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REVIEW ARTICLE The rhythms of English poetry. By Derek Attridge. (English language series, 14.) London & New York: Longman, 1982. Pp. xiv, 395. Cloth $30.00, paper $17.95. Reviewed by Bruce Hayes, UCLA 1.Introduction. Metrics is a field studied by two groups, linguists and literary scholars, who often disagree—sometimes acrimoniously. The rhythms ofEnglish poetry is the work of a man with divided loyalties. Attridge is clearly influenced by generative linguists in his views of both the goals and the content of metrical theory, but his declared allegiance is literary: through formal analysis , he hopes to explicate the esthetic function of rhythm and meter in poetry. A's book is valuable; it has built a solid foundation for much future work in metrics. It is filled with novel ideas and useful examples. But from a linguist's point of view, it is also extremely frustrating, for reasons I will explain below. The book has four parts: I, a brief summary of work in traditional and generative metrics; II, a long and insightful discussion of rhythmic form and the rhythmic structures used in English verse; III, an explicit account of the rules of English metrics; and IV, a discussion of the esthetics of rhythm, including textual analyses of individual poems using the formal theory. As the second and third sections are of the greatest interest to linguists, I will focus on them below. 2.Rhythmic structures in poetry. A's discussion of rhythmic structure focuses first on the 'four-beat rhythm' characteristic of popular verse: the pattern of ballads, hymns, nursery rhymes, and birthday cards. He shows that a pervasive binary hierarchy underlies these forms. Four-beat verse is normally composed in quatrains, which can be shown to resolve successively into two couplets and four lines, with the four beats ofthe line arranged in pairs. Readers familiar with work in so-called 'metrical' phonology will find this a familiar notion; taking the license of recognizing a foot level, one might represent the structure of four-beat iambic verse as in Figure 1 . This idea is not new, but A's presentation of it is the best I have seen, and locates new evidence for it. The couplet level is motivated by the distribution of syntactic breaks in verse, the salience of which normally corresponds to the strength of the break in the metrical pattern. Rhyme schemes (typically aabb or abab) reinforce couplet structure through adjacency or parallelism. A finds a third, novel argument from verse in which upbeats and offbeats occur freely at the beginnings and ends of lines: in duple verse, they tend to be distributed so as to reinforce continuous binary alternation within couplets, as in la below, but to break alternation across couplet boundaries, as in lb. In triple verse, the same strategy is used, with Ic favored within couplets, Id at mid-quatrain: (1) a. ... ? ? ? ? ? / ? ? ? ... c. ... ? ? ? ? ? / ? ? ? ? ? ... ... ? ? ? ? / ? ? ? ? ... d. ... ? ? ? ? / ? ? ? ? ... b. ... ? ? ? ? /? ? ? ? ...... ? ? ? ? ? / ? ? ? ? ... ????/?????... 914 REVIEW ARTICLE915 LINE COLONCOLON FOOT FOOT FOOT FOOT AAAA W SW SW SW S He took the halter frae his hose line couplet And of his purpose did na failline QUATRAIN He slipt it oer the Wanton's nose line couplet And tied it to his gray mare's tail line Figure 1. 'The Lochmaben harper'. Child 1882, 192A. The most striking evidence for the binary hierarchy, however, is its ability to induce the perception of 'salient beats' at the end of three-stress lines, to fill out the pattern (cf. Patmore 1857, Burling 1966): (2) Upon the eighteenth day of June, A dreary day to see, (0) The southern lords did pitch their cámp Just át the bridge of Dée. (0) 'Bonny John Seton' (Child, 198A) A's evidence for these silent beats is strong. They show up as pauses in rhythmic reading (particularly in choral recitation; cf. Boomsliter et al. 1973); they are also reflected in rhyme schemes (three-beat lines can't rhyme with four) and in the much greater difficulty of pausing after a four-beat line. Dipodic rhythms (alternating prominence patterns among feet) provide support for the colon level of the hierarchy: in dipodic rhythm, the sw labeling of the feet is extended to the colon level, as in Figure 2...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 914-923
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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