by, American listeners. Inside Turkey, Pakistan and Mexico, vor Ort, you hear a predominance of music that is discordant to the American ear. That quantity of stuff is not played on art stations in the USA, I would bet.

  76. John Emerson says:

    Western music uses a sort of pidgin system of intonation which is always a little off, but facilitates harmonic playing (3-5 different notes of the scale simultaneously), coordinated group playing, and changes of keys. But the fourthhs and fifths are always not quite in tune.
    Western pop seems stuck with the Western scale, but a lot of music uses different scales. For example, in the blues, in the key of C the E, the G, and the B are all played a little flat, but not as flat as Eb, Gb, or Bb. It’s not really quite that simple, actually, since these tones are played with rather than hit exactly.
    The music theory of India and Islam divides the scale into as many as 53 divisions, from which the 5 to 7 tones of scale to be played is selected. For example, in C there would be 4 F#s, of which only one would be used in any given piece.
    Hindu music theory is very well developed mathematically, with mystical and philosophical overtones that are like Plato’s music theory.
    This is all mostly in response to the “develop from scratch” idea. These musical forms are actually very well developed, but mostly can’t be played on pianos and usually aren’t good for simultaneous harmony. (Though the Western major and minor scales are said to be two of the many scales the Indians use).
    The power of Western music, whether classical or pop, comes from the power of the Western way of life, from bourgeois prosperity to disco. I don’t think it’s intrincic to the music, and in fact African music has made a lot of inroads into Europop.

  77. The power of Western music, whether classical or pop, comes from the power of the Western way of life, from bourgeois prosperity to disco. I don’t think it’s intrincic to the music
    My sentiments exactly, Senator ! I think folks who don’t see things this way are subscribers to a generalized form of what Said identified as Orientalism.

  78. I just checked the WiPe article on Said’s Orientalism book, and found on the discussion page that the first person to frown on the article is our very own Bathrobe !

  79. The power of Western music, whether classical or pop, comes from the power of the Western way of life, from bourgeois prosperity to disco. I don’t think it’s intrincic to the music
    I don’t think that’s far from what I was getting at.

  80. SnowLeopard says:

    Grumbly Stu: We appear to be working with different definitions. I by no means intended to define “harmony” as “significant restrictions on your choices of pitches and intervals”. That would be a bit like defining “grammar” as “significant restrictions on your choices of phonemes.” Instead I used it the way I have heard it used in theory & composition classes to refer to the construction of chords out of simultaneous pitches, which is what we seem to agree is not common, if it appears at all, in the traditions you name. I by no means claim that other musical traditions don’t work within sophisticated aesthetic frameworks — to the contrary, I have read and listened extensively, with a focus on the raga and maqam, precisely to try to better understand those frameworks. It is in fact quite frustrating to get reliable information on other traditions because most people insist on using Western terminology, such as “A” and “C”, to describe it, simply begging the question whether “A” refers to 440 Hz, as it frequently (but certainly not always) does in contemporary Western orchestral tunings, or to some other pitch. And for all the differing mathematics underlying ragas and maqams — and I have tables setting forth the various frequencies of the pitches generally used, though these tend to be subject to regional variation — many common maqams closely resemble various Western diatonic scales and modes, and many ragas use tuning schemes that resemble intervals drawn from the Western chromatic scale. The choices of intervals are of course not identical, and I am also familiar with the history of the West’s abandonment of the tunings that gave rise to “wolf keys” in the 17th and 18th centuries and the compromising of Pythagorean intervals to permit modulation to different keys. But so far in my listening to recordings of classical music from the Arab, Turkish, Byzantine, Persian, and North & South Indian traditions, among many others, I have not heard anything similar to, say, the tonic-dominant relationship that underlies the last 400 years of European music. Other organizing aesthetic schemes and traditions certainly exist, yes, and I am familiar with and/or teaching myself some of them. But I was asking if any involved chords. The answer to that question appears to be no, as far as those so far appearing in this thread are in a position to say.
    My comment about starting from scratch referred to how, assuming the absence of chords in your musical tradition, one would go about creating a theory of harmony that used such intervals as the 3/4 tone available in some of these traditions to create those chords. Everyone here seems to agree that however ancient and sophisticated those traditions are (and pace the responses to my comment, I was not suggesting otherwise: consider, for example, the influence of the Arabic Oud on the development of the European lute), those traditions have not chosen to develop such a theory of harmony so far, and I am only aware of Western microtonal composers who are attempting it. Usually these Western composers are not using maqam tunings, say, as their starting point, but are creating new scales of their own. I don’t see why mentioning this warrants the apparently disparaging label of “Orientalism”.
    I do disagree with the assumption that Western music’s influence derives solely from social factors, although I certainly recognize those as among the contributing factors alluded to in my earlier comment. But I have work to do, and so must debate that some other time.

  81. Once again, a comment thread has veered off in an unpredictable and educational direction. My thanks to all you learned music-lovers!

  82. Snowleopard: My remark about Orientalism was not directed towards you. I tentatively applied it to (imaginary) people who might disagree with JE’s claim. His claim was that “the power of the Western way of life, from bourgeois prosperity to disco” explains the spread of Western music in a more straightforward manner than any speculations about “intrinsic worth” of such music could do.

  83. Here’s a slightly related piece on music from Bill Benzon of “The Valve”.
    Long ago I read something by Curt Sachs to the effect that African music and very early northern European tended toward harmony, whereas Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian music were mostly accompanied melody with harmonically rudimentary accompaniment.
    This piece says that indigenous African harmony was at a very early stage of development, like old European folk music. (Search “Some Preliminary remarks”). The conclusion seems to be that harmonic music was a rather late Western European development founded on a folk tradition.
    Max Weber developed a theory of harmonic music as a mark of modern Europe which I admired when I read it in 1970 or so but thought was rather sloppy when I recently reread it. More at my link.

