comfortably accommodate such clashes between cultural and anticultural registers because there is no general rule which governs the reported speech of its characters—though the relation between these and the first or third person controlling presence has taxed literary linguists since Bakhtin. But with poetry, more specifically pre-twentieth-century regular poetry, problems emerge in the matching of the intrinsic and culturally determined conventions of the double pattern with 'anti-language', because the former are largely restricted to the terms and conditions of the educated, bourgeois poet and his audience. In The Idiot Boy' the speaking presence, without any apparent sense of self-consciousness, uses such locutions as 'mighty fret', 'fiddle faddle', 'the thought torments her sore', 'Fond lovers yet not quite hob nob', 'Old Susan lies a' bed in pain'. It would have been difficult for Wordsworth to fit these colloquial patterns into forms such as the Horatian ode, blank verse or the closed couplet, not because the abstract regulations of these structures could not accommodate them— they maintain a regular iambic pattern—but because they function as indicators of language as detached from its poetic/ cultural context. What Wordsworth did was to exploit and play upon the cultural expectations of his readers. The 'rural' ballads of the collection either involve a first person discourse by someone like the peasant or the forsaken Indian Woman or they deliberately close the gap between the event of the narration (the enounced) and the subject of the enunciation (the speaking presence) by making it clear that the language of the reporter of events places him within the same socio-cultural sphere as its participants. It is the sociocultural status of the ballad form that enables him to do this.
Consider the interaction between the speaking presences of the rural ballads and the two elements of the double pattern. In "The Idiot Boy' and The Thorn' there are at least two speakers. In each instance a large number of structural and deictic resources are employed to give the impression that each figure occupies the same socio-cultural sphere. The reported speech passages (indicated by inverted commas) involve a similar amount of colloquial locutions as the third person presences. In 'The Thorn' the reporter of events splits his discourse between himself, an unidentified questioner/interlocutor and the refrain of his subject, Martha Ray ('"Oh misery! Oh misery! Oh woe is me! Oh misery!"'). His persistent use of obsessively exact deictic references (the height, location and condition of the thorn tree, the precise timing of the alleged events of the child murder) add to the impression that the speaker is attempting to transpose textual mediation with pre-
linguistic immediacy. The speaker in The Idiot Boy' similarly attempts to reconcile text and event. The language of the poem is shared by himself, Betty, Susan and Johnny's concluding statement (' "The cocks did crow to-whoo, to-whoo/And the sun did shine so cold"'). Each story is delivered in the present tense and this draws the addressee-reader further into a pattern of textual immediacy and contextual reference. We are listening to a single speaker who seeks to involve his listener and his characters in the reported situation of the utterance. For example, in The Idiot Boy' the speaker appears to compromise his control of the a b c c b rhyme scheme by repeating the same word—'And Betty's in a sad quandary' (178) 'She's in a sad quandary' (181). In a couplet poem or in a text that does not offer itself as a 'ballad' contemporary readers might have cited this repetition as bad poetic writing: an instance of the poet unable to negotiate the complexities of the double pattern. Contemporary reviewers did not comment on this involuntary foregrounding of the tension between speech pattern and poetic function because it was accepted that the ballad form operated as a culturally designated sign system that would situate and predetermine the relatively uncultured status of its speaker. The improvisational and repetitive patterns of ordinary speech were accepted as a textual function (the reported speeches of Betty and Susan involve continuous repetitions of the same clauses). Our awareness of this acceptance itself involves a tension between the historico-cultural affiliations of literary studies and the textual focus of linguistics. For instance, the linguist might draw our attention to how the largely inactive connective 'and' is thrown into the foreground by its placing at the first syllable of approximately 10 per cent of the poem's lines. It is usually followed by the present tense positioning of verb and subject—'And now she's high upon.', 'And now he sits.', 'And now to the doctor's door', 'And grumbling, he went.', 'And Susan's growing worse.'. We might reason from this that the speaker wishes to centre himself within the spatiotemporal shifts of the story. This most widely used connective, by being placed at a significant point in the interaction between syntax and metre, allows the speaking presence to interpose himself between the actual story and his own rendition of it.
