Poem—fragment from a university portfolio—notes to myself in square brackets

…[Going to put the stress patterns on by pen—don’t know how to do that by computer.][16/06/2015—‘woolly mammoth’—5th line down—I wonder about that now—in the footnotes, I have it as ‘my own interpretation’—well, it would be.]

27/11/ 92

Where is the poem, beneath the stress pattern?

Where is the meaning, my merry old man?1

We’ve looked at the metre, we’ve used the tape measure2

We’ve footed the fortunes3, of firth and away.4

But where are the words?  My own woolly mammoth?5

Where are the meanings, my merry old man?…


1  merry old man—stock phrase for God or Aristotle.

2  Associated with the merry old man, via Aristotle—poetry—measure; “The form of art that uses language alone, whether in prose or verse, and verse either in a mixture of metres or in one particular kind…” (Aristotle, Poetics, 32)  (But verse is metre, or measure); “Poets who write in strict conformity to a single metrical pattern will achieve the music of a metronome and soon drive their listeners away.”

Robot speech = regularity

Human speech = regularity/irregularity, or variation. (Norton Anthology, 1408)

3  footed the fortunes = imposed a pattern (Latin metre) on something formerly freer (Anglo-Saxon tradition which only needed two stresses per each half-line and as many unstressed as required to complete the meaning); putting English speech rhythms into Latin metrical could be seen as an imposition.

4  firth and away = freedom of Anglo-Saxon poetry compared to Latin metrical; firth—a route to the sea where no landmarks point the way.  [‘firth’ reminds me of ‘Forth’, of course.]

5  woolly mammoth = my own interpretation.

[Note from 7/06/2017—this poem is mine, by the way.]

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