  84. David Marjanović says:

    Two factors I haven’t seen mentioned yet:
    – Nietzsche’s Umwertung aller Werte (“revaluation of all values”). Rhyme & meter were “good”, so they became “bad” as WWI approached.
    – 1968.

  85. SnowLeopard says:

    Thanks for the article on African harmony; will review at an early opportunity.

  86. One of the things that happened in classical music (non-jazz non-pop) was that melody was demoted. To call a composer a melodist is now to insult him.

  87. I have a CD of Nietzsche’s musical compositions. They’re not bad at all, though musically not transvalued in any way — if you heard them being played without knowing anything about them, the style would seem familiar (late 19th c German, basically). Wagner was unimpressed by Nietzsche’s compositions, but a.) Wagner, like Stravinsky, was a bitch, and b.) Nietzsche’s style, to me at least, was more Brahmsian than Wagnerian.
    Mozart was also a bitch, BTW. Reportedly the only contemporary composers he never said anything bad about were Joseph Haydn and Johann Christian Bach. (I’m not saying that Salieri was right, but he had his reasons.)

  88. To call a composer a melodist is now to insult him.
    I think you’re a few decades behind the times.

  89. Snowleopard, this may not be precisely what you are looking for, but there is a form of dual tone singing where two notes are sung at the same time by one person. I have a CD that includes “The sacred Chants of Tibetan Buddhism” with overtones sung by monks. There are instruments playing at the same time, but whether it is a “chord” or a “cacophony” probably depends on your frame of reference; I find it soothing. There are also Mongolian “throat singers” who do dual tones. No.1 Tuva Throat Singers sounds like a two string instrument tones playing simultaneously with a third vocal tone. Not sure what to think of the accordion that turns up, but it sure isn’t being played with a traditionally Western tonal scale. There is a autoharp with tuning that is definitely not western (and goats at 10:45). No.2 from Siberia with two strings and two voices. No.3 Tuvian singer Kongar-ol Ondar on Letterman show with three-stringed instrument and playing what looks like chords that aren’t quite western (or do I hear a 7th?) but seem to resolve like western chords. No.4 a Mongolian with a two-stringed instrument, one string is in unison with the voice and the other sounds like a drone, similar to the low note on bagpipes, again there is a sort of harmony that seems to resolve, but I’m not ready to call it a tonic. No. 5 from Globetrekker, four musicians singing with stringed instruments, sort of illustrates the problem of trying to define the question in terms of western music. Where we would look for chord progressions they seem to be naming their sounds ” steppe, mountains, river, forest, Gobi desert.”
    I would also not think that just because there are not two notes playing simultaneously at a given time that no underlying “chord” exists. Imagine “Amazing Grace” sung a capella. Each note can only fit into a certain chord, or a certain set of chords, so you can hear in your mind’s eye (sheet music) the chord progression I, IV, I, V7, since the note “G” can only fit into a C-chord or a G-chord, but not a D7 chord, etc. Since I can basically sing in tune, and hear half notes and whole notes, but not quarter notes, I can’t imagine what they must be hearing in their mind’s eye (if that isn’t too mixed of a metaphor), but they must be hearing something.

  90. an autoharp
    You would think that a spell check that flags “this may not be” as passive voice would find that one.

  91. Blok wrote …in free verse. I know of two poems of his in free verse… if you flip through a collection of his at random you will be extremely unlikely to come across them.
    …just did (only tome 2 of the 6 tome collection), and found, to my surprise, about a dozen.
    I also knew two, but the second one, when I looked it up, turned out to be a цикл (cycle? series?) ‘Free thoughts’ – “Вольные мыслы” of four poems. So I beat you by three. What was your first one? Mine was “Она пришла с мороза” – “She came in from the frost”, a full Lolita, but in just 26 lines.
    But the one I didn’t (know)remember is this beauty:
    Яблони сада вырваны,
    Дети у женщины взяты,
    Песню не взять, не вырвать,
    Сладостна боль ее.
    (1920)
    Apples, the trees are uprooted,
    Children, they’re taken from her,
    Songs can’t be taken away or uprooted,
    Sweet is the pain they cause.
    Аптека
    I thought I wasn’t suggesting it was free verse, I only pointed to the similarity of Losev’s technique here to Blok’s. Look:
    снег мрамор улица аптека
    Ночь. Мрамор. Дерево. Спасибо.

  92. playing with a crab.
    are there Disney’s agents hiding in this cafe? or simply philistines unable to recognise one of the greatest poems ever written?
    (thanks, deadgood, I was sure I could rely on you!)

  93. SnowLeopard says:

    Thanks, Nijma. I have to check, but believe I have at least some of these recordings; I’ll check out the others. I also have a book & CD that purport to teach throat/overtone singing after the patterns of these traditions but haven’t made much progress with it. I have a pretty good ear for functional harmony at least as it works in Western music (it allowed me to take dictation at least as well as some students with perfect pitch) but I haven’t heard simultaneous pitches performing a comparable function in Tibetan or Mongolian throat singing so far. Those traditions seem to be striving for different sorts of effects. I agree that its practitioners hear “something”, or else there would be no point of creating the overtones, but suspect that what they hear and strive to produce doesn’t correspond to anything like “tonic” or “dominant”. But again, if I encounter something that undermines my initial hypothesis, I’ll consider myself significantly better off.
    I’m not completely clear on the point you were offering about Amazing Grace but do agree that the tune presupposes a Western-style chord progression. The chord progression you’ve identified is not necessarily, of course, the only possible chord progression the tune could be fitted to. Bach would probably have found a way to modulate at least twice.

  94. Different tones playing at the same time isn’t necessarily harmony. Harmony means going from chord to chord in a systematic way. The changes of chords give the music a definite rhythm which can be the same as, approximately the same as, or quite different than the rhythm of the melody.
    I can’t remember all the terminology any more, but there are kinds of simultaneous playing / singing where the different voices never come together to form chords, and there are also simple drone accompaniments where the drone provides a basis (bass, base) under the melody but isn’t making chords or changing chords.

