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He may repudiate expectancy and say that it is one of the things that he wishes to be rid of, and that it will not be present in free verse.

On my own showing it would be a subtle and hidden quality, but none the less I doubt not of its cause or effect, and I believe that it is the force which will hold his free verse together and distinguish it from prose, and I think that free verse is good and theoretically defensible only in so far as it can create expectancy without the old metrical devices. If it fails to effect this, it seems to me but a broken jerky sort of bad prose: and the old fluent prose needs not me nor anyone else to defend it from those who would cut it to pieces and call its fragments verse.

But whether or no a free versifier repudiate expectancy, he must renounce certain other advantages of the metrical system, the value of which is so great that it is difficult to believe that they can have been duly appreciated by the men who would cast them contemptuously away.

I will describe as briefly as I can a few of the adverse conditions which must result from rejecting the metrical systems, and for sake of clearness will name four of them thus:

(1) Loss of carrying power.
(2) Self-consciousness.
(3) Sameness of line structure.
(4) Indetermination of subsidiary “accent”.

First, loss of carrying power. Almost all the power that great poets like Homer and Dante have of poetizing whatever they may handle is due to their fixed prosodies. If this should be doubted, suppose the experiment of rewriting their poems so that they did not scan. It would of course be mere destruction, and observe, destruction not only of the great immortal lines where the magical concurrence of high diction with metrical form stands out in a clear configuration of beauty that makes them unforgettable and has enshrined them among the treasures of every cultured mind, but the mortar also between the stones, which is now hardly distinguishable from them, would perish and rot away, and would no longer serve to hold the fabric together. A single example will be sufficient: Dante, who was careful to open his cantos effectively, does not scruple to begin the third canto of the Purgatory with a piece of narrative busi

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ness that Cary, who had no metric skill, represents in his translation by this flat and awkward line:

Them sudden flight had scatter'd o'er the plain, but the Italian is

Avvegnaché la subitana fuga

Dispergesse color per la campagna: and one might almost say that the Commedia does not contain lines of greater dignity. The diction, rhythm and sonority are carried by the versification without a trace of pomposity or affectation; and deprived of that resource, free verse must be full of disconsolate patches, for it has no corresponding machinery to carry the subordinate matter.

Second, self-consciousness. It seems very clear to me that free verse as defined cannot be written without the appearance of self-consciousness. The conditions are these: Each line or phrase has (ex hypothesi) to show convincing propriety of diction and rhythm, together with other proprieties of relative length, sonority and poetic value. Now this is frankly impossible; what may conceivably be done in Gaelic, Hindustani or the languages of the Pacific Islanders, I do not know; but English was not made for it and cannot do it. The writer of free verse confronted by a thousand obstacles will, in a poem of any length, whenever his matter lacks poetic content, be at his wit's end to devise something passable; and his readers or hearers, if they be intelligent, will observe him with amusement, and he himself, being presumably intelligent, will be uncomfortably aware of the situation; for while pretending honest æsthetic rightness he will know that he is only providing ingenious makeshifts which he would have been glad to avoid.

The happy and not too rare gift of believing that whatever you choose to say must be worth saying, can indeed save a man from self-consciousness, and set his work beneath criticism.

Now this situation is created by free verse; the old metrical system was designed to obviate it, for therein the poet did not choose his form to suit every special turn and item of his matter, but adapted his matter to the exigencies of a prescribed form; and in doing this he found a further reward, because the changes

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He may repudiate expectancy and say that it is one of the things that he wishes to be rid of, and that it will not be present in free verse.

On my own showing it would be a subtle and hidden quality, but none the less I doubt not of its cause or effect, and I believe that it is the force which will hold his free verse together and distinguish it from prose, and I think that free verse is good and theoretically defensible only in so far as it can create expectancy without the old metrical devices. If it fails to effect this, it seems to me but a broken jerky sort of bad prose: and the old fluent prose needs not me nor anyone else to defend it from those who would cut it to pieces and call its fragments verse.

But whether or no a free versifier repudiate expectancy, he must renounce certain other advantages of the metrical system, the value of which is so great that it is difficult to believe that they can have been duly appreciated by the men who would cast them contemptuously away.

