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PATMORE'S THEORY AND HOPKINS' PRACTICE MARGARET R. STOBIE I T is remarkable that often the near past si the most obscure period of history. This hooded quality of the proximate is exemplified in the fate of the prosody of Hopk.ins. Bridges, publishing Hopkins' poems thirty years after his death, comments: "It was an idiosyncrasy of this student's mind to push everything to its logical extreme_, and take pleasure in a paradoxical result; as may be seen in his prosody where a simple theory seems to be used only as a basis for unexampled liberty." Taken up with later theories which were engaging the interests of poets in 1918, Bridges did not bother to mention what the "simple theory, was, although by his tone he must have been familiar with it. It was left for Mr. Harold Whitehall, in 1944, to discover that this theory was the so-called dipodic theory which had first been announced by Patmore. Mr: Whitehall says: Hopkins' sprung rhy;thm, and for th~t mat:Jter most of his running rhythm> follows Patmore's theories almost to the letter. Yet Patmore and Hopkins never saw how -they complemented each other. Although Hopkins had undoubtedly read 'the Patmore essay by 1881 ... he was too limited by conventional metrical theory and by concessions to stanzaic form to realize its bearing on the explanation of his own work. Patmore, for his part> . . . was puzzled by the appearance of the poems in Hopkins ' manuscript . . . and was misled by the abrupt juxtaposition of stresses which is Hopkins' chief metrical innovation. If accidents of time and friendship had permitted an early meeting between the two men-the virtuosic dipodic practitioner and our first dipodic theoristHopkiru ' poems might have yielded their metrical secrets in his own Iifetin1e.1 The close relationship between the metrical theories of Patmore and of Hopkins, which Mr. Whitehall notes here, is indeed so remarkable that it is almost incredible that Hopkins was not familiar with Patmore>s "Essay on English Metrical Law" until so late a date. Such ignorance of it is the more unlikely in view of the great contemporary interest which the essay aroused. It was first published in 1856, and in a note to the 1886 reprinting of it Patmore comments upon its intervening popularity and influence: "I have seen with pleasure that, since then, its main principles have been quietly ad-opted by most writers on the subject in periodicals and elsewhere.'' ~Gerard Manle-y Hopkins: By the Kenyon Critics (Norfolk, Conn., New Directions Books. 1945), 37. 64 - - - - - -- - - - - -- - -- ~ -- - PATMORE AND HOPKINS 65 Nor is Patmore flattering rurnself, for poets and prosodians alike, apart from their .interest in the dipodic theory as such, found in the essay the first intelligent attempt t-o solve a problem which interested them all-how to include within the principles of English versification the peculiarities of the newly recovered body of Old English poetry. In particular, Patmore's theory was of great interest to the Oxford set with whom he was on familiar terms when the essay was first published and which included not only Burne-Janes and William Morris, but also R. W. Dixon, who took his degree in that year and who was shortly to become Hopkins' schoolmaster. So, even if it could be demonstrably proved that Hopkins did not read the essay until about 1880, it would still be most unlikely that he should not be familiar with its theories, which were a topic of general discussion. It would seem, on the contrary) to be strongly probable that Hopkins became acquainted with the theory either through Dixon, or_before he left Oxford in 1867, eleven years after the essay was published, or during his seven years of poetic silence. Such a conjecture gains some measure of support from Bridges' comment, in which he suggests Hopkins' early familiarity with the "simple theory," and from Hopkins, note on "The \Vreck of the Deutschland" : ''I had long had haunting my ear the echo of a new rhythm which now I realised on paper.... I do not say the idea is altogether new ... but no one has professedly used it and made it the principle throughout, that I...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 64-80
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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