  95. haven’t made much progress with it
    Somewhere I saw that out of 100 Mongolians who go to the throat class, only 7 or 8 go on to actually study it. About the same as our high school chorus. I had always heard that only adult males were capable of doing it, but now I see there is a Mongolian woman who is pretty good, so maybe I’ll try it one of these days. Wouldn’t want the neighbors calling the paramedics though so I suppose I would have to wait until it’s warm enough to be back out in the forest preserves.
    I’m not completely clear on the point you were offering about Amazing Grace
    Partly it was because some people reading the thread won’t have music theory background. And I should have said “half steps and whole steps” instead of “half notes and whole notes.” But those with training can listen to an interval and then write the note, because you can hear if it’s a fourth or a minor third or a fifth. After all, that’s how choirs can sight read. You can probably hear chord structures too, like whether it’s a major triad or minor or seventh, or even diminished or augmented. But what if you have a system where the intervals are 3/4 of a step, and you’re not trained to read it or hear it, much less have a vocabulary to describe it?
    Also with the Amazing Grace example, you don’t need to find the chords (and there are more complex sets of chords out there for it, I just picked the simplest one). You can usually hum the tune and figure out the chords for yourself by what “sounds right”. When it’s time for the chord progression to change, you can “hear” it. How do you “hear” a system with different intervals?
    All the notes of a chord to not necessarily have to be played simultaneously. For guitar or banjo the fingers on the frets would go to a particular chord position, but the fingers plucking the strings could either pluck them one by one in a pattern or strum them all at once. You would still hear the chord, as the strings that had been plucked have duration, until the fingers doing the fretting move to a new chord position. The Letterman example is fingering the strings sort of like that, and once you listen to that one a few times, some of the others start to sound similar as far as the finger work.
    Bass lines usually do change, since if you stay on the tonic note when you play the fifth chord, it won’t sound right. That’s why most music has a walking bass, or a bass line that just moves once in a while.
    what they hear and strive to produce doesn’t correspond to anything like “tonic” or “dominant”
    If it did, it would sound western instead. I sort of hear something like a “home position” sound, also something similar to minor and seventh, and a whole lot of noodling in between, but I have no vocabulary to describe it, or recognize it if I hear it again. Maybe instead of tonic, it sounds like “rocks” or “snow”. :~)

  96. One problem here is the framing of the problem. Free verse became a form that one particular strand of poetry writing took up, as you (original poster) from the early twentieth century. However, if we frame poetry as ‘poetic writing’ then it’s fair to say that taste accepted/created free verse centuries earlier. As someone noted earlier, the wikpedia entry mentions translations of the Bible back as far as the twentieth century. (check the ‘history’ button, and twas I who bunged that ref in to Wikipedia under my own name). The point here is that anyone reading or hearing the Bible in English (I can’t speak for other vernaculars) perceived the Psalms as free verse hymns or devotional statements. Wycliffe, Tyndale and then, even more significantly the 1611 Authorised Version gave anglophones translations of Hebrew songs in free verse. Same goes for the Song of Solomon.
    My argument here is that free verse is not invented by the modernists but rather, plucked from the repertoire of world writing by a group of enthusiasts. As for Russia, I don’t think the story can be told without mentioning the Soviet Union. From memory, the experimentalists of pre- and post-revolutionary times did most certainly have a go at various kinds of free or freer poetic forms. However, once the socialist realism lid was slammed down on the whole of Russian art, then a form like free verse was utterly suspect: it appeared to belong to self-regarding elite that wasn’t extolling the virtues of the regime and its achievements. There existed traditional forms, and these were already loud and clear in the ear of the masses. Socialist realism required such forms.
    I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments above. Did people mention Yevtushenko? I think he wrote/writes in free verse, doesn’t he?

  97. Apols I didn’t review the above. I’m tired and on mis-reading, see that I’ve made mistakes. ‘as far back as the twentieth century’ should read ‘as far back as the fourteenth century’ (!).

  98. Micheal Rosen,
    I had no idea Psalms and SoS were originally in some sort of rhyme scheme in Hebrew. Latin too? I was the one who mentioned wiki about it, but Columbia Encyclopedia cites it too.

  99. Mine was “Она пришла с мороза”
    Mine too! Thanks for the one you quote; it’s very nice.
    I thought I wasn’t suggesting it was free verse, I only pointed to the similarity of Losev’s technique here to Blok’s.
    Oops, sorry—I completely misunderstood your point.

  100. Latin too?
    I don’t think either the Septuagint or the Vulgate made any particular attempt at poetical translation of the Psalms. Some of the constraints / techniques that might be called poetry survive translation, though.

  101. Free verse means a lot of things: no rhyme (or haphazard rhyming), no regular stanzas, no standard line-length, and no regular meter. In other words, you can’t tell what specific pattern the poet is working within / playing off of.
    So to an Angle Saxon, free verse would be verse without a caesura which didn’t alliterate enough or didn’t alliterate properly. (Plus violating whatever other rules there were, for example the use of figurative language and an elevated vocabulary.)
    lAck of regularity and formalized repetition seems to be it.

  102. Did people mention Yevtushenko?
    Old Yevtushenko is one of the best rhymers in Russian poetry, most of his poetry is rhymed.
    socialist realism lid was slammed down on the whole of Russian art
    It’s a bit harsh: socrealism, especially after Stalin, dealt with content, message more than with form. Top selling children’s writer Grigori Oster (38 Parrots, Bad Advice) was writing in free verse during the Soviet period and is now.

