The Poetry Handbook by John Lennard

By John Lennard

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12–14 (compare ll. 25 and 27, both notably regular), but is made to imitate rainwater flowing from a gutter by being embodied in lines of odd length. There is confirmation in ll. 28–29, which repeat the effect to a different but still watery end : measuring how imagination ebbs, conventional as any water clerk 9 11 Again neither line has the right number of beats, but they have between them the right number for two lines. You might be alerted to what is going on here by trying to scan l. 29 : if you start at the beginning it’s awkward, and the result is a very irregular line of two trochees, a pyrrhic, two more trochees, and a stressed hyperbeat : EBBS, con- | VENTion- | al as | ANy | WAter | CLERK Begin after the comma, shifting all foot-divisions along by one beat, and the line becomes an iambic pentameter with one pyrrhic and an initial stressed hyperbeat : EBBS, | conVENT- | ional | as AN- | y WA- | ter CLERK This makes far better sense, and the previous line is readily scanned as a catalectic iambic pentameter, with the first foot inverted and the ictus of the last iamb missing : MEASur- | ing HOW | iMAG- | iNA- | tion The stressed hyperbeat beginning l.

Thus limericks are aabba, showing ll. 1–2 + 5 rhyme, as do ll. 3–4 ; Robert Browning’s lines on p. 7 are abab. 33 Form only half-completed The Faerie Queene (N165), but at c. 35,000 lines it is one of the longest poems in English, written in the Spenserian stanza, eight iambic pentameters + a hexameter (or alexandrine) rhyming ababbcbcc : Like as a hip, whom cruell tempe t driues Vpon a rocke with horrible di may, Her hattered ribs in thou and peeces riues, And poyling all her geares and goodly rayo, Does make her elfe mi fortunes piteous pray.

If instead it is compressed into two, as the trochaic ‘NARR-’wer’, the line can readily be scanned with the third foot as a pyrrhic : for VIS- | ion NARR- | ower than | a LOU- | vre’s GAP, The elision compressing “narrower” is awkward to say but metrically satisfying because “narrower” is compressed into a narrower space than it would like ; the opposite of “thickening” in l. 5 (“vision thickening to a frosted pane”), which could have two syllables, ‘thicke-ning’, but here has to be pronounced as three, ‘thick-en-ing’, to thicken the line up to its proper size.

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