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By cause that it was old and somdcl strcit5 This ilke Monk leet olde thynges pace, 175 And heeld after the newe world the space. He yaf nat of diat text a pulled hen, That seith that hunters ben nat hooly men, Ne that a monk, whan he is rccchelees,7 Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees, - 180 This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre. But thilkc text heeld he nat worth an oystre What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood,8 Upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure, 185 Or swynken with his...

Interpretation

Poetic foregrounding presupposes some motivation on the part of the writer and some explanation on the part of the reader. A question-mark accompanies each foregrounded feature consciously or unconsciously, we ask ' What is the point ' Of course, there may be no point at all but the appreciative reader, by act of faith, assumes that there is one, or at least tends to give the poet the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, we must not forget the Mr Wellers of this world, who shrug their...

Cry

Who is born In the next room So loud to my own e Or, masted venus, through the paddler's bowl Sailed up the sun Alternative diagrams may be necessary. What clues do the diagrams furnish for the interpretation of the phrases (You will find the full contexts for these passages in the printed edition of Under Milk Wood (London, 1954) and Collected Poems 1934- 952. Further help in interpretation is provided by W, Y. Tindall, A Reader's Guide to Dylan Thomas, London, 1962.) 1 t. s. Eliot, 'The Music...

Foregrounding and Interpretation1

'Poetry's unnatural', said Mr Weller 'No one ever talked poetry 'cept a beadle on boxin' day.'2 In concentrating on the abnormalities of poetic language in Chapter 3, we saw that there is truth, in a sense, in at least the first part of Mr Weller's remark. But what we have to consider in this chapter is something beyond Mr Weller's matter-of-fact wisdom how the apparently unnatural, aberrant, even nonsensical, is justified by significance at some deeper level of interpretation. This question...

M

Pitched past pitch of grief, More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring. Comforter, where, where is your comforting Mary, mother of us, where is your relief My cries heave, herds-long huddle in a main, a chief Woe, world-sorrow on an age-old anvil wince and sing -Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked 'No lingering Let me be fell force I must be brief. O the mind, mind lias mountains cliffs of fall Frightful, sheer, no-man-fatliomed. Hold them cheap May...

Licences Of Situation

Two traditional figures of speech, rhetorical question and apostrophe, consist in using features of language in situations which are normally inappropriate for them. In poetry and rhetorical prose, these devices can impart a heightened dramatic quality to the language, because they transfer into an unaccustomed context the contextual implications of questions, commands, and statements which directly involve a participant other than the writer. A rhetorical question is, in a loose sense, a...

Pile The Bodies High At Austerlitz Is It A Metaphor Or Symbolism

Thus we have two tenors and two vehicles, but in the middle layer the tenor of one metaphor and the vehicle of another are collapsed into one. This analysis, however crude and tentative, shows how the two separate images co-exist that of a brow without wrinkles, and that of a person writing on some kind of writing surface. There is no reason, apart from case of comprehension, why compound metaphors containing four or even more layers of analysis should not be built up in this way. Expressions...

B

Alliteration is then the parallelism which consists in keeping A constant while B varies, whereas rhyme is the parallelism which consists in keeping B constant while A varies. It may seem that this account of rhyme and alliteration has been making heavy weather of what seems, after all, to be a relatively simple matter. I would claim that, on the contrary, the superficial arbitrariness of the ordinary descriptions of these concepts has been elucidated by showing how they make sense in terms of...

The Interaction Of Rhythm And Verse Form

Yeats was right to describe the 'ghostly voice' of metre as 'an unconscious norm'. Just as poetic language deviates, in other spheres, from norms operating within the language as a whole, so within poetic language itself, verse form, and especially metre, constitutes a secondary norm, an expected standard from which deviation is possible. In poetry, that is, a particular verse pattern (say, blank verse), although foregrounded against the background of everyday 'prose rhythm', is itself taken as...