The literary historian might move outside the text. For instance, a much cited review by Southey (1798) claims that "The Idiot Boy' 'resembles a Flemish Picture in the worthlessness of its design and the excellence of its execution', and Dr. Burney in the Monthly Review (1799) compares the rural ballads with 'pictures', 'as dark as those of Rembrandt' (Lyrical Ballads, 318-23). What both of these reviewers infer is that the language of the ballads constitutes an element of their naturalistic or mimetic purpose, that there is no clear distinction between the means of representation and the events and details represented. Their visual arts analogy is consistent with Wordsworth's own remarks on the imagined socio-cultural status of his narrators: 'it is not supposed to be spoken in the author's own person':
I had two objects to attain; first, to represent a picture which should not be unimpressive yet consistent with the character that should describe it, secondly, while I adhered to the style in which such persons describe, to take care that words, which in their minds are impregnated with passion, should likewise convey passion to Readers who are not accustomed to sympathize with men feeling in that manner or using such language. It seemed to me that this might be done by calling in the assistance of Lyrical and rapid Metre.
(Lyrical Ballads, 288)
This passage is sown with a pattern of socio-cultural references that the contemporary reader would easily decode. 'Lyrical and rapid Metre', 'the style in which such persons describe', 'using such language', all of these indicate the status of the ballad as a form of low culture—not a means of actually replicating the spoken and referential patterns of 'such persons' but rather their cultural correlative. The problem for the linguist/literary critic, as Fowler points out in Literature as Social Discourse (1981), is of how to balance such ex cathedra contextual evidence against the meanings discharged by the intrinsic metrical, syntactic and lexical structures of the texts. If we focus upon the forms and types of 'common' locution or anti-language and such patterns as persistent clause repetition or a near dependence upon connectives, we then have to deal with why Wordsworth chooses to situate his speech events in a subcultural linguistic and social context. We could begin by reexamining the picture analogy used both by Wordsworth and his reviewers.
The best known semiotic distinction between linguistic and visual sign systems was proposed by C.S.Peirce in his use of the terms iconic (visual) and symbolic (linguistic). Iconic signs usually bear a close physical resemblance (through shape, colour or static juxtaposition) to the objects and events that they seek to mediate. Symbolic signs or words are part of an independent system which depends upon the ability of sender and receiver to decode the interface between linguistic event and pre-linguistic experience. Interpreters and semioticians from Plato, through Lessing, to Wendy Steiner have debated the relative claims of these two media to immediacy and transparency. Visual representation, particularly in its pre-twentieth-century form, is easy to decode—we do not need to achieve competence in a form of visual grammar to recognise in Constable's Hay Wain a cart, a horse, and a river, but the phonetic and graphic signs 'cart', 'horse' and 'river' demand a broader awareness of the complex symbolic system from which they are drawn. What visual representation lacks is the ability to fully communicate the temporal process from which the silent, iconic 'snapshot' is taken: what circumstances have led to the positioning of the cart in the river; where is it going; and why? Wordsworth, in his rural ballads plays both the symbolic and the iconic cards. The speakers of the rural ballads literally inhabit the frame of the artefact. Their linguistic-metrical patterns are the equivalents of the smock, the plough or the cottage from which the painted figure can never be fully detached. But at the same time this same linguistic medium enables them to control the consecutive progress of the narrative.