  103. Thanks re Yevtushenko. Anglo-Saxon poetry isn’t ‘free’. It not only alliterates, it has precise structures to the beat of each half-line. Basically two stresses for each half line.
    re surrealism in Russia. Aha, we come back to Chukofsky. He shielded surrealists and anarchists from the constraints of socialist realism eg Daniel Kharms. He won an artistic space for them because it was ‘fantasy’ and ‘children are fantasists’ etc. I think he won this space via Gorky. I did a radio show about him based on the diaries (Yale Univ Press) that are talked about here at the top.

  104. Michael R., I think you misunderstand John E.’s point. He’s not saying that Anglo-Saxon poetry was ‘free’ in form; he’s indicating the emphases of regularity (‘unfreedom’) by saying that, to an Anglo-Saxon, ‘free’ would mean unbroken (or in’appropriate’ly broken) lines with incorrect/absent alliteration, because those’re the formal elements that the poet was expected (pretty rigidly?) to regularize.

  105. sure I could rely on you
    Sorry, Sashura – but I figured it was Uncle Wally who wrote the thing. Are you trying to say he didn’t??

  106. Thanks deadgod (I feel a bit strange writing to someone called ‘deadgod’ but kind of thrilled too.)

  107. Sash: socrealism, especially after Stalin, dealt with content, message more than with form.
    In visual art & architecture it was both form & content, though.

  108. MMM: Mozart was also a bitch, BTW. Reportedly the only contemporary composers he never said anything bad about were Joseph Haydn and Johann Christian Bach. (I’m not saying that Salieri was right, but he had his reasons.)
    Do you know where this comes from? I bet he didn’t say anything bad about Beethoven, did he? Or isn’t he contemporary enough?

  109. Russian hasn’t submitted to free verse because it hasn’t exhausted the possibilities of normal verse. Russian’s declensions give the possibility of rhyming a greater variety of different word types together, making the verse more flexible.
    Keith has a point here. In Russian scrabble, when friends and I played it years ago, we agreed to use only common nouns in nominative – no declensions, plurals, etc., otherwise, we thought then, it would be too easy.

  110. SnowLeopard says:

    I bet he didn’t say anything bad about Beethoven, did he?
    Beethoven was only about 11 when Mozart died. I believe Beethoven’s father made him practice piano for many hours each day because he was determined to turn him into the next Mozart.

  111. SnowLeopard says:

    Sorry, I meant to type that Beethoven was 21.

  112. Can’t remember. I do remember that when a false rumor that Mozart had been badmouthing reached Haydn, Haydn was neither surprised nor hurt. The two were temperamental opposites.
    While Haydn was 24 years older than Mozart and outlived him by 18 years. Despite his greater age, he was a late bloomer and thus, musically speaking, more or less an exact contemporary of the prodigy Mozart. They engaged in a sort of friendly competition.
    Mozart’s father was a professional musician. His specialty was pedagogy. There should be a special word for something as intensely unironic as that.

  113. David Marjanović says:

    I had no idea Psalms and SoS were originally in some sort of rhyme scheme in Hebrew.

    What? Were they???

    Latin too?

    No. Rhyme hadn’t even reached Europe yet.

  114. Re Psalms: A metric scheme, yes, and some internal rhyme, but not “rhyme scheme” in the way that is meant, I think.

  115. Ha, ha, John.
    SnøLeopard: Beethoven did play for Mozart, I know that.

  116. Ha, ha, John.
    SnøLeopard: Beethoven did play for Mozart, I know that.

  117. Deadgood Uncle Wally. Are you trying to say he didn’t??
    Who is Uncle Wally? The Crab is a famous tanka by Ishikawa Takuboku.

  118. I actually have been thinking about the free verse question and have developed a sort of theory. There’s a progression:
    * Anti-traditional intentions
    1* No stanzas, no refrains
    2* Not in iambic pentameter or any other standard meter (alexandrine for French)
    3* Half rhyme or slant rhyme instead of regular rhyme
    4* Irregular rhyming and no pattern, erratic mix of rhymed and unrhymed lines
    5* lines of unequal length forming no pattern (not counting regular meters where the poet gets a syllable more or less in certain circumstances)
    6* No rhyme at all
    There’s a historical progression here (in English at least). If you have all of them, it’s defintely free verse. If it doesn’t rhyme but is in iambic pentameter, it’s not free verse. Absence of regular pattern seems to be the defining trait. 1,2,3,4 together are right on the border.
    But it’s a negative definition and doesn’t say anything positive about what the new poem actually is, about vowel harmony or alliteration or parallelism or quantitative or other meters (“variable foot”, “sprung rhythm”).
    A pattern of lines of similar length and parallelism might be accepted as Biblical.
    In the end, I think that the absence of repeating patterns is the decider.
    A bit long-winded here, but the thread got me thinking.

  119. Sashura – “Uncle Wally” Disney, to whom I think you referred above.

  120. oh, I see, no, I just light-heartedly fumed over those who mocked the Crab. Disney agents: because of his ‘dumbing down’ of classical/traditional themes.
    Thanks.

  121. in brazil we have a saying: ”many of the free verses out there deserve to be arrested…”

  122. All of you should read The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker. It reminds me of an extended Languagehat discussion of free verse.

  123. All of you should read The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker. It reminds me of an extended Languagehat discussion of free verse.

  124. Hugh Kenner touches on this subject in The Pound Era. Pound was partially inspired by Andreas Divus’s Latin prosodic translations of Homer. Allen Ginsberg told me years ago that Pound got the idea of «breath meter» from studying Homer in Greek and various translations. I think Allen meant that Pound adopted a syllabic approach. What’s interesting is that both Pound and Khlebnikov, two pillars of modernism, where doing approximately the same thing at the same time: reviewing literary traditions preceding the 18th century European tradition. So yes, Michael Rosen is correct, in a sense that modernists did not invent free verse, but modified forgotten and obscure forms for their needs.
    A big part of this story is a dialectic of Reading/Misreading. It seems that misreadings, both accidental and willful, played important part in transition from blank and syllabic verse to the free verse among the later modernists. In general, poets (and translators) are no mathematicians, they don’t like to count )) . There is something to be said about the founding model figures of modern urban poetry like Rimbaud and myths that hardened around them. It’s became impossible to imagine a larger-than-life poet like Rimbaud counting syllables while writting a poem.

