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being developed and enriched by composers fully educated in their art, who add knowledge and training to that primal impulse of heart and mind which we call genius. The poet hitherto has worked in the dark, or at least in a shadow-land illumined only by his own intuition. Henceforth science will lend her lamp; she will hand him the laws of rhythm just as she hands to the painter the iaws of light and color, or to the architect the laws of proportion and stress. Dr. Patterson has the true scientific spirit; without prejudice he is investigating and recording. He writes:
I laugh at the way that some of my readers continue to size me up—I mean those who object to “scientific” investigation of our mental processes. They seem to think I lack “Feeling,” all the time that I am bursting with it. That's why I am trying to be slow and clear.
He records his pleasure in finding at least one poet in sympathy with his quest—and I am sure there are others. Indeed, only the expense of journeys to New York has kept the present editor from direct co-operation. He writes:
The vigorous and attractive personality of Miss Amy Lowell, who has recently been to my laboratory, where I made phonographic and photographic records of sections of her “free verse” readings, has warmed me up to a desire, more burning than ever, to straighten out the psychological facts of “vers libre.” What I am after is the truth, and the proper data for establishing it. Nothing is more encouraging in such a quest than to find Miss Lowell, of her own initiative, wishing to cooperate with me in this undertaking. On the other hand, nothing would be more depressing to me than to be considered out of sympathy with the spirit of the “new poetry,” whatever may turn out to be the truth about its form. In any case I insist on always being a champion of the contemporary and the vital, at the expense of the effete. After all, my theory of rhythm is in many ways a radical one, and what I have in the back of my head as the development of it is still more radical.
Long life to these researches! Dr. Patterson has made a good beginning, and I read his book with complete sympathy and accord except when he tries to draw with more or less definiteness a line between the rhythms of prose and verse, calling the former “syncopated” and the latter “coincident”; or, as he puts it:
Language is regarded as rhythmically “prose” so long as syncopation and substitution predominate over coincidence between the accented syllables and an under-unit series of subjective timeintervals. When coincidence predominates, language is rhythmically “verse.”
This seems to me an effort to explain a difference which does not exist. I wish he would throw all such distinctions into the scrap-heap, where the old metrical distinctions— iambic, trochaic, dactyllic, anapaestic, etc.—must be thrown by every modern mind, not because they are entirely false but because they are inexact, and are moreover inextricably associated with false usage, so that the subject of poetic rhythms requires a new notation and nomenclature.
I find syncopated rhythms in verse—metrical as well as free—and coincident rhythms in prose; and a somewhat prolonged and diversified study of the subject inclines me to say that no absolute line can be drawn between the rhythms of verse and prose. They fade into each other by gradations so slight as to be indistinguishable. If we confine our inquiry to English, and begin, let us say, with the sharply defined iambics and systematized caesuras of Pope, we glide unconsciously, through numerous stages, into the “freer” larger rhythms of Shakespearean or Miltonic blank verse. From these it is but a step to the varied rhythms of the best free verse; from these but another step to the finest poetic prose (the Gettysburg speech, for example). The next rhythmic step from this brings us to more conscious oratory (Webster's reply to Hayne is an example), and from this we could pass gradually toward the pitter-patter rhythms of common journalese, the tum-te-tum of cheap verse, and before long complete the circle back to Pope again. The anapaests of Shelley and Swinburne, the carefully weighed spondaic-dactyllics of Meredith, would fall into the circle as four-time variations of a pattern usually threetime in English verse but accepting four-time more readily in prose. And the various lyric forms are but the weaving of closer patterns. I maintain that each step in the above process marks a difference of degree merely. The commonest talk or journalese falls inevitably, as Sievers says, into “sprech-takte, or speech-bars, with a tendency to equal duration.” And in the greatest poetry ever written we have merely this same assembling of time-units, only they are more adroitly assembled and grouped, with a more conscious measuring of syllables and weighing of stresses. The underlying rhythmic principle is the same, I repeat, in both prose and verse. The rhythmic difference, scientifically speaking, between verse and prose is rather, I should say, in the grouping of time-units (let us call them by the musical term bars)— rather in the grouping of bars, which is cadence, than in syncopation or coincidence within the bar itself. In verse, and more or less in poetic prose, the cadence tends to return upon itself, to effect what Miss Lowell calls a “curve.” It is the sweep of this secondary rhythm which counts, which makes the distinction between poetic and prose rhythms. And this secondary rhythm is no more “occult” in good free verse than it is in good metrical verse. Dr. Patterson talks a little wildly, I think, in his chapter headed Vers Libre. Either vers libre has been badly read into his instruments—which is all too probable—or he accepts as vers libre some of its hopelessly prosy modern manifestations. As editor of this magazine I sympathize with him—hundreds of outpourings of chopped prose, quite innocent of poetic cadence, arrive at this office every month, which, if rhythmically analyzed, would indeed give one the sensation “of a jumping back and forth from one side of the fence to the other.” It is to be hoped that Miss Lowell will continue to help him in this detail, both in selection and in the actual readings for his experiments; indeed, he admits that her co-operation has been a valuable aid. All poets should assist so far as possible, for I cannot over-emphasize the importance of these investigations. As a student of the rhythms of prose Prof. Patterson is less hampered by precedent, by out-worn definitions and prejudices; his thought moves more freely and is therefore more completely illuminating. If he will only go a step further, and cast aside all the old impedimenta of the empiric and discredited science of prosody, he will start afresh in his study of rhythms, with verse claiming no “class,” but fighting for precedence on the same basis as prose.
It is hardly necessary to say that Prof. Patterson's book, and the above remarks on the subject, concern rhythms alone, and none of the other elements—emotion, tone-color, sound- . quality, etc.—which unite with rhythm to make up poetico beauty, and to assert the distinction between poetry and ...Y prose. H!ML-o
2 , A NOTE ON T. S. ELIOT S BOOK
It might be advisable for Mr. Eliot to publish a fangless edition of Prufrock and Other Observations for the gentle reader who likes his literature, like breakfast coffee or grapefruit, sweetened. A mere change in the arrangement of the poems would help a little. It might begin with La Figlia che Piange, followed perhaps by the Portrait of a Lady; for the gentle reader, in his eagerness for the customary bit of sweets, can be trusted to overlook the ungallantry, the youthful cruelty, of the substance of the Portrait. It may as well be admitted that this hardened reviewer cursed the poet in his mind for this cruelty while reading the poem; and just when he was ready to find extenuating circumstances—the usual excuses about realism—out came this “drunken helot” (one can hardly blame the good English reviewer whom Ezra Pound quotes!) with that ending. It is hard to get over this ending with a few moments of thought; it wrenches a piece of life at the roots.
As for the gentle reader, this poem could be followed by the lighter ironies of Aunt Nancy, the Boston Evening Transcript, etc. One would hardly know what to do with