Rhythm And Metre

It has become widely accepted, for instance, that versification is a question of the interplay between two planes of structure the ideally regular, quasi-mathematical pattern called metre, and the actual rhythm the language insists on, sometimes called the 'prose rhythm'.2 The difference between the two, as imaginatively felt by the poet himself, is expressed by W. B. Yeats (A General Introduction for my Work) as follows 'If I repeat the first line of Paradise Lost so as to emphasize its five...

Beyond Reason And Credibility

I have dealt in some detail with two types of linguistic absurdity (the third type mentioned, violation of selection restrictions, will be more fully illustrated in the next chapter), and may now finish with some general remarks on the element of absurdity and illogicality in poetry. So important does this element seem to be that a recent literary theorist, Wayne Shu-maker, has devoted a book to the subject, attempting to trace by its means the primitive psychological and anthropological...

Conclusion

Our gamut of categories has not exhausted the numerous ways in which English poets may deviate from the norms of English. An instance of a type of licence for which no allowance has been made in the foregoing scheme is the interpolation of bits of living foreign languages, conspicu ously practised by Pound and Eliot in some of their poems, and illustrated in Walt Whitman's 'Allons we must not stop here ' Sons of the Open Road , However, I shall not attempt to extend the catalogue beyond this...

The Rhythm Of English

Underlying any talk of 'rhythm' is the notion of a regular periodic beat and the very fact that we apply this term to language means that some analogy is drawn between a property of language, and the ticking of a clock, the beat of a heart, the step of a walker, and other regularly recurrent happenings in time. In phonological discussion, the grandiose term isochronism ('equal-time-ness') is attached to this simple principle. To attribute the isochronic principle to a language is to suppose...

The Qualities Of Prose In Poetry

Often it is felt that poetry and prose are basically different kinds of writing that the difference between them is not just a question of versification, not just a matter of the greater degree of linguistic boldness and compression of significance to be found in poetry, but of something fundamentally different in the character of the linguistic effort involved. If it is valid to think, in this way, of'good poetry' and 'good prose' as separate ideals, then these can be associated with the two...

Open Interpretation

From ambiguity, we widen discussion to take in the more general topic of multiple significance the 'many valued' view of poetic language as applied not just to cognitive meanings, but to all that a poem communicates. I have headed this section 'open interpretation', because it is important to realize that the significance of a poem is open to addition, revision, and curtailment by the knowledge, imagination, and understanding of different interpreters. Some aspects of interpretation are...

Suggestions for Further Reading

Style and Literary Interpretation 'Ling.' indicates that a work is written mainly from the viewpoint of linguistic analysis 'Lit.', that it is written mainly from the viewpoint of literary interpretation. arthos, j. The Language of Natural Description in Eighteenth Century Poetry. Ann Arbor, 1949. Lit. bailey, r. m. and burton, d. m. English Stylistics a Bibliography. Cambridge Mass., 1968. barfield, o. Poetic Diction. (2nd edn.) London, 1952. Lit. brooke-rose, c. A Grammar of Metaphor....

The Given Situation

Poetry is virtually free from the contextual constraints which determine other uses of language, and so the poet is able - in fact, compelled - to make imaginative use of implications of context to create situations within his poems. As Mrs Nowottny says, 'the poet is both free of context and bound to create it'.2 To understand this added source of creativity in poetic language, we must first consider in very general terms how to characterize the immediate situation in which any verbal...

Irony

A great deal has been written about irony, and the different connotations it assumes in such phrases as 'Socratic irony', 'the irony of fate', 'dramatic irony'.3 These matters are irrelevant here except as a background to its purely linguistic study, which is my mam concern. The two-level response which we noted in litotes is characteristic of linguistic irony as a whole. H. W. Fowler in Modern English Usage describes irony as a mode of expression which postulates a double audience, one of...

J J J J J J J y

Garden's quiet Henry Reed, Chrysothemis These notations give only one possible rendering of each line, the one which seems most natural to me in a fairly slow delivery. (All examples of rhythmic analysis in this chapter show only one of the possible performances of the lines 111 question.) 7.2.2 Which Syllables are Stressed To analyse a passage into measures in this way, we need to be able to judge which syllables are normally stressed. Although there are plenty of exceptions, it is a useful...

