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Marianne Moore

Poetic Form, Crudely Drawn

Eagleton: “A poem is a fictional, verbally inventive moral statement in which it is the author,
rather than the printer or word processor, who decides where the lines should end.”

Lines and sentences, the sentences either actual or implied. The lines are usually chosen to
enact some rhythm, either according to an invisible scheme, called a meter, or, in Ezra
Pound’s words, “the idea clothes itself naturally in an appropriate novelty of rhythm.”

Poems, especially lyric poems, should be read aloud.


Two Kinds of Poetry

- Formal: Could be metrical (i.e., the same number of stresses per line) or adhere to
some other formal constraint.

- Free: A bad term. As Eliot says, no verse is free if it’s any good. The meaning
here is that the lines are not bound by a conventional form.
The main thing is LINE and SYNTAX.
Lines sometimes work with the parts of
a sentence, and sometimes they work
against. The poet chooses where the
lines are to be broken, or the form
chooses it for her.
Syntax (& Diction):
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

God’s grandeur charges the world.


~

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation,
conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Eighty-seven years ago our predecessors formed, right here in


North America, a freedom-loving nation dedicated to the idea that all people have
equal worth.
~

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons
of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

I have a dream that former slaves’ sons and former slave owners’
sons will be able to sit down together one day at the table of brotherhood on the red
hills of Georgia.
Line

Lines of the same length:

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,


That the dear she might take some pleasure of my pain,
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe:
Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain,
Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburned brain.
Lines of Different Lengths:

Broken in pieces all asunder,


Lord, hunt me not,
A thing forgot,
Once a poore creature, now a wonder,
A wonder tortur’d in the space
Betwixt this world and that of grace.
End-stopped lines:
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,


I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,


That the dear she might take some pleasure of my pain,
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe:
Enjambed or run-over lines:

You are as gold


as the half-ripe grain
that merges to gold again,
as white as the white rain
that beats through
the half-opened flowers
of the great flower tufts
thick on the black limbs
of an Illyrian apple bough.

Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain,


Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburned brain.
Metrical (may or may not be marked by rhyme):
Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That the dear she might take some pleasure of my pain,
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,
~

Broken in pieces all asunder,


Lord, hunt me not,
A thing forgot,
Once a poore creature, now a wonder,
A wonder tortur’d in the space
Betwixt this world and that of grace.
~

Oh there is blessing in this gentle breeze,


A visitant that while it fans my cheek
Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings
From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.
~

Each of these samples follows a metrical arrangement of a certain number of beats per line. Most of these beats in these examples
come in the form of an iambic foot, which is a two-syllable measure in which the second syllable is more acoustically prominent
than the first syllable. An example of an iambic foot is the word “about.” Say it aloud to hear it. Another common two-syllable foot
is the trochee, which reverses the stress position. The word “broken” is an example. Again, say it aloud and listen.
“Free” verse:
You are as gold
as the half-ripe grain
that merges to gold again,
as white as the white rain
that beats through
the half-opened flowers
of the great flower tufts
thick on the black limbs
of an Illyrian apple bough.

~
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,


I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

Let us go then, you and I,


When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
~
In Ezra Pound’s conception, in free verse the line gives precedence to the “musical phrase” over metrical or measured (or syllable-
count) restrictions.
Marianne Moore (& Modernism)

Syllabic lines (not always, but characteristically), often end-rhymed:

A Roman had an
artist, a freedman,
contrive a cone--pine-cone
or fir-cone--with holes for a fountain. Placed on
the Prison of St. Angelo, this cone
of the Pompeys which is known

Now as the Popes’, passed


for art. A huge cast
bronze, dwarfing the peacock
statue in the garden of the Vatican,
it looks like a work of art made to give
to a Pompey, or native

of Thebes. ….
~
A “syllabic” line means the number of syllables per line in a given stanza is fixed. In the above stanzas, lines 1 & 2 contain five syllables
each, line 3 has six syllables, line 4 has eleven syllables, line 5 has ten syllables, and line 6 has seven syllables.
Music (In Moore’s poetry, it often bursts out unexpectedly in the midst of the prose-like sentences):
I remember a swan under the willows in Oxford,
with flamingo-colored, maple-
leaflike feet. It reconnoitered like a battle-
ship. Disbelief and conscious fastidiousness were
ingredients in its
disinclination to move. Finally its hardihood was
not proof against its
proclivity to more fully appraise such bits
of food as the stream

bore counter to it; it made away with what I gave it


to eat. I have seen this swan and
I have seen you; I have seen ambition without
understanding in a variety of forms. Happening to stand
by an ant-hill, I have
seen a fastidious ant carrying a stick north, south,
east, west, till it turned on
itself, struck out from the flower-bed into the lawn,
and returned to the point

from which it had started. …..


Free verse & quotation:
To a Snail

If “compression is the first grace of style,”


you have it. Contractility is a virtue
as modesty is a virtue.
It is not the acquisition of any one thing
that is able to adorn,
or the incidental quality that occurs
as a concomitant of something well said,
that we value in style,
but the principle that is hid:
in the absence of feet, “a method of conclusions”;
“a knowledge of principles,”
in the curious phenomenon of your occipital horn.
“The notorious difficulty of [modernist poetry] had much to do with the poem’s
objection to slipping down to easily. Instead, it thrust us into what T.S. Eliot
called ‘the intolerable wrestle with words and meanings.’”

“Poetry is something which is done to us, not just said to us. The meaning of its
words is closely bound up with the experience of them.”

- Terry Eagleton, p. 21