  125. John Hollander also addresses the subject the only way it should be addressed. (Sorry, it cuts off toward the end.)

  126. And yes, I second Crown’s recommendation of The Anthologist.

  127. Oh shit, I see that in my link you have to click the first page link for “free verse” — page 26. It’s well worth the trouble.

  128. Victor Sonkin says:

    “Вольные мысли” are not free verse at all!! (Neither is the other quatrain Sashura quotes.) They are written in super-regular iambic pentameters; so they are no freer than Shakespeare. Russians often confuse free verse with blank verse.

  129. Now that I’ve read Gasparov, I see that he presents the Russian exception as history without proposing any particular explanation. It does not seem any more different from the other traditions he analyzes in similar depth than they are from one another. (For instance, English and German have stress-meter which is classed together with Russian dol’nik. English and French have historical orthography, which led to a first stage, particularly in the latter case, of permitting actual rhymes and meter that ignores syllables that are no longer pronounced.)
    He also says in passing (not entirely convincingly and without any particulars) that one of the principle reasons for the success of vers libre was the relative ease of translation, which gives poets of minority languages a greater audience.

  130. If you’ve ever attempted to memorize long passages of genuinely free verse (with no regular metric rules, no syllable-counting, no rhyme schemes & no alliterative schemes to help bump your memory back on track) I think you’ll agree that memorization of poetry will tend to vary inversely (in a manner of speaking) with free verse.
    Have Russians, I wonder, kept up the habit of memorization more than most of us have? When I have had American high school students memorize verse, it’s usually the first time they’ve ever been asked to do such a thing.

  131. Victor is right – I did confuse free verse and blank verse (белый стих).

  132. I am still intrigued by Eli’s post above, and his posting at shkrobius.livejournal.com. The idea that rhyme was introduced from the East at a rather late stage, became virtually the hallmark of poetry in English, and was then challenged by free verse in a rebellion against “tradition”, gives quite a different perspective to the whole matter.
    It reminds me a little (over a much vaster time scale) of the passionate revolutionary nature of historical linguistics in the 19th century, only to be dismissed as fuddy-duddy old hat (sorry, Steve) in the 20th. That is, there must also have been a time when rhyme was fresh, new, and revolutionary; otherwise it would not have been adopted so widely. It is a pity that there is nothing left to help us document the circumstances surrounding the adoption of this fresh new style; it could make fascinating reading.

  133. Thanks for calling attention to Eli’s post, Peignoir de Bain, it’s long thread and somehow I missed it the first time. So far we have end-rhyme fanning out into Russia and England from France, and now Eli provides the explanation for how it got to France: from China to Persia and Arabia via the silk road, then to France via the crusaders. Also the bit about the Irish rhyming verse, but it’s not clear if that came from the French as well. The dates are still sketchy, and I don’t see examples from the various languages, but the comments are interesting, even if I can’t read the little graph.

  134. Trond Engen says:

    then to France via the crusaders
    Not earlier? If the author of Egill Skallagrímsson’s Saga, quite possibly Snorri Sturluson, is to be believed (note the ‘if’), the first Old Norse poem with end rhyme was Egill’s Hǫfuðlausn “Ransom for a head” in the mid tenth century. It was allegedly composed in a single night in prison in York when Egill was waiting to be executed by his life long enemy, the king of Northumbria and former king of Norway, Eric Bloodaxe (Eiríkr Blódøx).
    Hǫfuðlausn
    1. Vestr komk of ver,
    en ek Viðris ber
    munstrandar mar,
    svá ‘s mitt of far;
    drók eik á flot
    við ísabrot;
    hlóðk mærðar hlut
    munknarrar skut.
    2. Buðumk hilmi lǫð
    ák hróðrs of kvǫð
    berk Óðins mjǫð
    á Engla bjǫð;
    lofat vísa vann,
    víst mærik þann,
    hljóðs biðjum hann,
    þvít hróðr of fann.
    3. Hygg vísi at,
    vel sómir þat,
    hvé þylja fet,
    ef þǫgn of get;
    flestr maðr of frá,
    hvat fylkir vá,
    en Viðrir sá,
    hvar valr of lá.
    4. Óx hjǫrva glam
    við hlífar þrǫm,
    guðr óx of gram,
    gramr sótti fram;
    þar heyrðisk þá,
    þaut mækis ǫ́,
    malmhríðar spǫ́,
    sú‘s mest of lá.
    5. Varsa villr staðar
    vefr darraðar
    fyr grams glǫðum,
    geirvangs rǫðum,
    þars í blóði
    i brimils móði
    vǫllr of þrumði,
    und véum glumði.
    6. (stef). Hné ferð á fit
    við fleina hnit.
    Orðstír of gat
    Eirekr at þat.
    [...]
    From heimskringla.no.

  135. There’s late-mediaeval rhyme in Italy. You’d not want to forget this limbertrick from before the Latin ebonics of Alighieri:
    Sit vitiorum meorum evacuatio,
    concupiscentae et libidinis exterminatio,
    caritatis et patientiae,
    humilitatis et obedientiae,
    omniumque virtutum augmentatio.
    –from the Breviary of Thomas Nantucketas

  136. Trond Engen says:

    Another rhyming poem, called The Rhyming Poem (see also this), is known from tenth century England, even that from royal circles. The opening stanzas of Hǫfuðlausn can be read as a statement of purpose: the poem is meant to be recited to the kings honour in a manner suitable in the company of Englishmen*.
    I think there’s a case to be made that poems combining traditional alliteration with end-rhyming were the highest fashion at the English court at the time and that Egill understood how much king Eric of Northumbria wanted to compete with his neighbour and overlord. A suitecase to be made is that end rhyming as we’ve known it across the European continent since the late Medieval was developed in England and spread to France and to the international warrior class of the crusades through the Normans.
    *Not that I would know, the Old Norse is too convoluted for me, but that’s how I read Leiv Heggstad’s Norwegian translation.