Consider the generic designation of the ballad as a narrative form —in late-eighteenth-century magazine culture it was the equivalent of the short story. Propp, Greimas and Todorov (see Hawkes, 1977, 87-106) have all been influential in their attempts to formulate a grammar of narrative, a means by which the characters and events of prose fiction can be seen to be governed by a set of abstract rules similar to the grammatical units of syntax. All of their theses have been subjected to rigorous and often sceptical examination, but let us see how Greimas's division of narrative into three basic patterns relates to the story of 'The Idiot Boy'. The syntagmes contractuels refer to the establishing or breaking of contracts. It is inferred that there is an agreed contract between Betty Foy and her sick friend Susan (ratified by popular notions of rural harmony) and an even deeper bond between Betty and her son Johnny. The syntagmes performanciels involve trials, struggles and the performance of tasks, and the task and struggle imposed upon Johnny is to take his pony and seek help for Susan. Syntagmes disjunctionnels involve the physical movement of characters, their arrival and departure, as part of their function in relation to contract and performance. This accounts for the major narrative events of 'The Idiot Boy': Johnny departs, Betty is worried about his and Susan's fate and she follows him. We could select sentences and clauses from the poem and find that these broader narrative patterns find their counterpart in the actual syntagmatic structures.
And he must post without delay Across the bridge and in the dale.
The affirmative main verb 'must post' and the deictic references to 'bridge' and 'dale' correspond with Johnny's contract, his performance and his movement.
The clock is on the stroke of twelve And Johnny is not yet in sight.
The spatio-temporal references to the time and to Betty's perspective again foreground the nature of the contract and the performance or movement of its contractee.
So far so good, but what Greimas's formulations do not tell us is why Wordsworth, as he implies, regards his rural tales as in any way different from either their prose counterparts in the novel or their poetic counterparts in the magazines. Mayo compares 'The Idiot Boy' with a very similar ballad (published in the Sporting Magazine, October 1798) called The Idiot'. In this the speaker is similarly governed by the conventions of the ballad form, but shows a greater command of the narrative structure by making it clear exactly why his idiot is unable to fully understand his mother's death, and he goes on to list the macabre and sordid details of the idiot's preservation of the decomposing corpse. What Wordsworth's first and third person speakers do not do is to rationalise or impose explanations upon their own or the reported behaviour of their characters. Greimas's models of the syntagm are invoked both at the broader and localised levels of the texts, but our expectation of syntax and narrative leading us to some kind of conclusion is continuously and consistently disappointed. We don't really know why Johnny has disappeared or what is going through his mind; we are never sure if Martha Ray has killed her infant child or of why and how the Indian Woman or the Mad Mother have found themselves in their reported circumstances. In effect the rural ballads operate simultaneously at two levels, variously termed the symbolic and the iconic, the linguistic and the visual, discours and histoire. The narrative is like a picture in the sense that characters, objects, circumstances and the relationships between them are depicted without being fully explained or rationalised, while this element of naturalistic transparency is supplemented by a dense pattern of poetic and cultural codes. The resulting effect depends largely upon the predisposition of the reader. Perhaps Wordsworth has successfully disrupted the structural and representational conventions of eighteenth-century writing and brought verse closer to the sub-cultural 'real world' of sensation, spontaneity and existential contingency. Alternatively he can be seen as drawing upon, even exploiting, these same conventions: the ballad and its formal and representational mechanisms are just as unreal and refractory as the couplet and blank verse—their difference exists only in their cultural associations.
The enigmatic, one might say 'unfinished', nature of Wordsworth's ballads manifests itself in other Romantic uses of the poetic narrative. Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner' and 'Christabel', Keats's 'Eve of St. Agnes', even Byron's satirical but similarly inconclusive Don Juan, all take us through a series of consecutive events but maintain a reluctance to close this progress with reflections upon what these events actually mean. The opposing binary pole of Romantic poetry involves a shift away from narrative toward immediacy, in which the primary structural determinant is the mental and linguistic resources of the speaker rather than the objective, consecutive nature of the events—the most familiar manifestation of this being the Romantic Ode (see below pp. 118-28). What unites these two apparently dissimilar poetic functions within the Romantic programme is their attempt to mediate the subjective register of pre-linguistic phenomena. In Lyrical Ballads the poem that represents the most conspicuous shift away from the sub-cultural circumstances of the rural tale toward the 'high Romantic' fusion of addresser and poet is 'Tintern Abbey'.
