Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

_ _ _ _Re:_Metrical_Stress,_Feet,_ etc.

From:Philippe Caquant <herodote92@...>
Date:Monday, February 9, 2004, 8:47
French metrics are based on the number of syllables,
OK, but if you limit yourself to that rule, and
definitely decide to ignore the rhythm, I doubt you
ever come to writing any good (classical) poetry !

Fist you have to take into account the césure (pause
inside the verse). In an alexandrin, it’s normally in
the middle of it (6 + 6), but the scheme can also be 4
+ 4 + 4 (Ah si mon coeur / osait encor / se
renflammer, La Fontaine), or possibly other schemes
(the decasyllable can be 5 + 5, but preferingly 4 + 6;

Now look at those 2 alexandrins:
1) C’est bien. Tout ce qui n’est pas moi vaut mieux
que moi. (Victor Hugo)
2) Un soir, t’en souvient-il, nous voguions en
silence. (Lamartine)

The 1st one has absolutely no musicality. It is
composed of monosyllables only, the cesure, if any,
would be after the 2nd syllable (?), then they would
be a secundary stress on the 8th, but you have to
count on your fingers to make it out. It is simply
dreadful. As it happens, this verse belongs to theatre

The 2nd one is a model of musicality, as is the entire
poem where it comes from (Le Lac). There is a stress
on the 2nd syllable (which is long), then a pause,
then a pause (cesure) after the 6th syllable (which is
short), then a stress on the 9th (half long), then on
the 12th, which is long. Everything is made to evoke
the bark quietly evoluting on the lake in the evening.

So one cannot say that things like long or short
syllables are not relevant in French poetry. There are
not part of the DEFINITION of the verse, but their
(mastered) use reveals the TALENT of the poet, and is
essential for the beauty of the poem. If there is no
music in there, there is no poetry.

Even in the XXth century, many poets used successfully
the rhythm and the count of syllables in their works,
like Aragon (the greatest ‘classical’ poet of the

Sa vie Elle ressemble à ces soldats sans armes
Qu'on avait habillés pour un autre destin
A quoi peut leur servir de se lever matin
Eux qu'on retrouve au soir désarmés incertains
Dites ces mots Ma vie Et retenez vos larmes
	Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux.

or René Char :

	Dans les rues de la ville il y a mon amour. Peu
importe où il va dans le temps divisé. Il n'est plus
mon amour, chacun peut lui parler. Il ne se souvient
plus ; qui au juste l'aima ?

(this is a sequence of 4 alexandrins written as if it
were prose, like Paul Fort also did)

or Claude Roy:

Mais elle vient la nuit de plus loin que la nuit
à pas de vent de mer de feu de loup de piège
bergère sans troupeaux glaneuse sans épis
aveugle aux lèvres d'or qui marche sur la neige.

True, there was a strong tendency in the last decades
to ignore everything about rhythm and melody, and
write ‘intellectual’, ‘clever’ poems. To me this looks
rather sterile, and the fact is that nobody ever
REMEMBERS such poems by heart (or even wants to recite
them), because there are made for the brain only, not
for the soul, and because rhythm and rhymes are a
strong help to remember verses (‘classical’ poems also
can be put into songs). It contributed very much to
the growing disdain towards poetry: nowadays, nobody
ever buys poetry books, and at least 90% of the
self-called ‘poets’ ignore nearly everything about
metrics, musicality and classical rules. When they
write ‘alexandrins’, they count on their fingers. This
is the end of a culture ! :-(

En réponse à Ray Brown :

>But what I've never really got to grips with is
French metrics which are
>different from either the quantitative rhythms of
ancient Greek and
>Classical Latin or the stress based rhythms of
English & other languages
>with stress based rhythms. > >I dearly like to have one (or more) of our
francophone conlangers
>enlighten by you and me on French metrics.
I must say this surprises me greatly. I mean, the quantitative metrics and stress-based metrics are far more complicated than the French metrics, which are about as simple as you can make, so I fail to see what is complicated in French metrics... So once you've understood that French metrics are based on the number of syllables in a verse and nothing else, you've understood everything about them! No wonder most of French poetry is based on the rhyme rather than the rhythm :) . Christophe Grandsire. ===== Philippe Caquant "Le langage est source de malentendus." (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Finance: Get your refund fast by filing online.


Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>