  137. Trond Engen says:

    … how I read Marius Hægstad’s Norwegian translation (incorporated into Leiv Heggstad’s translation of the saga).

  138. Head Ransom:
    (Trond, the text I have gives the Norwegian of the third stanza which is almost identical to yours.)
    Egil Skallagrímsson’s Hǫfuðlausn (“head ransom”), according to Lee Hollander, “is in a meter called runhent, possibly of his own invention, and remarkable as being the first example in the North (barring one stanza attributed to his father) of end-rimed verse.”
    “Head ransom” in Icelandic. The first few stanzas in English (huge file).
    The poem is a drápa: with a stef (refrain) that separates the poem into a beginning, middle, and end (lines 1-5, 6-12, 16-20). A shorter poem without the stef was a flokkr, and “to dedicate such a slight effort to a powerful lord was considered a studied insult.” Hollander distinguishes between types of “rimes” or repetition of final sounds of words: perfect rime with consonant and vowel identical, (ring: sing, masculine rime; ringing: singing, feminine rime), imperfect rime with like vowels (main: frame) as in Spanish poetry (assonance), and like final consonants (find: sound) (skothending) regularly used in Skaldic verse.
    Hollander places the birth of Egil Skallagrímsson about 910 and King Eric and Gunnhild driven out of Norway in 947 (the head ransom poem is delivered in York.) The first crusade was launched in 1095, but IIRC one of the precipitating causes of the crusade was the closure of Jerusalem to pilgrims, so there would have been contact before that.
    Several times Hollander mentions Provençal, French and German knights crafting poems, also troubadours and minnesingers, but does not believe their verse was so intricate or widespread as the Skalds.

  139. Someone must know about the beginnings of French rhyming poetry. Maybe m-l? Noetica knows a lot about French medieval poetry, but he appears to have gone walkabout. We know where Sig lives, do they do medieval France on Mars?

  140. And Poictiers, you know, Guillaume Poictiers,
            had brought the song up out of Spain
    with the singers and viels.

  141. The UC Press will let you read all of Donald Wesling’s The Chances of Rhyme: Device and Modernity online.

  142. A good find. Wesling focuses mainly on more recent developments, but on pp. 42-43 he has this to say about the history:

    Rhyme is, says Whitehall, “non-indigenous to most European literatures, and has apparently been acquired by us from some South Mid-Asian Semitic language by the process of acculturation.”[16] Rhyme was not a boldly prominent organizing feature in the ancient classical poetry of the West, and this fact conditioned its emergence in the modern vernaculars. The purely theoretical ictus of Greek and Latin quantitative prosodies was apparently a disincentive to rhyme. “As long as stress was ignored in verse, modern rhyme, which depends on it, was obviously impossible; it is recurrence of stress, not verse-ictus, which is needed for rhyme.”[17] The real beginnings of rhyme as we understand it, “harmonizing with stress-accent and supporting the rhythm of the verse, are to be found in the tenth century”[18] —in Latin hymns, then vernacular hymns and leonine hexameters. So the deep harmony of rhyme enters Europe at the same time as organized Christianity.

    Footnote 16 reads:

    16. Whitehall, “From Linguistics to Poetry,” p. 139. John W. Draper finds “The Origin of Rhyme” in Chinese folk-poetry of the Shih Ching; see his essay in Revue de la littérature comparée, 3 (1957), esp. 83-86. A more recent study of “repetitions of sound in parallel metrical positions” finds that rhyme in classical Latin poetry is not an unintentional side effect but a conscious device, clearly described in the ancient literary theory of sound pattern and rhetorical figures: evidence that challenges the claim for vernacular invention of rhyming poetry. See Eva H. Guggenheimer, Rhyme Effects and Rhyming Figures (The Hague-Paris: Mouton, 1972).

  143. Whitehall’s more complete “Rhyme: Sources and Diffusion” was published in Ibadan. (Since there is a world-class African Studies library nearby, I can have a look at this next week, but I imagine it’s generally pretty hard.)
    For a sense of just how much has been written on all this, see the bibliography English Versification, 1570-1980, A Reference Guide, which is also available complete online.
    The counterpart to the single-origin / diffusion theory (from wherever) is that it’s more or less innate. For instance, with an acoustical-phonetic basis in Lanz’s The Physical Basis of Rime: An Essay on the Aesthetics of Sound. I believe a continuation of this perspective is the developmental linguistics observation that almost all children make rhymes while learning their language.
    There’s also a decent summary at the front of “The Origins and Early Development of Rhyme in English Verse” in JSTOR.

  144. David Marjanović says:

    A more recent study of “repetitions of sound in parallel metrical positions” finds that rhyme in classical Latin poetry is not an unintentional side effect but a conscious device, clearly described in the ancient literary theory of sound pattern and rhetorical figures

    Wow.

  145. “As long as stress was ignored in verse”
    I think this dogmatic opposition of quantitative ictus to “stress” is much exaggerated. The academic line is sharply to distinguish the stretching (in time) of the thetic syllable from the making of that syllable into a drumbeat, but I don’t believe the acoustic difference between these emphases – distinct as their respective languages might be as to how it feels (generally) when listening to them – can account for the presence or absence of rhyme.
    -
    The real beginnings of rhyme [...] “are to be found in the tenth century”- [...] So the deep harmony of rhyme enters Europe at the same time as organized Christianity.
    Organized Christianity “entered” Europe? In the “tenth century” a. D.?