Compare the rural ballads with Tintern Abbey', lines 4-8: Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, That on a wild secluded scene impress Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
There are several ways of reading this passage: none is entirely invalid but each, if isolated from its alternatives, is incomplete. Isobel Armstrong (1978) and Antony Easthope (1983) note that there are ambiguities generated by the terminal verbs 'impress' and 'connect'. With 'impress' there is an apparent hesitation between the cliffs literally imposing themselves upon the landscape (a typical post-Miltonic inversion) and the revelation that the cliffs 'impress' thoughts of more deep seclusion upon the speaker (repositioning 'wild secluded scene' as a prepositional phrase and the 'I' of the sentence as its most dominant function). Similarly 'connect' could refer either to an unbroken unity of panorama, 'the cliffs connect the landscape with the sky', or to the process of mediation 'I connect the landscape with the quiet of the sky', the latter shifting the emphasis toward the subjective, adjectival function of 'quiet' and away from the physical relation between the nouns. How we interpret these ambiguities and, more significantly, explain Wordsworth's reason for inserting them will depend upon two interrelated issues: first, what is the status of this passage as a speech act, to whom is it addressed and what, from the evidence of the text, can we infer about the contextual situation of the speaker? Second, how does Wordsworth's invocation of a series of cultural and poetic codes affect our interpretation?
There is no evidence of an addressee functioning within the enclosed dramatic circuit of the speech act. The reader/listener is addressed directly. This corresponds with a number of signals—its focus upon natural imagery, its use of blank verse—which invite the reader to compare it with the eighteenth-century tradition of landscape poems by, amongst others, Thomson, Cowper and Akenside. The speakers of the rural ballads also address the reader/ listener directly, but the cultural codes invoked in Tintern Abbey', supplemented by the fact that the structural function of event and narrative is replaced by the relation between perception, mediation and introspection, locate the broader cultural context and contact codes as the silent contemplation of the text or the drawing-room reading rather than the story told in the inn.
Armstrong and Easthope explain the ambiguities of the poem as contrived slippages, Armstrong proposing the text as typically Romantic syntax, effecting 'transformations in perception and relationship' (263), and Easthope as an example of parataxis, 'the juxtaposed syntax of speech' (127). In short, Wordsworth attempts to give the impression that the 'passion' involved in his own perceptions and recollections has unsettled his command of language. The uncertain syntactic relation between the parts of the landscape and their subjective effects is the high cultural equivalent of The Idiot Boy' speaker's continuous return to the connective 'and'. What the two critics do not consider is the extent to which Wordsworth deliberately disrupts the reader's certainty regarding our status as addressee. Here we should recall Donne's The Flea' where we find that the plausibility of an imagined addressee is at once validated by the deictics of the utterance and invalidated by the foregrounded contrivance of textuality. What are we reading/listening to with Tintern Abbey'? A figure who has, like Donne's speaker, or in a similar technical frame, Milton's blank verse speakers, become textual devices, or a figure whose hesitations and syntactic referrals are a transparent sign of heightened emotion? I believe both. The ambiguities are effectively foregrounded by the tension between verse design and verse instance. Were the passage to be printed and consequently interpreted as rhythmic prose a major pause would occur between 'scene' and 'impress' and the ambiguity would be diffused. Similarly, the placing of 'connect' at the line ending gives greater emphasis to its function as a point of tension in the relation between the parts of the landscape and their effect upon the perceiver. Wordsworth exploits what had become, for the late-eighteenth-century superreader, the metasyntax of poetic form. Such a person would have been aware that a tension between design-instance, text-speaker relations had occurred in Milton and been marginalised in the first person blank verse texts of the eighteenth century, and he/she would also be aware that Wordsworth had created an innovative interaction between these two technical and generic expectations. In Tintern Abbey' Wordsworth relies just as much upon the register of established textual and cultural signs as he did in his use of the ballad, and it is important for us, as twentieth-century readers, to be as fully aware of the problematic relation between the Romantic text and its broader cultural-aesthetic context as we are of its intrinsic syntactic and poetic mechanisms.
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