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ALBERT COOK Projections of Measure: The Continued Synergies of Pound and Williams Poetry is intrinsically musical, and it calls for a kind of invention which may not be solved by reverting to the tune of some received meter, though that solution contented Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Wallace Stevens, among othets. Rimbaud, however, as a metrical American poet (Hart Crane) reminded himself, did say "il faut être absolument moderne," pre-echoing the "Make It New" of Pound and Confucius' bathtub. The imperatives of inventing a live music in poetty can present themselves as problems, and one can too easily ignore those problems by reversion to received conventional, or even received "unconventional " solutions. To find and invent his music, the poet at all times is called upon to hear and adjudicate among the possibilities before him. These possibilities , in almost all but the most primitive societies, are multiple, and call for resolution, even if, like Lucretius and Propertius and Vergil and Ovid, the poet has made the choice of a single pattern measure, or, like Catullus and Horace, has chosen from among a group of given measures. The solution of all these Roman poets is to exploit special possibilities within their given metets. Unique solutions seem to have been sought, and found, so far as we can tell from the slender evidence before us, by the earliest Greek lyric poets; by Alemán and Sappho, as well as by Pindar. Chaucer evolved his Mozartian mettical fluency, the most finelytuned for centuties, out of a number of French and Italian possibilities Arizona Quarterly Volume 45 Number 2, Summer 1989 Copyright © 1989 by Arizona Board of Regenrs issN 004-1610 36Aíbert Coole that stood before him, and avoided the English dead end he might have found himself in. It was not obvious at first that the quantities of Stanyhurst and the fourteeners of Golding and Chapman were dead ends, and it took the startling efflorescence of the iambic pentameter in the 1590's to unleash the possible modulations ofthat instrument.1 And the next decades saw a continuing efflorescence, at the hands largely of playwrights. Milton, facing this multiple situation, reintroduced a version of Latin music as a superaddition to blank verse, subjecting it also to deep innovation ofhis own. 2 Skipping over high points in this history of metrical choices, I would note that Wotdsworth made the resolving choice of diluting the "Miltonic" blank verse of Thomson for the open-ended meter of The Prelude, hitting a register that got a slightly different music in the "conversation poems" of Coleridge, which themselves drew, as Wordsworth did not, on some composite of the tonal modulations of Pope and Dryden. Blake found a completely different repertoire of solutions out of the (same) manifold possibilities facing him. ' Keats, in one mode, made the choice of, as it were, re-Miltonizing Thomson; he took that choice, in turn, and applied it to what might be called a pentameter amplification of Collins' Odes. Tennyson, approached not through the fatal dilutions of the Georgians , but "forward" through the possibilities offered to a follower of Keats, toned Keats down, much as Thomson had toned down Milton. Browning, in this light, roughens up Coleridge, while Matthew Arnold , as it were, Drydenizes Keats, if a shorthand description can be offered for a process that would take many pages of analysis to describe, and so really to justify. I leave out of this hasty account the super-melodic solutions of Byron and Swinburne, a Siren-song on which many wrecked. The musical embarrassments produced by Longfellow, Holmes, and James Russell Lowell are aimed clumsily in that direction where William Cullen Bryant had managed some freshness by choosing to attend to Wordsworth for one mode and Collins for another. The solutions of Whitman and of Emily Dickinson were inobvious and fresher, both remarkably original in their rhythms, given all Whitman's fertility for later poets, and all Dickinson's self-containedness. But music is all.4 In the past hundred years the tange of possibilities has never been greater, and the range of viable solutions is cotrespondingly wider. As always, most solutions are faute de mieux and settle for what that forceful Pound and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9595
Print ISSN
0004-1610
Pages
pp. 35-61
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-02
Open Access
No
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