  146. Trond Engen says:

    It’s been a long time since I read the saga, apparently. I had forgotten about Skallagrim’s poetic message to king Harold Fairhair. I’d say, though, that that poem is more likely to have been crafted later, e.g. by Egill, than is Hǫfuðlausn. Also, I attributed to the author of the saga the information that this was the first Skaldic poem with end-rhyme, but it must rather have been said in a footnote. Finally, I don’t know if one can rule out that even Hǫfuðlausn as we know it was crafted later. Heck, I don’t know whether the end-rhyme speaks for or against its authenticity. For: The parallels with the contemporary English Rhyming Poem. Against: The toogoodtobetrueness of that (and the other long poems of the saga).
    (I’m working my way through Frank M. Chambers’ Old Provençal Versification (1985), a source for the Wikipedia article on Guilhem de Peiteis that MMcM linked to. We’ll see what that will bring. So far there’s no clear relation to be seen either way; the meter of Hǫfuðlausn is very different from anything Romance.)

  147. Here is Grim’s poem. No source given in Wiki and Hollander doesn’t credit it either, but it’s from Egil’s Saga ( I checked my own copy as well).

  148. Trond Engen says:

    Nús hersis hefnd
    við hilmi efnd.
    Gengr ulfr ok örn
    of ynglings börn.
    Flugu höggvin hræ
    Hallvarðs á sæ.
    Grár slítr undir
    ari Snarfara.
    Interestingly the two last lines don’t rhyme. The Wikipedia article takes this as weak evidence for its being crafted by Grímr on the spot. But it should be easy to use ari and Snarfari as a rhyme, so easy that the pair has to be there on purpose. Is their collocation in the last line a deliberate deviation from the rhyme scheme or a result of transmission error? Hægstad’s translation seems to go for the latter:
    grådig are
    et Snarfare.

  149. i think it has something to do with the word order in the sentences, in the languages like English, Russian, Chinese when the word order is like object+verb+subject, the rhyme has to be in the end of the line, in order to be sensed as rhymed
    while in the languages like ours or i don’t know about Korean/Turkish poetry whether those are alliterative or not, but the words order, the sentence structure is the same they say, object+subject+verb, so it has to be alliteration, to be felt as rhymed poetry
    i thought so b/c when try to translate English or Russian sentence into mine, have to start from the end towards the beginning and vice versa, then it had stricken me rhyme = reverse alliteration, perhaps

  150. But it should be easy to use ari and Snarfari as a rhyme, so easy that the pair has to be there on purpose.
    But could it be done without destroying the meter? That was the most important thing about Skaldic poetry, right? Counting the syllables, or at least the feet? I think the last two lines blow up the consonant alliteration scheme too, and the assonance scheme with the vowels, although I don’t know enough about Old Norse pronunciation to judge that.
    Once more, from Lee Hollander’s 1947 The Skalds (You’d think it would be on google books by now, so I could just link to it) specifically for the dróttkvæett “court measure”:

    There are two alliterative syllables in the odd, and one in the even, half-line. The latter must fall on the first syllable of the even line, which is always accented.

    So in the first two half lines of Bald Grimr’s poem (if it’s not Egil’s), hersis and hefnd alliterate with hilmi; in the next two half lines it’s ok, örn, and of; in the third set of half lines, it’s höggvin, hræ, and Hallvarðs.
    As far as the vowel “rimes”:

    The skothending in the odd, and the aðalhending* in the even, half-line always involve the second but last syllable. (Of course, rime counts only in accented syllables, but these are not necessarily the same as those on which there is alliteration.)

    *[skothending: like final consonant and unlike vowel; aðalhending: perfect internal rhyme, vowel and consonant]
    “Second but last syllable” must mean “second to the last syllable”, but that’s as far as I can follow the Old Norse.
    Elsewhere, Hollander says about the poetry in general, “It will be seen that the rime must fall on the second but last syllable of a line and that this syllable must be long (by nature or position). In “classic” usage, an imperfect rime–even in the slightest degree–in the even line, or perfect rime in the odd line, was quickly detected and considered a grave fault. The philological reader will appreciate that this meticulous adherence to rules, both as to quality and quantity of sounds in the rime, affords invaluable evidence as to the nature of the old language and frequent opportunity to emend in conformity to the scheme required.” I suppose if one wanted more information about the specific forms you could look at the last part of Snorri’s Háttatal, but the question is about the dating of the fragment that is supposed to be written by Egil’s father. I have no problem believing that new a poetry form that makes a formal appearance was actually in a more informal usage some time before that. Isn’t that common with language change? Why shouldn’t it apply to poetry change as well? Also, the Vikings considered poetry to be a form of immortality, which is another reason for court poetry, kings were eager to have their deeds known to posterity. Egil may have wanted to immortalize his father in some way. But if, as it says, the formal court poetry forms had to be followed exactly so as to avoid insult, a new, non-standard poetry form could only appear in the form of an insult, in this case Egil’s father sending a message to his foe describing vengeance taken.

  151. i think it has something to do with the word order in the sentences, in the languages like English, Russian, Chinese when the word order is like object+verb+subject, the rhyme has to be in the end of the line, in order to be sensed as rhymed
    Yes, Hollander makes this point, that “this internal rime hardly registers on our untrained modern ears as rime.” But also consider that in English at least, the subject-verb-object word order can be changed so the rhyme comes at the end.

  152. I suspect some of the rhyming for semitic languages comes from the the grammar, especially possessive endings:
    Psalms 23:5
    ~In English (sorry about the KJV):
    Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
    ~In Hebrew:
    תַּעֲרֹ לְפָנַי שֻׁלְחָן נֶגֶד צֹרְרָי דִּשַּׁנְתָּ בַשֶּׁמֶן רֹאשִׁי כּוֹסִי
    רְוָיָה
    ~Hebrew tranliteration:
    5 Taárokh’ l’fänay
    ‘chän neged tzor’räy
    DiSHan’Tä
    vaSHemen roshiy
    Kôšiy
    r’wäyäh
    Source.
    I’m not quite sure how to pronounce the original Hebrew, but it looks like it has some assonance type vowel rhymes, if not actual end rhymes.

