Date: Sat, 9 Jun 2001
Subject: LANGUAGE PROSODY (ex. 4: adonics in Howe's "Pierce...")



". . . It would have
been a mistake however
to cast the sonnets in
the same metrical mode
as Shakespeare's
Christmas 1898 -- T.W.-D."

-- Susan Howe, Pierce Arrow


Sorry for the earlier interruption.

To continue this start along the same lines,--- I'll carry on with this
initial presentation of the raw empirical observations first, and only
then move back in on them to critique-theorize afterwards and

After these readily audible "hypodochmiacs" (previous posting), another
recurring classical meter line throughout the book (Susan Howe's Pierce

the adonic ( / _ _ / / ).

The adonic may currently be the most popularly familiar classical meter,
as it is the concluding, short verse of Sapphic stanzas (and Sapphics
have been greatly popularized and appear among widespread schools of
poetry, owing perhaps to their easy recognizability).


Buckling his seat belt (p.49)**
Where are my damn boots (54)*
consciousness grows dim (57)*
Often as black ice (78)*
world in its first three (87)
air but she did not (103)~
gathered no blind threat (134)~

( * ends stanza; ** begins stanza: Verses beginning or ending stanzas
are given greater emphasis and, in the case of the adonic, end of stanza
is its appropriate location viz.-a-viz. Sapphics.)

On p. 86, adonic and hypodochmiac appear back to back:

world in its first three
paragraphs the Sixth

[NOTE: (1) I generally leave out of these analyses all the books' pages
of prose, pp. 5 - 24 and 116f, and the stanzas on pp. 33f, 36, 38, 40-4,
48, 50f, 53f, 56, 60f, 66f, 71, 73, 75-8, 80f, 83f, 86, 84,
96-100,105-9, 111f, 120-6, which I find to be closer to the prose pages
in their style, discursivity, grammar/syntax, and diction. They do not
sound characteristically "Howe," at least by the model of her earlier
books. (AND I left out the seven-verse dedication that appears
unpaginated prior to the table of contents--- because I neglected to
notice it until now
!) (2) The weight of certain syllables of course
becomes ambiguous depending on the cadence of the surrounding
absolute-value accents,--- principally some connective one-syllable
words, pronouns, prepositions, such as "your," "who," "is," "of," etc. I
tend to read secondary stresses as full stresses/long syllables.]

Aside from these two rhythms (the hypodochmiac and adonic), all the
pentasyllables (five-syl. lines) in Pierce Arrow conform to similar
regularity by proving classifiable into a small number of meters, for
the time being left unnamed (catalog proceeds from stessed to
unstressed, as a rule).

[IMPORTANT NEW CONCEPT: THE SYLLABA ANCEPS. Omitted or lost from "New Formalist"-style metrics is a pivotal feature of classical meter, the
"syllaba anceps." Syllaba anceps was where designated syllables in
certain fixed line-meters could legitimately be written as either long
or short (examples to follow in future summer "lessons"). --- Applying
that concept to this reading of post-modern/Modernist metrics, it allows
near-identical rhythms to be read as alternative versions of the same
meter, and greatly streamlines the scope of the taxonomic results.
Syllaba anceps are marked "X," rather than "_" or "/". --- Also, by
applying the prerogative of syllaba anceps, it allows certain lines that
are similar to hypodochmiacs/adonics to be read as such, and it expands
the evidence of their presence and use, from the list of seven (above)
to seventeen: (below) the three lines under / _ / / / and four lines
under / _ / _ _ as hypodochmiacs, and the three lines under / _ _ / _ as
adonics, where hypodochmiacs/adonics would be understood as / _ / X X
and / _ _ / X, respectively. (Such analytical practices are also a part
of traditional, "New Formalist" readings: a spondee can substitute for
an iamb, etc.)]

