By Antony Easthope

First released in 2002. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa corporation.

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Since syllable prominence is relative, it follows that the abstract pattern of pentameter is never actualized (except of course by the line boundary) but that syllable prominences and unprominences in the non-metric intonation approximate it. This ap-*^ proximation is the metre. J 2 Pentameter can be compared with the older, accentual metre, a comparison which confirms that pentameter is to be defined by approximation rather than coincidence between abstract pattern and non-metrical intonation.

T h e u n i q u e style of the ballads derives from its oral n a t u r e . Literary poetry, written for the page, depends on the unexpected p h r a s e , the ingenious rhyme, the contrived figure of speech. Literary poets like to invent; oral poets depend on formulas. (i979»P- ' 4 ) T h e full implications of a distinction between 'oral' and 'print' consciousness are d r a w n out in Walter J . Ong's Orality and Literacy (1982), a n o t h e r volume in this present series. Here I am concerned with the way the conventional account, exempli­ fied by Bold, repeats the main assumptions of the so-called P a r r y - L o r d theory of'oral-formulaic' poetry.

It is a temporary and provisional freezing' of othe^ factors in order to isolate and understand the material effect of the metrical form. Of course in practice the metre is always active in conjunction with many other features. Clearly, in the aggressive early days of the struggle for bourgeois hegemony especially around 1600, the pentameter had a novelty and glamour that was long gone in 1900. g. by Philip Larkin) is in the strict sense reactionary. Eliot wrote in 1942: 'only a bad poet would welcome free verse as a liberation from form.

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Poetry as Discourse by Antony Easthope


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