Lionel Kearns, Structural Linguistics

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SONGS OF CIRCUM/STANCE - o r i g i n a l poems and introduction by LIONEL JOHN KEARNS B.A., The University of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1961


We accept t h i s thesis as conforming to the required standard


In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a a v n e degree at t e University of n dacd h British Columbia, I agree that t e Library shall m k i t freely h ae available for reference a d study* n I further agree that per-

mission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes m y b granted b t e H a of m D p r m n or b a e y h ed y eatet y his representatives. It is understood that copying or publi-

cation of this thesis for financial gain shall not b allowed e without m written permissions, y

D p r m n of eatet T e University of British Columbia, h Vancouver 8, C n d aaa



This thesis consists of a s e l e c t i o n of o r i g i n a l poems and an introductory essay which treats the subject of poetic form and sets out an o r i g i n a l system of verse notation, c a l l e d "Stacked Verse" which i s used i n laying out the poems. The essay may be summarized as follows. Verse, i n i t s

widest d e f i n i t i o n , i s language whose sound form has been ordered or s t y l i z e d f o r s p e c i a l aesthetic e f f e c t . Because

verse i s a time a r t , i t s e s s e n t i a l form i s a rhythm, that i s , a chronological set of points and t h e i r i n t e r v a l s . These

points may be marked by any s i g n i f i c a n t feature of the language, although i n English verse the speech feature most commonly used as a basis f o r measure i s s y l l a b l e s t r e s s . Yet t h i s

term i s ambiguous because i n English speech there are two d i f f e r e n t systems of r e l a t i v e stress patterning at the same time. operative

On one hand there i s the r e l a t i v e stress This type of patterning, which we

within i n d i v i d u a l words.

c a l l "word s t r e s s " , i s stable within the language, and has functioned as the basis of t r a d i t i o n a l E n g l i s h metre. other system of r e l a t i v e stress patterning, which we The call

" r h e t o r i c a l s t r e s s " , varies according to the speaker and the occasion. Rhetorical stress patterning i s a matter of

s y l l a b l e groups, pauses, and equal time i n t e r v a l s between heavily stressed s y l l a b l e s . When t h i s type o f patterning

i s s t y l i z e d we get what i s known as "strong s t r e s s " verse measure. Although t h i s l a t t e r type of measure has not occurred

extensively i n English verse since Chaucer's time, i t has nevertheless come down to us i n folk verse and i n the work of such poets as Langland, Skelton, Coleridge and Hopkins, and i s being practised increasingly by poets i n our own day. This brings us to the question of v a r i a b l e , as opposed to regular, form. The s t y l i z a t i o n o f speech features does not The prevalence of run-on

necessarily imply r e g u l a r i z a t i o n .

l i n e endings both i n strong stress poetry o f the Anglo-Saxons and i n metred blank verse since Shakespeare's day t e s t i f i e s to the fact that r e g u l a r i t y has never been an indispensable feature of E n g l i s h verse. Closely associated with v a r i a b l e verse measure i s the theory of organic form. A poet may either begin h i s composi-

t i o n with some f i x e d model i n mind, or he may choose to compose i n u t t e r freedom, l e t t i n g the poem take the shape which h i s emotion, not h i s conscious i n t e l l e c t , gives i t . The measure

of t h i s l a t t e r type of composition w i l l n a t u r a l l y be v a r i a b l e , but i f i t i s also to be organic i n the sense o f being t r u l y c o r r e l a t i v e to the poet's emotion i t must be based on a feature of the language that does i n fact vary according to an

individual's emotional condition.

Such a speech feature i s

r h e t o r i c a l stress patterning, and therefore a v a l i d l y organic verse form would be one based on v a r i a b l e strong stress measure. The reason t h i s type of measure i s s t i l l r e l a t i v e l y unrecognized i s because i t cannot be represented on the page by conventional t r a n s c r i p t i o n methods, our w r i t i n g system being inadequate i n marking the v a r i a b l e r h e t o r i c a l stress patterns of English speech. Because the following poems have t h e i r verse forms based on such v a r i a b l e strong stress measure, the writer has found i t necessary to devise a system of verse notation which w i l l handle t h i s type of verse form on the page. t h i s notation "Stacked Verse". The writer c a l l s