  153. what a shame, subject/object, yes, i’ve messed them up, thanks for pointing out that
    i’d have continued with the mistake

  154. No, you can do object+verb+subject. Think of the Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham” that begins “I am Sam. Sam I am.” Maybe that’s more like object-verb-subject, although it’s more nominative than objective, but I got your idea anyhow, my point being that English word order can be flexible.

  155. Trond Engen says:

    Trond: But it should be easy to use ari and Snarfari as a rhyme, so easy that the pair has to be there on purpose.
    Nijma: I think the last two lines blow up the consonant alliteration scheme too, and the assonance scheme with the vowels
    You’re right, of course. I noticed the correctly assonating seemingly misplaced endrhyme ari and stuck it into the sack of “deliberate deviation or transmission error”. But I didn’t think it through. Line seven is obviously wrong, and Ari and Snarfari should both be in either the nominative or the accusative (or din’t they care about the unstressed final vowel?). Presumably the lines should go:
    Vowel-word Ari
    Vowel-word Snarfari
    I’m pretty sure Hægstad’z translation is built on an emendation like that. But I still won’t completely rule out what I meant by “deliberate deviation”:
    Vowel-word Vowel-word
    Ari Snarfari

  156. Trond Engen says:

    The point is that this poem is an exquisit insult to the king, a silverknife in the wound, no, a jewelled, gold-shafted silverknife. Killing the king’s relatives and loyal men is one thing, giving pardon to a messenger is another level of spite, crafting the message as a poem is yet another level, and doing it in a meter used to celebrate the king … and with end-rhymes added for good measure … Skallagrím (or Egill, or a later writer) wouldn’t have used anything less than a perfect composition for that purpose. Except, perhaps, a deviation in the last line shouting “I could have made it perfect but I wouldn’t.”

  157. I found a version of Egil’s Saga in Old Norse with extensive comments in English about manuscripts. (Poem on page 37,chapter 27) It looks like there are plenty of decent manuscripts so there shouldn’t be any questions about the accuracy of the transmission. Also the text will say when a section is in only one or two manuscripts and it doesn’t say anything about the poem. My Penguin version says it was written around 1230 about events that took place over several generations from 850 to 1000 (Egil’s grandfather Kveld-Ulf, meaning “evening wolf”, was a shape changer and tended to kill people around sunset), and may have been written by Snorri Sturleson who lived on Egil’s farm at Borg for a while. Hmm. That actually puts the writing of the poem much later than the 947 beginning date of the reign of Eric Bloodaxe, although I don’t have any problem believing that the poems had been remembered for 300 years when the story was written.
    But yeah, if Skallagrim had already killed the king’s favorite retainers, he was probably past the point where he would have to worry about whether the king was offended by his poetry forms. At that point he could write any poem he wanted. I sort of wondered if it might have some sort of hidden rhyme in it, like we might start out a poem writing about Nantucket, or a poem that needs a rhyme with “hell” to finish the poem, but at the last minute the ending is changed to “heck”.

  158. Mary and the magpie sitting on the grass.
    Mary stuck her finger up the magpie’s nose.

  159. some sort of hidden rhyme
    What is the proper term for this technique? Substituted rhyme? Here Putin and Medvedev sing couplets (chastushki, go to 1:55 in the video) rhyming Opel with жопа (asshole), the rhyme also used by Trifonov in The Exchange.

  160. The first link (“Bill Benzon”) of John Emerson’s second comment of 2010-01-10 is broken. (I did have a look for it myself, but Benzon seems to have written enough pieces touching on the topic to make it difficult.)

  161. Thanks for the heads-up; it’s fixed now.

  162. BERNARD OF MORLAIX: METRE AND RHYME has a discussion of rhyme in classical Latin poetry and in English poetry. The author notes:
    ‘It is not strictly correct, therefore, to say that rhyme was “as foreign to the Romans as to the Germanic peoples.” Nor need we seek the origins of rhyme only in classical prose; classical poetry may have had at least as much influence on the development of rhyme in the verse of the twelfth century as classical prose. But if we think of rhyme as being identity of sound between words or verse-lines extending from the end to the last fully accented vowel and no further and if, in addition, we insist upon a regular scheme of rhyme in that sense throughout a whole poem, then it can properly be said that rhyme is an invention of the twelfth century.’
    From the 19th century, The Flourishing of Romance and the Rise of Allegory, by George Saintsbury. CHAPTER V.THE MAKING OF ENGLISH AND THE SETTLEMENT OF EUROPEAN PROSODY also makes interesting reading. While it doesn’t look at the bigger picture of where rhyme came from, it does note that “By the eleventh century at latest in France, by the end of the twelfth in Germany, verse had taken, in the first case fully, in the second almost fully, a modern form. In England it was, during the two hundred years from 1150 to 1350, working itself steadily, and with ample examples, from pure accent to accentual quantity, and from alliteration to rhyme.”

  163. Saintsbury wrote the definitive turn-of-the-century work on English Prosody.

  164. Maybe I have an antiquarian bent, but the kind of prose that Saintsbury wrote seems to me a far more vigorous exemplar of prose than much of the politically correct stuff that passes as prose today. Saintsbury has a very clear message in that passage — the introduction of rhyme and meter was a good thing — and it seems more interesting than any relativistic attempt to explore all forms as “equally valid”. What the man wrote was interesting in a way that no Wikipedia article could possibly hope to be.

  165. Perhaps modern English, in its neutered neutrality, is experiencing the kind of decline that Saintsbury identified in late Anglo-Saxon literature?

  166. Just in case anyone is in the area, A Mongolian Poetry Contest is scheduled to be held in New Los Angeles Library on 31 January. Personally I would love to attend, but it’s a bit far from Beijing….

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