Blank verse

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Definition and variations of blank verse, with examples.

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Blank verse

  1. 1. Poetic forms & genres<br />Blank Verse<br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  2. 2. Blank Verse<br />The unrhymed five beat iambic line, otherwise known as iambic pentameter<br /> Shakespeare’s plays, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Wordsworth’s long poem ‘The Prelude’, are written in blank verse.<br />Chaucer (c1342-1400) wrote in iambic pentameter BUT not blank verse. His poetry rhymed:<br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  3. 3. From The Canterbury Tales(Chaucer, late 14th C)<br />Whan that aprill with his shouressoote<br />The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,<br />And bathed every veyne in swichlicour<br />Of which vertuengendred is the flour;<br />Whanzephirus eek with his sweetebreeth<br />Inspired hath in every holt and heeth<br />Tendrecroppes, and the yongesonne<br />Hath in the ram his halve coursyronne,<br />And smalefowelesmakenmelodye,<br />That slepen al the nyght with open ye<br />(so priketh hem nature in hircorages);<br />Thannelongen folk to goon on pilgrimages<br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  4. 4. History of Blank Verse<br />Like the sonnet, blank verse came to English poetry from Italy: verse sciolati da rima (‘verse freed from rhyme’)<br />1540: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey translated ‘The Aenied’ into English using this ‘straunge meter’<br />In the Renaissance there was intense interest in finding an unrhymed line which would be as powerful as the Classical Greek or Latin epic<br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  5. 5. Uses of Blank Verse<br /><ul><li>Particularly, but not exclusively, suited to long works
  6. 6. Continuity, enjambment, relatively natural word order. Verse Drama.
  7. 7. Also suited more unusual word order (‘syntactic inversion’). Epic poetry.
  8. 8. Milton: argued against ‘the troublesome and modern bondage of rhyming’, rhyme is a ‘constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse than else they would have exprest them’</li></ul>Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  9. 9. Stress: a little revision<br /><ul><li>An iamb is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. ‘I am’, ‘Alert’, ‘Revolv/ingDoor’
  10. 10. Pentameter means that there are five of these in a line.</li></ul> x/x/x/x/x/<br />(diDUMdiDUMdiDUMdiDUMdiDUM)<br /><ul><li>Often there are slight variations involving substituting an iamb with one of the other three main types of ‘feet’:</li></ul>Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  11. 11. Variations – three other types of ‘foot’<br />Trochee /X (DUM di) laughter, never<br />Anapest XX/ (di diDUM) Tennesee<br />Dactyl (particularly the first two) /XX (DUM di di)suddenly<br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  12. 12. Variations – three common variations in the iambic pentameter line<br />A reversed foot. Instead of an iamb, you have a trochee. Often at the beginning of the line:<br />‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’.<br />An extra unstressed syllable at the end:<br />‘Which, he once heard, was proper togrow wise in’<br />Replacing an iamb with a three syllable foot:<br />‘The fair Ophelia! Nymph in thy orisons’<br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  13. 13. John Hollander says...<br />Iambic five-beat lines are labelled blank<br />Verse (with sometimes a foot or two reversed,<br />Or one more syllable –“feminine ending”). <br />Blank verse can be extremely flexible: <br />It ticks and tocks the time with even feet<br />(Or sometimes, cleverly, can end limping). <br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  14. 14. From Shakespeare’s Othello<br />O, that the slave had forty thousand lives!One is too poor, too weak for my revenge.Now do I see 'tis true. Look here, Iago;All my fond love thus do I blow to heaven.'Tis gone.Arise, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell!Yield up, O love, thy crown and hearted throneTo tyrannous hate! Swell, bosom, with thy fraught,For 'tis of aspics' tongues!<br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  15. 15. From King John:<br /> My lord?<br /> <br /> A grave.<br /> <br /> He shall not live.<br /> <br /> Enough.<br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  16. 16. Milton: Paradise Lost (1667)<br /><ul><li>Very skilful use of blank verse including suspended syntax, extensive enjambment, and internal rhyming echoes</li></ul>...<br /> The force of those dire Arms? yet not for those<br /> Nor what the Potent Victor in his rage<br /> Can else inflict do I repent or change,<br /> Though chang'd in outward lustre; that fixt mind<br /> And high disdain, from sence of injur'd merit,<br /> That with the mightiest rais'd me to contend,<br /> And to the fierce contention brought along<br /> Innumerable force of Spirits arm'd<br /> That durst dislike his reign, and me preferring,<br /> His utmost power with adverse power oppos'd<br /> In dubious Battel on the Plains of Heav'n,<br /> And shook his throne. <br />(from Bk 1)<br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  17. 17. Enjambment and ‘double syntax’can be used effectively in blank verse<br />I formed them free, and free they must remain,<br />Till they enthral themselves: I else must change<br />Their nature, and revoke the high decree<br />Unchangeable, eternal, which ordained<br />Their freedom, they themselves ordained their fall.<br />(PL, Bk 3) <br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  18. 18. Romantic Period<br /><ul><li>Blank verse used for longer meditative verse. E.g. Wordsworth’s Prelude, Coleridge’s ‘conversation poems’ e.g. From ‘The Aeolian Harp’ (1796):</li></ul>Full many a thought uncall'd and undetain'd,<br />And many idle flitting phantasies,<br />Traverse my indolent and passive brain,<br />As wild and various, as the random gales<br />That swell and flutter on this subject Lute !<br />And what if all of animated nature<br />Be but organic Harps diverslyfram'd,<br />That tremble into thought, as o'er them sweeps<br />Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze,<br />At once the Soul of each, and God of all ?<br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  19. 19. 20th C<br /><ul><li>From Robert Frost ‘Mending Wall’ (1914)</li></ul>Something there is that doesn't love a wall,<br />That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,<br />And spills the upper boulders in the sun;<br />And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.<br />The work of hunters is another thing:<br />I have come after them and made repair<br />Where they have left not one stone on a stone,<br />But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,<br />To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,<br />No one has seen them made or heard them made,<br />But at spring mending-time we find them there.<br />I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;<br />And on a day we meet to walk the line<br />And set the wall between us once again.<br />We keep the wall between us as we go.<br />Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  20. 20. From the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics:<br /><ul><li>‘the advent of free verse sounded the death-knell of this meter which was once and for long a powerful, flexible, and subtle form, the most prestigious and successful modern rival to the greatest meter of antiquity’. A little too solemn?</li></ul>Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />
  21. 21. Rhythm and Rap<br /><ul><li>In rap and performance poetry there is a resurgence of the importance of regular rhythm, with appropriate variations.
  22. 22. rap tends to use a four-beat line which is associated with oral poetry and performance, whereas the five beat, pentameter line, has traditionally been associated with more text-based poetry. </li></ul>Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres<br />

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