By Charles O. Hartman
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Extra info for Free verse : An essay on prosody
D. Hope implicidy agrees with his enemy's assumptions. Free verse arises from the mistaken belief that poetry can be improved or its range extended by breaking down the traditional structure of English verse or replacing its rhythms by those of prose. The English metre depends upon collocation of metrical and prose rhythms and from this comes its elasticity, its richness of texture and its endless possibilities of variety within a simple pattern. So-called free verse sacrifices all this by trying, and trying in vain, to make the prose rhythms do all the work .
What delightful note with rapid unexpected flutesounds leaping from the throat of the astute grown bird, comes back to one from the remote 20 Some Definitions unenergetic sun lit air before the brood was here? How harsh the bird's voice has become. A piebald cat observing them, is slowly creeping toward the trim trio on the tree-stem —the three fledglings the mother must protect. The penulti mate line of the fourth stanza ("the brood was here? How harsh") contains six syllables rather than seven; the next also has six, instead of four; and the first line of the next stanza is eight rather than nine syllables long.
I want to give as a final example of meter the one we as English readers know best, the accentual-syllabic prosody that is still with us. Growing out of merged but competing systems from French, Anglo-Saxon, and Latin, it is as com plex in its basic principles as any ever invented (100). This creates much of the richness of possibility that half a millen nium has far from exhausted. As its origin and name declare, our meter depends on two rules: counting accents and syllable boundaries. ) At its most rigid, the pattern demands that every line contain (for example) ten syllables, and five accents or stresses in the even positions.