Sound Patterns In Relation To Stress

In the last section I put forward a definition of rhyme and alliteration based on the individual syllabic. But more commonly, these terms relate to the rhythmic measure, i.e., the unit of rhythmic patterning, which extends from the onset of one stressed syllable to the onset of the next (see 4.3.1, 7.1). In fact, this is always so when rhyme and alliteration arc considered as features of versification. In the alliterative prosody of Anglo-Saxon poetry, the alliterations which help to make up...

Honest Deceptions

Our object now is to study the three tropes hyperbole (the figure of overstatement), litotes (the figure of understatement), and irony. They are all connected in that in a sense they misrepresent the truth hyperbole distorts by saying too much, understatement by saying too little, and irony often takes the form of saying or implying the opposite of what one feels to be the case. Since the question of truth and falsehood has been raised, it is worthwhile pausing here to think about the place of...

Ambiguity and Indeterminacy

The trouble with the word ambiguity is that it is itself an instance of troublesome ambiguity. In linguistics, it has generally been used in a narrow sense which we may represent as' more than one cognitive meaning for the same piece of language 1 whereas in literary studies it has often been used in an extremely broad sense popularized by Empson in his witty and influential book Seven Types of Ambiguity 'any verbal nuance, however slight, which gives room for alternative reactions to the same...

Poetry As An Hypersemanticized Version Of Language

A retrospective summary of this book in one or two paragraphs may help the reader who has persevered this far to see how its parts fit into a general pattern. We began, in Chapters i and 2, with the question 'what is special about the language of poetry ', and in particular, 'what does it mean to use language creatively '. From there, in Chapters 3 and 4, we turned to the subject of poetic licence, and to the even broader concept of linguistic foregrounding, or 'artistic obtrusion', and saw the...

Parallelism

Linguistic deviation as we have studied it (i.e. the waiving of rules or conventions of language) is not the only mechanism of linguistic foregrounding. The effect of obtrusion, of some part of the message being thrust into the foreground of attention, may be attained by other means. A pun, for instance, is a type of foregrounding When I am dead, I hope it may be said 'His sins were scarlet, but his books were read'. This epigram contains no violation of linguistic rules, but we are conscious,...

Formal Repetitions

Language allows for a great abundance of types of lexical and grammatical repetition, and my task now is to illustrate this variety of schemes, at the same time considering what artistic purposes they can serve. As abstract patterns of purely syntactic parallelism were exemplified at some length in 4.3.3 and 4.3.4,1 shall focus attention in this chapter on formal schemes which, like that of Othello's 'farewell' speech, contain verbal iterations, and hence repetitions of sound. My first point,...

Aspects Of Metaphor

In a simile, the two things to be compared and (sometimes) the ground of the comparison are spelt out in succession the comparison itself, too, is made explicit by means of such constructional elements as like, as. . .as, more . . . than. But in a metaphor, these three parts of the analogy have to be hypothesized from 'what is there' in the text. Moreover, the separation of tenor and vehicle is not usually so clear as in a definitional metaphor like 'Life's but a walking shadow'. This is why it...

Transference Of Meaning

One of the reasons why figurative interpretation is not completely random is that language contains rules op transfep ice, or particular mechanisms for deriving one meaning of a word from another.2 A general formula which fits all rules of transference is this 'The figurative sense F may replace the literal sense L if F is related to L A simple example is the rule which allows one to use a word denoting such-and-such a place in the sense 'the people in such-and-such a place' the following...

Poem Without A Main Verb By John Wain Analysis

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Absurdity In Poetry

Next we turn to oxymoron and paradox two types of absurdity which entail irreconcilable elements of meaning or reference. The way in which we arrive at an interpretation of oxymoron is enacted in slow motion for us at the opening of the revels in Act 5, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Duke Theseus reads through the programme of entertainment A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus, And his love Thisbe very tragical mirth. Merry and tragical tedious and brief That is, hot ice and wondrous...

