Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Thou pouring me coffee waitress, giver of eggs and toast..."

I love it when people say that Whitman/Hopkins/Wordsworth revitalized English poetry by returning it to common speech. There's a seed of truth in the statement, but it's much more fun to imagine using hyperbaton whenever you talk.


dylan said...

Long time no see! Welcome back, Meredith!

Whitman : "Thee for my recitative!" Common speech, indeed! And what about the first sentence of "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" -- 22 Whitman-lines long? One could say of Whitman that he revitalized poetry by (re)introducing down-to-earth subject matter, but down-to-earth subject matter is not the same thing as common speech.

Hopkins used a lot of Saxon monosyllables, and he used them uncommonly well. His intricate patterns of alliteration are nobody's common speech.

Wordsworth? It's curious, that the most conventional metrician of the three is perhaps the one who was closest to common speech in his language.

I should know what hyperbaton is, but I've quite forgotten! Help me out, please!

Bob the Ape said...

Hyperbaton is a figure of speech in which words that naturally belong together are separated from each other for emphasis or effect. ...

Google to me is a friend,
To it I cleave till bitter end;
The ignorant it makes profound
To better, wiser folk astound.

Enbrethiliel said...


So that is what it's called!

(My Latin teacher may have mentioned it once or twice, but now I'm actually going to retain it!)

Anonymous said...

Hooray for hyperbaton! Enbrethiliel brings up a good point: it's useful to have a good English (or some language you're familiar with) example in mind in order to keep all these high-falutin' poetical/rhetorical terms straight. My favorite is the one I noticed in the inimitable Bob Dylan's (anybody hear his just released version of Adeste Fideles?! Surreal!) "Tangled up in Blue".

"Later on, the crowd thinned out, I was just about to do the same..."

Of course, you can't "thin out" if you are only one person, but the sense is clear. This, my friends, is ZEUGMA!* (finally, after all these years, I won't forget what it is!) Another really neat term.

*Zeugma is, to quote
(thanks Professor Scaife! And RIP)
"two different words linked to a verb or an adjective which is strictly appropriate to only one of them."

Ut maximopere valeatis, all. Marcello

Meredith said...

I love you guys! Thanks for coming back to this blog and looking for signs of life.

Marcello, I quite agree about keeping a list of examples. For zeugma, I always remember, "The gangster laundered his shirts and his money."

Embrethiliel: I'll never get hyperbaton out of my head because it made up a large chunk of a thirty-odd page paper I wrote about Hopkins. :-(

Bob the Ape: You rock.

Dylan: I think that it's true about Wordsworth being the most conventional metrician AND the closest to common speech.

Hopkins and Whitman revitalized poetry by *refusing to take meter for granted.* They wanted rhythms more intricate than anyone else had used in English; they wanted more music than their contemporaries though possible.

some guy on the street said...

Hyperbaton! Wow!

I've been reading JRRT's Sigurd, and now I've an analytic word that allows me to clearly express something of it: hyperbaton 'most every verse dominates!

(clarity is sometimes too dull for words.)

Enbrethiliel said...


If it weren't for a list of examples, would anyone have passed their English units on figures of speech??? (Or do I only speak for myself, as usual? =P)

Meredith said...

I think you speak for all of us!

some guy on the street said...

(Mi) Upon review, tales of Scottish escapades lately read sug-(Fa)-gest,
O hyperbatonic racont-(Re)-eur,
that yet more mirth in versewrighting might be found if
(Fa Mi Re) spoke we all_in
(So-Re-Mi-Ut) re-ci-ta-tive!