I will describe as briefly as I can a few of the adverse conditions which must result from rejecting the metrical systems, and for sake of clearness will name four of them thus:

(1) Loss of carrying power.
(2) Self-consciousness.
(3) Sameness of line structure.
(4) Indetermination of subsidiary “accent”.

First, loss of carrying power. Almost all the power that great poets like Homer and Dante have of poetizing whatever they may handle is due to their fixed prosodies. If this should be doubted, suppose the experiment of rewriting their poems so that they did not scan. It would of course be mere destruction, and observe, destruction not only of the great immortal lines where the magical concurrence of high diction with metrical form stands out in a clear configuration of beauty that makes them unforgettable and has enshrined them among the treasures of every cultured mind, but the mortar also between the stones, which is now hardly distinguishable from them, would perish and rot away, and would no longer serve to hold the fabric together. A single example will be sufficient: Dante, who was careful to open his cantos effectively, does not scruple to begin the third canto of the Purgatory with a piece of narrative busi

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ness that Cary, who had no metric skill, represents in his translation by this flat and awkward line:

Them sudden flight had scatter'd o'er the plain, but the Italian is

Avvegnaché la subitana fuga

Dispergesse color per la campagna: and one might almost say that the Commedia does not contain lines of greater dignity. The diction, rhythm and sonority are carried by the versification without a trace of pomposity or affectation; and deprived of that resource, free verse must be full of disconsolate patches, for it has no corresponding machinery to carry the subordinate matter.

Second, self-consciousness. It seems very clear to me that free verse as defined cannot be written without the appearance of self-consciousness. The conditions are these: Each line or phrase has (ex hypothesi) to show convincing propriety of diction and rhythm, together with other proprieties of relative length, sonority and poetic value. Now this is frankly impossible; what may conceivably be done in Gaelic, Hindustani or the languages of the Pacific Islanders, I do not know; but English was not made for it and cannot do it. The writer of free verse confronted by a thousand obstacles will, in a poem of any length, whenever his matter lacks poetic content, be at his wit's end to devise something passable; and his readers or hearers, if they be intelligent, will observe him with amusement, and he himself, being presumably intelligent, will be uncomfortably aware of the situation; for while pretending honest æsthetic rightness he will know that he is only providing ingenious makeshifts which he would have been glad to avoid.

The happy and not too rare gift of believing that whatever you choose to say must be worth saying, can indeed save a man from self-consciousness, and set his work beneath criticism.

Now this situation is created by free verse; the old metrical system was designed to obviate it, for therein the poet did not choose his form to suit every special turn and item of his matter, but adapted his matter to the exigencies of a prescribed form; and in doing this he found a further reward, because the changes

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of his matter provoked and justified all the varieties of rhythm that his metre allowed, so that their desirable irregularities came spontaneously, and his metrical form, harmonizing whatever he had to deal with, offered him endless opportunities for unexpected beauties. The metre was like a rich state uniform, robed in which any man will feel equally at ease whether walking in the gaze of a vulgar crowd, or sustaining the delicate dignity of a court ceremony.

Third, sameness of grammatical line. The identification of the line unit with the grammatical unit must limit the varieties of line-structure. This feature of the free verse is not unlike the common sense attempt of many modern song writers to identify their musical phrase with the speech rhythm of the words. I have made no examination of the practice of writers in this respect, and shall only be theorizing in the following remarks.

The grammatical forms of sentences in English are few, and must repeat themselves again and again; and each form has its proper and natural inflection of voice which, however overlaid, will impose its typical intonation on the sentence. Now if the grammatical forms are made coincident with the lines of the verse, they must impose the recurrence of their similar intonations

upon the lines.

It would be easy to quote some passage of free verse which exhibited this kind of monotony, but it would be unfair because it could be matched by similar examples from metrical poems. Indeed the best metrical poetry respects the grammar so strictly that much of it complies fully with M. Dujardin's rule, and might be quoted as typical free verse, were it not for the negative rule that forbids its metre. Moreover monotony of this kind is often agreeable in itself, and sought for its special effect. None the less, one of the difficulties in writing good verse of any kind is to escape from the tyranny of these recurrent speechforms, and the restriction imposed by the rules of free verse must make that difficulty immeasurably greater.

Since the aim and boast of free verse is that it will attain spontaneity and variety, I wonder at myself finding it in danger of self-consciousness and monotony of form.

Fourth, indetermination of subsidiary accent. Metrical verse

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