The prosodic theory and practice of Patmore, Hopkins, and Bridges

Murray, Neil A. (1963) The prosodic theory and practice of Patmore, Hopkins, and Bridges. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The first premise of all prosodic research must be that metre is a special ordering of the elements of spoken language. The factors which have been taken to govern metre - among them accent, quantity, and syllabic enumeration - exist only in speech, and cannot be studied in any other context. In many past writings on the subject, confusion and error have resulted from an inadequate knowledge of the linguistic foundation of prosody. This can be avoided by the contemporary prosodist, who has at his disposal the many important discoveries of the modern science of linguistics. -- The Victorian poets, Coventry Patmore, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Robert Bridges advocated theories of prosody which were advanced for their time, but which in the light of modern findings are not without flaws. All three wrote verse in experimental forms; and their theories were intended, at least in part, to account for the irregularities evident in these new verse-forms. -- Patmore belonged to that school of prosodic thought which attaches great importance to the analogy between the rhythm of verse and that of music. He believed that all metrical language must be divided by accents into equal intervals of time; and that in English verse these intervals are paired in double measure or 'dipodes'. He also regarded long measured pauses as an integral part of the structure of verse. In terms of this system he attempted to show that the irregular ode - a form which he practised with more care and elaboration than any previous poet - was actually as regular as any other kind of metre. -- One lapse in particular makes Patmore's isochronic theory unacceptable on linguistic grounds: this is his failure to recognize the objective reality of stress in speech. His excessive reliance on pause is another serious weakness. -- Hopkins devised a complex theory of 'sprung rhythm' to explain his own metrical innovations. This theory depends on the substitution of natural speech-stress for conventional syllabic accentuation as the basis of prosody. The main principle of 'sprung rhythm', thus outlined, is theoretically quite sound; but in practice Hopkins' recognition of speech-stress was too arbitrary to be considered a valid prosodic standard. -- As a metrist Bridges was more eclectic than Patmore or Hopkins. He worked on the assumption that English verse could be written according to more than one prosodic system. At different stages of his career he attempted to write verse on the accentual, quantitative, and syllabic models. His practice of 'sprung verse' may be compared with that of Hopkins, from whom he derived it. The experiments in quantitative verse are less successful. Bridges' 'Neo-Miltonic' syllabic verse is the most original of his metrical accomplishments, but has no real prosodic regularity. -- All three poets were able to introduce freer rhythms into English verse. They are not entirely successful in their attempts to provide complete theoretical justification for these innovations; but such justification is hardly needed in view of the intrinsic excellence of their achievement.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 7129
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [151-153].
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1963
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Great Britain
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Patmore, Coventry, 1823-1896--Criticism and interpretation; Hopkins, Gerard Manley, 1844-1889--Criticism and interpretation; Bridges, Robert, 1844-1930--Criticism and interpretation; English poetry--19th century--History and criticism

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