Foregrounding

First, however, I wish to place linguistic deviation in a wider aesthetic context, by connecting it with the general principle of foregrounding. 4.1.1 Foregrounding in Art and Elsewhere It is a very general principle of artistic communication that a work of art in some way deviates from norms which we, as members of society, have learnt to expect in the medium used.3 A painting that is representational does not simply reproduce the visual stimuli an observer would receive if he were looking at...

Puns And Wordplay

A pun is a foregrounded lexical ambiguity, which may have its origin either in homonymy or polysemy. Generally speaking, the more blatant and contrived variety of pun is homonymic Where Bentley late tempestuous wont to sport In troubled waters, but now sleeps in port. Bentley, the turbulent Cambridge critic, is described in a seafaring metaphor as having reached 'port' or a place of refuge and retirement, whilst a quite unrelated type ofport incongruously conjures up the image of an aging...

Grammar And Metre

The interplay between verse and other strata of linguistic patterning is such a vast subject, that here I can do little more than indicate the vastness of it, and touch upon one subject of particular importance and interest the relation between grammatical units and metrical units. Verse can interact with linguistic patterning on many different levels. To give a complete account of this interaction, we should have to consider separately the different levels of linguistic organization-phonology,...

Metre And The Line Of Verse

The kind of metre which has dominated English prosody for the past six centuries is strictly known as 'accentual syllabic' that is, it is a pattern of regularity both in the number of syllables and in the number of stresses. It is to be distinguished from the purely 'accentual metre' of Anglo-Saxon poetry, in which the number of syllables, but not the number of accents per line, is variable and also from the purely 'syllabic metre' of (say) French verse, in which the number of syllables per...

J J Ij J j J 2 J J J 01J J

'Peter Peter pumpkin-eater' on the other hand has only trailing syllables, and illustrates the even rhythm of (2). Such obvious repetitions of the same rhythmic pattern arc rarely found in serious poetry, where subtler effects are obtained from the various possibilities of slight rhythmic variation. However, it is interesting to sec how the movement of the following brief elegy hinges on a contrast between the rhythms illustrated by (1) and (2) Winifred Nowottny, in her detailed analysis of...

Redundancy In Poetry

In noting the applications of the various kinds of semantic redundancy in poetry, we may start with devices of lesser importance - those involving redundancy. In circumstances of functional communication, pleonasm, even more than other forms of semantic redundancy, is regarded as a fault of style. Generations of rhetoricians and composition teachers have frowned on solecisms like 'The reason is because .' and 'a villainous scoundrel'. Yet pleonasm has humorous uses, as in the following passage...

Kinds Of Ambiguity

For a classification of ambiguities, we return to the framework of linguistic levels expounded in 3. r. r. There it was observed that because of many-one relationships between the levels of semantics, form, and realization, the utterance 'His designs upset her' could be assigned four different meanings, as pictured in the following diagram The branch in the path of interpretation between realization and form is due to the homonymy of the present tense and past tense of upset (two different...

Irony and Metaphor

A close connection between irony and metaphor is seen in examples like this Hark ye, Clinker, you are the most notorious offender. You stand convicted of sickness, hunger, wretchedness, and want.6 Smollett, Humphrey Clinker, Letter to Sir Watkin Phillips, 24 May The phrase convicted of is so restricted in English that what follows it must designate some kind of crime or misdemeanour 'convicted of arson', 'convicted of theft', 'convicted of riotous assembly' are acceptable English expressions,...

Watching Oneself Being Clever Being Clever John Wain

The diagram of four rhomboids, taken as a perspective drawing, is plainly ambiguous it can be seen as a strip of folded rectanguar panels either seen from above, with the middle fold towards the front, or seen from beneath, with the middle fold towards the back. Apart from these, there is a third less obvious, but no less indisputable interpretation - that of a set of actual rhomboids joined on a flat surface. What is less easy to accept, without a study of the laws of perspective, is that this...

Logical View Of Meaning

To lay the foundation of an enquiry into metaphor and similar devices, we have first to consider, very briefly, some general questions of semantics, without any special reference to literature. Remember ( 3.1.3) that we reserve the term 'meaning' for the narrow sense of'cognitive information', preferring 'significance' when we need to talk generally about what a piece of language communicates. For the present, our attitude to meaning will be closer to that of the logician than to that of the...