Farts of t h i s thesis have appeared i n the following publications. Prism Delta Poet Evidence Canadian Forum Outsider Genesis West E l Corno Emplumado Tish Tamarack Review Envoi Prometheus: Poetry 64 CHQM CBC The Young S o c i a l i s t Quarterly



INTRODUCTION I Verse II Measure I I I English Stress Patterns IV English Metre V Strong Stress Measure VI Variable Verse Forms VII Organic Form VIII Notation IX Stacked Verse POEMS Process Ambergris: A Statement on Source. Composition Now The Scholar at Five Formula Things Recall Residue Presence Thaw Family In Bed Before Bunset Departure Precipitation Levitation Situation The Requisition of Catabolism Decomposition Vision Measure Poetic In Group

1 4 7 12 17 26 32 39 43 47 48 50 53 54 55 56 58 60 61 62 63 65 66 67 68 $9 72 73 75 76 78 80


Vastation i n the Stacks It The Charnel-House of Dharma The Yogi as Humorist.. Friday at the Ex Stuntman Appointment Remains Prototypes Contra D i c t i o n Theology Haiku The Sensationalist Report Homage to Machado A SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

81 83 84 86 88 91 93 94 96 97 98 99 101 102 103


There remains...aesthetic discourse, manifested c h i e f l y but not s o l e l y i n poetry and other deliberately c u l t i v a t e d s t y l e s . This i s at the bottom more a matter o f form than of content. Content may be put into any form whatever. But features of s t y l e turn constantly both on the actual l i n g u i s t i c form and on the arrangement or order o f the successive units of an utterance. Joshua Whatmough: Language

Let us begin our d e f i n i t i o n by saying that verse i s language, and that by "language" we mean simply an o r a l - a u r a l system of human communication. This system i s made up on one

hand of the physical sound forms which originate i n the mouth of the sender and are picked up by the ear of the receiver, and on the other hand, of the referents, or meanings, associated with the various sound forms i n the minds of those people who speak the language. I t i s important that we are aware of t h i s

dual aspect of language, and whether we think of the matter i n terms o f form and content, sound and meaning, symbol and

1 (New York, 1956), p.88


referent, we must recognize the fact that unless both these elements are present an utterance cannot be regarded as a phenomenon of language. A l l language, however, i s not verse, and we must narrow our d e f i n i t i o n even more by saying that verse i s language whose sound form has special aesthetic appeal. This i s not to say that the r e f e r e n t i a l side of verse i s i r r e l e v a n t ; we are merely stating that no matter how much verse shares the quality of r e f e r e n t i a l ordering with other forms of l i t e r a r y a r t story, f o r example 2 sonic ordering. This d e f i n i t i o n implies two categories of the

the distinguishing feature of verse i s i t s

language a r t , verse and prose, categories which, of course, must be taken as cardinal rather than functional. There can never

be any precise d i v i d i n g l i n e between the two genres; there can only be works that approach one side of the graph or the other, for a l l language may be said to have some aesthetic relevance 2 This fact explains why prose can be translated into another language, or even into other words of the same language, whereas verse cannot. The former depends f o r i t s e f f e c t upon reference, which i s to a large extent interchangeable between languages. Verse, on the other hand, which depends as w e l l upon i t s sound forms f o r i t s e f f e c t , cannot be translated because each p a r t i cular language has i t s own p a r t i c u l a r set of sounds which i s not wholly shared by any other language. That which passes f o r verse t r a n s l a t i o n i s usually a rendering of the prose sense of the work i n the new tongue or at best some kind of crude recons t r u c t i o n of the sound pattern of the o r i g i n a l according to some approximate formula of correspondences between the sound systems of the two languages.


i n i t s sound forms, however contingent or minimal t h i s may be. Having accepted the above d e f i n i t i o n of verse we are now ready to go on to discuss the nature of certain types of poetic form. The reader must r e a l i z e , however, that our d e f i n i t i o n s

force us to regard the poem as an e n t i t y of sound and that the written work i s therefore merely a s p a c i a l t r a n s c r i p t i o n of the sonic form which, i s the actual poem.


Rhythm i s a form cut into TIME as design i s determined SPACE Ezra Pound ABC of Reading3