Meter Figurative Language

may have been coined by Samuel Johnson, applied as a pejorative term. Metaphysical poetry developed, in part, as an artistic reaction against traditional Elizabethan poetry's mild and predictable sentiments. It also represented a political reaction to the intellectual and spiritual challenges poets experienced during the transition from the Renaissance to the modern period. Highly philosophical, metaphysical poetry seldom focused on nature or the concrete and adopted different verse forms, none of which became a convention. Herbert produced some of the most famous shape poems, using format as a metaphor to suggest his topic; a prime example is his "The Altar," in which the lines are formatted in the shape of an altar. The metaphysi-cals appreciated the precise phrase, making select lines worthy of the dramatic epigram; as critics have noted, many individual poems resemble dramatic monologues. Their poetry dealt with simple but common emotions, such as love, anger, jealousy, and sorrow, but used uncommon figurative language to construct surprising metaphors that compared two things not usually thought of as comparable. It also adopted rationality to discuss phenomena, rather than the intuition or mysticism common to Elizabethan poetry. Donne, as a metaphysical, may have been rejected in the centuries that followed him for his lack of tenderness in his romantic poetry or for a perceived lack of solemnity and respect in his religious poems. The metaphys-icals' use of comparisons, rather than straightforward statements about their topics, caused the 18th century, which valued clarity, to scorn their approach. The 20th-century poet T. S. Eliot revived interest in the metaphysicals, appreciating their intellect and their revolutionary natures, with which he could identify.

Donne's poem "The Canonization" represents the metaphysical metaphor. While it suggests a focus on religion, the poem instead focuses on romantic love, with the speaker desiring that others accept his attitude about romance, which contrasts with their own. He includes lines scolding those who would judge him, who had turned love from peace into rage, "Who did the whole world's soul extract, and drove, / Into the glasses of your eyes, / So made such mirrors, and such spies." The odd imagery constitutes use of cata-chresis by Donne. He includes a violent image of an object boring into human eyes and then compares the eyes to mirrors that reflected the deeds of others, as a spy might do. Such wit was expected of poets, and the metaphysicals often applied a clever approach to discussion of religious matters, astrology, and early science, such as theories of alchemy. They employed paradox in a similar way, framing seemingly contradictory statements that contained a startling truth. Vaughan's poem "They Are All Gone Into the World of Light" couples the term beauteous with the term death, an unusual pairing supporting his metaphor of death as "the jewel of the Just." Readers accustomed to death's characterization as something to be feared and avoided would find this more positive characterization puzzling. However, it helped transmit Vaughan's message that only through death does one achieve true liberty and need no religion or philosophy to understand the ultimate truth.

METER The term meter refers to rhythm in poetry created by syllabic stresses or the lack of stresses. Groups of syllables may be organized into various patterns, which are labeled feet. Generally one foot consists of one stressed syllable plus one to two unstressed syllables. In order to determine which syllable is stressed, its sound is compared to other syllables within the same foot. Many feet forms exist; the most popular are the iambic, trochaic, anapestic, dactylic, spondee, and pyrrhic, the terms originating in the Greek language. When feet appear in multiples, the rhythm is labeled according to the number of feet per line, as in dimeter (two feet), trimeter (three feet), tetrameter (four feet), pentameter (five feet), and so forth. While most lines of poetry consist of one type of foot, that may vary.

In the iambic foot the first syllable is unstressed and the second stressed. While the term iamb derives from Greek, its meaning has been lost. The most common type of foot, it often appears in a series of five, labeled iambic pentameter, and is familiar to many readers through Shakespeare's SoNNETs. By far the most popular meter, iambic pentameter closely resembles natural speech patterns and was used almost to exclusion of all other meter by 17th- and 18th-century poets. An example may be seen in the first line from "On my First

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Son" by Ben Jonson. Inserting a vertical line between feet, and a breve (") for the unstressed syllable and an ictus (') for the stressed syllable, the line appears as: "Fare well | thou chil d| of my | right hand | and joy," with a stress falling on the second syllable of each foot. Troche means "running" or "belonging to the dance" in Greek and is often used in classical comedy. The trochaic is the opposite of the iambic, with a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. It often appears in groups of four as seen in the first two lines of "The Ladies Defense" by Lady Mary Chudleigh, which also include an example of a variance: "Wife and | ser vant | are tine | same, / But on | ly dif | fer in | the name." The anapestic foot contains two unstressed syllables with one stressed syllable. Clement Moore's familiar "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" represents an example of anapestic tetrameter: "Twas the night| be fore Christ | mas and all | through the house." Anapest means "beat back" in Greek, referencing the fact that it is the reverse of the dactylic. Dactylic, meaning "finger" in Greek, indeed reverses the stress in anapestic, containing one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables, as in the words mul ti ple and in ter vene. Homer often employed dactylic hexameter. The spondee, meaning "used in libation" in Greek, offers equal stress on two or more syllables and was often used in religious rituals. In "Batter my Heart" by John Donne the fourth line contains a spondee in the series "break, blow, burn," each single-syllable word receiving identical stress. The pyrrhic foot, used in war dances, which reverses that pattern, most commonly contains two unstressed syllables. Neither the spondee nor the pyrrhic is employed repeatedly.

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Responses

  • emppu
    What are the Rhythm Meter used in poem The canonization by donne?
    1 year ago

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