Hyperbole And Litotes

To illustrate these general points, let us now take a closer look at the two contrasting devices of hyperbole and litotes. Exaggeration hi colloquial talk is often incredible because at variance with known fact. 'He's got acres and acres of garden' is an overstatement if we happen to know that the plot indicated is no more than one acre in extent. We are then able to judge that the speaker means no more than ' He has a very large garden'. In other cases, an exaggerated statement is not just...

Figurative Language

We have seen that the process of coming to terms with figurative language divides itself into two stages the rejection of an orthodox, but in the given instance unacceptable interpretation, and the discovery of an unorthodox, figurative interpretation. Some of the traditional trope labels, like ' oxymoron', refer to a type of meaningless expression which confronts the reader in the first stage of the process, whereas others, like 'metaphor'.refer to a mode of interpretation that is, to the...

The Irrational in Poetry

As the last three chapters have been devoted to the study of schemes, to balance the picture, we must in the next three chapters turn to the study of tropes, which were described in 5.1 as 'foregrounded irregularities of content . We may be content to look upon these, in plain language, as linguistic effects involving something odd in the cognitive meaning of a word, a phrase, etc. To the chronically literal-minded, poetry is a variety of nonsense the difference between gibberish and...

Anatomy Of Language

A survey of different kinds of poetic licence must begin with the question of what kinds of rule or conventional restriction can be infringed. This in turn leads us back to more fundamental questions What is the nature of language How is it constituted What different kinds of rules in language have to be recognized My preliminary task is therefore to attempt a very short, simplified account of how a language such as English may be broken down into various levels of organization, and how these...

Schemes And Tropes

The contrast between expression and content, with their associated types of foregrounding, has been made because of its connection with a traditional distinction between two classes of rhetorical figure, schemes and tropes. Unfortunately, the line between these two categories, as with many other rhetorical classifications, has always been vaguely and inconsistently drawn. Schemes, roughly, have included figures such as alliteration, anaphora, and chiasmus, and have been described as abnormal...

The Interpretation Of Sound Patterns

The question of what and how a sound pattern communicates is one of the most mysterious aspects of literary appreciation. First, let us accept that to a great extent, the 'music' of phonological schemes, however difficult that quality may be to analyse, is its own justification. One does not feel cheated because the alliterations of'measureless to man', 'sunless sea', etc. do not seem to have any external significance - for example, any imitative effect. On the other hand, there are ways in...

Linguistic Convention In Poetry

How does this contrast between liberal and conservative trends apply to the language of literature The obvious reaction to this question would be to place literature, and above all poetry, at the liberal extremity of the scale there is no other variety of language in which originality is so prized and dogged orthodoxy so despised poetry is the mode of composition which is creative par excellence. The task of a linguist trying to discover by objective means the underlying conventions of poetic...

Descriptive Rhetoric

It may be clear by now that what I am advocating, as one of the best services linguistics can at present pay to literary studies, is a ' descriptive rhetoric'. By this I mean a body of theory and technique devoted to the analysis of the characteristic features of literary language, and to the explanation of terms in the critic's vocabulary, where this can be done, using the linguist's insights at a level where they become useful to the student of literature. The present book, limited as it is...

The Escape From Banality

Poetic tradition and poetic originality are contrary forces we may characterize the creative impulse of the artist, on one dimension, as a flight from the banality of'a worn-out poetical fashion' Eliot, East Coker , To revitalize the language of poetry, the poet draws directly on the resources of the contemporary language. As Eliot said, ' Every revolution in poetry is apt to be a return to common speech'.1 This description he applied not only to his own revolution, but to that of Wordsworth,...

Possible Misgiving

I shall try now to forestall a misgiving which may arise in the mind of a reader who thinks of modern intellectual life in terms of the dichotomy of the 'two cultures', arts and science, with literary scholarship in the one camp and linguistics in the other. The analytic approach to literature might appear to such a mind objective and clinical, bent on destroying the sublime mysteries of poetry, and on reducing the study of literature to a set of lifeless mechanical procedures. To allay that...