{ ~ = contains one or two ambiguous accents }


/ / / / /

Slain life treads down tell (102)
Grove bough dark wind cove (131)

/ / / / _

psalms look out David (89)
Gottfried shows Tristan (138)

_ / / / /

a time Swinburne comes (49)
is come crude change wave (129)

/ / / _ /

P.S. Afterthought (59)
how not-now perceived (85)
Blind flight do we win (104)~

/ / _ / /

Geist ("spirit") goes out (88)
pierce dust and surf who (104)~
pale anguish breathes free (134)
red sound to sense sense (135)
I use a white thread (136)~
Day binds the wide Sound (144)

/ / _ / _

calls Tristan David's (89)
Rest fathom over (92)

/ / _ _ /

Mark's speeches are sham (138)

/ _ / / / [quasi-hypodochmiac B]

Ramping brute force know (29)
blown to bits one hand (30)~ [possible hypodochmiac]
here is known change here (129)

/ _ / / _

sign for some one you (44)
meter somehow but (82)
Softly two kingdoms (93)

/ _ / _ _ [quasi-hypodochmiac A]

violent rupture of (79) [hexasyllable, if pronounced "vi-o-lent"]
out of touch with our ( " )
fable now you are (93)~
strife in blindness not (104)~ [possible hypodochmiac]

/ _ _ / _ [quasi-adonics]

something believed in (87)
"Shelley the second" (91)
turned to the light her (137)

_ / / _ /

Through mined copyhold (30)

_ _ / / _

in reverse order" (55)
as in dumb crambo (72)

_ _ / _ /

are in thought extreme (49)
to have written this (55)

_ / _ _ /

would try to portray (72)
the past is perceived (85)
descendants his first (89)
Who was and was not (101)~
she wrapped up the bird (102)
the matter to heart (103)
their persons that they (138)~

_ / _ / /

We took a thin thread (52)
and by the sun's light ( " )
the hand and hand's field (88)
and in the sun's light (136)~
the sea reflects back (136)

_ / _ / _

among these theses (82)
Your "type" is better (82)~
remembers always---" (100) *
and dies of it of (103){~}
of light from that of (136)

_ / / _ /

We sing side by side (101)~

X X / / _

does not want Heaven (p.?)
(too ambiguous to analyze first two syllables)

X X / _ /

What we come to know (p.?)

HYPODOCHMIAC (left out of previous posting's list)

young he would have watched (140)

* an important line, as it the full passage is: "he had written Mary
's / name and an inscription / in Greek "Earthly love is / soon
forgetful/the heavenly / remembers always---". The English (and Howe's
poetry), then, is a second- or third-level translation-transparency over
some originally Greek meter.

Similarly, "ruin, lust, lechery humanum est / errare Patroclus' armor
three times" (p. 28): as in Pound's verse or any such English poetry
incorporating foreign languages, those insets confound any metrical
scheme,--- here by mixing a language of quantitative meter (Latin) into
qualitative English. The tendency is to read "humanum est / errare" as
"hu-MA-num EST / er-RA-re", but "er-" is a long syllable in Latin by
virtue of preceding double consonants, etc.



One of the elements in Pierce Arrow confirming the presence of
hypodochmiacs, I found, was a single word in the line "Bottom's other monopolylogue" (p. 62). "(M)onopolylogue" is accented as a
hypodochmiac. --- Elsewhere, the verse "Mirror-impulse ask Fortinbras"
(p. 95),

/ _ / _ / / _ /

would be unanalyzable without the
hypodochmiac as a "foot" (T2.S.I: trochaic dimeter, spondee, iamb?
T2._.cret: trochaic dim., _ , cretic (/ _ /)?? even assuming a
"swallowed," sprung-rhythm beat after "ask" still leaves the verse as
acatalectic or acephalous, neither clearly iambic or trochaic; etc.). It
is analyzable as hypodochmiac-cretic. --- (Likewise {upcoming summer
"lesson"}, that the book-length poem establishes its preliminary rhythms
with the prominence and prevalence of four-syllable _ / _ _ English
words such as such "Mortality," "humanity," "interpretant," etc., and
four-syl. _ _ / _ words and names such as "Iliadic," "Polydorus," and so
on, also promotes a 2nd/3rd epitrite analysis of the meter in a way that
solves unanalyzables.)


HYPOTHESIS: Metrical analyses of XXth cent. poetry failed to explain or
systematize so-called "free verse" because it relied upon a deceptive
convention (the "New Formalist" tradition) of metrical analysis based on
disyllable and trisyllables: iambs-trochees ( _ / and / _ ) and
anapest-dactyl ( _ _ / and / _ _ ).

"Free verse" yields to discernible patternings when the standard of
measure is expanded from di-/trisyllable to tetrasyllable.

(As was the case in classical meter: there never did exist and could
not exist any such thing as "iambic pentameter" in classical poetry, as
its uneven count was unallowable.)

A yardstick measuring by groupings that are a minimum of four
syllables can explain the meter of free verse.