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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 2 Aug 1998 18:16:30 +0200
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Dear list,
My name is Arwin van Arum and I am newly subscribed to this list. I'm a
student of English Literature in the fourth and final year of my M.A.,
writing a thesis about T.S. Eliot's Burbank with a Baedeker; Bleistein with
a Cigar. Through Eliot, I've come to know a little about 'Il Miglior
Fabbro' and I come to this list mainly with a strong interest for the
'Fabbro' aspects of poetry.
I've been doing some metrical analysis of T.S. Eliot's quatrain poems (cf.
Pound's Hugh Selwyn Mauberly), which has resulted in the unexpected retort
on said list that short/long is not an aspect of English poetry, only
stress. Cuddon (where I always begin) is of two minds about the subject: on
the one hand he talks about 'stressed or long' and 'unstressed or short',
on the other he says under 'quantity' that "In English verse the duration
of the vowels and syllables is important aesthetically but is of no
metrical importance."
I've come to disagree mostly for the simple reason that a dactyl will need
two short unstressed syllables against the stressed long one because
otherwise the length of the foot will exceed the demands of the metre - I
think one can go so far as to measure the influence of long and short
syllables and stress with a stopwatch, and that when significance
differences occur these will mostly be for reasons of trope, a significant
relationship between metrical deviation (forte, pianissimo) and content,
for instance in the form of a spondee in Pound's Apparuit (a Sapphic ode):
Golden rose the house, in the portal I saw
thee, a marvel, carven in subtle stuff, a
portent. Life died down in th elamp and flickered,
       caught at the wonder.
Where "Life died down" is a spondee.
So, hoping that on this list of fans of "Il Miglior Fabbro" there will be
more people who are knowledgeable of the craft side of poetry, I join you.
I run the risk of stepping on a few toes by saying so, but on the T.S.
Eliot list there are far too many 'biographers' and far too few expert
readers of poetry. And of course, if anyone knows of any early prose (say,
pre-1920) by Pound on this subject, specifically on 'short' and 'long'
quantity in English poetry, I'd be most grateful.
Kind regards,
Arwin van Arum
The Netherlands