Does Following Rules Make Poetry Beautiful?

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Does Following Rules Make Poetry Beautiful?

Postby Jongleur » Wed Jun 28, 2017 9:46 am

Take two poems as examples:

April by Ezra Pound:

Three spirits came to me
And drew me apart
To where the olive boughs
Lay stripped upon the ground:

Pale carnage beneath bright might.

and Veni, Creator Spiritus by John Dryden:

Creator Spirit, by whose aid
The world's foundations first were laid,
Come, visit ev'ry pious mind;
Come, pour thy joys on human kind;
From sin, and sorrow set us free;
And make thy temples worthy Thee.

O, Source of uncreated Light,
The Father's promis'd Paraclete!
Thrice Holy Fount, thrice Holy Fire,
Our hearts with heav'nly love inspire;
Come, and thy Sacred Unction bring
To sanctify us, while we sing!

Those are just the first two stanzas of Dryden's longer poem.

Ezra Pound's poem has irregular metre, three feet in the first line, two and a half in the second, three in the third and fourth, and three and a half in the fifth. The poem also does not have a rhyme scheme.

Dryden's poem has consistently four feet per line with a rhyme scheme aa bb cc with an irregular rhyme in the first two lines of the second stanza.

I think that the rules create a pattern which sounds in the ear and registers in the mind and give the poetry its beauty. The first modernist example by Ezra Pound lacks those rules and becomes closer to prose than poetry and loses some of its power to move the reader or listener. This could also be applicable to music which relies heavily on dissonance rather than harmony.
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Re: Does Following Rules Make Poetry Beautiful?

Postby Jongleur » Wed Jun 28, 2017 4:17 pm

I thought I'd make an addition to add some depth to the consideration.

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe is highly considered and when read silently or recited aloud can be experienced as harmonious, but at least in terms of metre is irregular. Here is the first stanza:

Once upon a midnight dreary, / while I pondered, weak and weary, (8)
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore— (8.5)
While I nodded, nearly napping, / suddenly there came a tapping, (8)
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. (7.5)
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— (7.5)
Only this and nothing more.” (3.5)

Beside each line is the number of feet it contains. At a glance it should be obvious that the metre is irregular, yet when the poem is read it does not give the impression of being disjointed. The first and third line appear to break with the rhyme scheme but actually both follow their own pattern which is the same where the rhyme is embedded in the line. I put a / after the first rhyming word on each line. The rhymes on both lines also arise after the fourth beat which makes it possible to break those lines each into two lines of four with consistent rhyming schemes.

One strange thing that I think could be pointed out is that if the second line was made into 8 feet by changing the wording to say "Over many quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore", removing the "a" before quaint and adding an "s" to volumes, the flow of the poem does not seem to gain from the change and may even lose something in rhythm. As the poem is currently written, the second line's irregular length forces a pause in the diction of the second line, adding to recitation by adding gravitas in harmony with the tone of the poem.

Is this a case of knowing the rules so well that they can be broken to good effect or something else?
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Re: Does Following Rules Make Poetry Beautiful?

Postby Some Guy in History » Thu Jun 29, 2017 7:59 pm

Yes. Each form can be considered beautiful in its own right. Not every piece is comparable to the work of a great, but there is beauty even in those not with inherent talent with it. Not my flavor, but I can understand the art of a child or someone who is bad with words, doesnt rhyme, yet has a niche audience that finds some reason beyond the shoddy nature to find themselves in it. I think the ones with form are beautiful, though I've shied away from them a lot. I prefer a more free-flow expression that changes from piece to piece, but can understand the flavorings of the different brands of poetry. At a certain point, though, if you focus on beauty too much, do you then not risk putting even the ugly to pen and paper to push through to diamonds that might not otherwise be reached? If you try to stick to form too much, what else are you sacrificing to do so? A little comparable to flowers and weeds. they exist alongside each other in nature, yet in a cultured garden, the weeds get removed and the flowers glorified for their beauty, yet the weeds themselves have an ugly sort of beauty all of their own that eventually turns into no longer seeing the ugly for seeing the beauty of the tenacity and the foolishness of the gardener that worries so much about the fragility of a flower that has existed alongside weeds in similar tenacity far longer than humans have walked this Earth. And then, focusing on the beauty of the flower, do you risk seeing their ugliness. The thorns of a rose are easy to see, but what of other flowers to demand attention. Rock collectors place special attention to certain types of rocks. Shiny, cool looking, and bypass the ordinary. Some believe in crystals and yet ordinary rocks that many would pass by can be infused with energy much the same as a crystal, while many would lack true individuality, you would still find some with character and personality. What if at a point where so much beauty abounded hand in hand with monstrous ugliness that the mundane and ordinary became the flavor that people came to appreciate through the midst of it?
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Re: Does Following Rules Make Poetry Beautiful?

Postby Jongleur » Fri Jun 30, 2017 10:14 am

I certainly know what you mean about someone risking putting out a bad product among one's oeuvre while trying to reach higher. Even someone as well respected as Shakespeare has certain of his plays harshly criticized (I am thinking here of Henry VIII).

I wonder though how this thought plays out in terms of formal poetic elements. If the elements were correct (consistently patterned metre and rhyme scheme, for example), if the criticism could be levelled still against those particular elements? I admit that the wording of the title of this thread is confusing if it is taken to imply that it could be that following formal rules of poetic composition are all that are needed to make a poem beautiful, because the use of language, imagery, subject, would not necessarily have any formal categories to adhere to. Also, I am at least not sure that there is any formal rules for rhythm in poetry. As far as I can tell it is rather a quality of the linguistic medium. I suppose for clarity I could have named the thread "Does Following Rules Make Poetry More Beautiful", or something like that. I am even partly doubtful of the wordchoice "rules", but that is another matter...

Your last question I think is also significant. Is beauty even, or else entirely, an inherent aspect of things or does it partly have to do with its relationship to other things? Meaning, for example, is rarity a quality of beauty?

At one point sonnets were the height of fashion and later other poetic forms were preferred or created. So, following previously established rules could, as you said, end up being something limiting and a hindrance to further forms of beauty.

One thing that came to my mind though was, at what point, in being completely free of form, does a poem stop being a poem and become something else, rather prose, for example? Is it only the form of short stacked lined, so that if I put this response in the form of short fairly consistent lines, would it suddenly be poetry whereas because it had been formatted another way it was prose? Just a rumination I had...

Another thing I was thinking is, even if we accept a great degree of freedom from form, is there a limit to that? If a poetic work freed itself entirely from semiotic rules and semantics, even if it accomplished other things like rhyming sounds and metre, might it not become tiresome much more quickly than for example an epic poem which had clarity and followed traditional poetic forms as well as attained a semantically well composed and developed narrative? I understand that you said that not every work is comparable to a great, I am wondering more if there might be limits to freedom of form where on the one hand a poem could be considered tiresome and on the other hand pleasant, enthralling, or what have you. This is also a general consideration for the thread.
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