Hello, any professors of literature . . . . .

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Thread: Hello, any professors of literature . . . . .

  1. #1
    Honoured/Sadly Missed The Backward OX's Avatar
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    Jul 2007
    Up the Creek without a paddle, Queensland, Australia

    Hello, any professors of literature . . . . .

    . . . . .or anyone else with the answers I seek.

    Ref. Poetry

    I’m interested to learn everything you can tell me about the basic elements of the following two samples of verse. I am a complete ignoramus when it comes to elements of poetry and want to learn about these as examples of my preferred form. Please don’t refer me to Wikipedia.

    The author of both is Andrew Barton (“Banjo”) Paterson. The poems from which they are taken, Clancy Of The Overflow (1) and The Man From Snowy River (2), were first published in 1889 and 1890 respectively.

    Thank you.


    “I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
    Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
    He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
    Just on spec, addressed as follows, "Clancy, of The Overflow."

    And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
    (And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
    ‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
    "Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are”.”


    “There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
    That the colt from Old Regret had got away,
    And had joined the wild bush horses -- he was worth a thousand pound,
    So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
    All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
    Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
    For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
    And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight”.

    Last edited by The Backward OX; September 3rd, 2007 at 08:35 AM.

  2. #2
    Lit student, not professor, but:

    The metrical rhythm appears to have eight beats to each line, alternating stressed and unstressed syllables.

    I had WRITten HIM a LETTer WHICH i HAD for WANT of BETter

    If you speak it out loud you can hear the bouncing, rollicking rhythm that the eight-beat structure gives it. The other interesting thing about the rhythm is the fact that odd-numbered lines end in unstressed syllables, while even-numbered lines end in stressed syllables, placing your breathing pauses in the little gap that naturally fits in after each even-numbered line.

    The rhyme scheme is a common one; it looks like this:


    and it is geared towards comedy most of time. Poets using this scheme tend to try to draw humour from unlikely rhymes; there is an example of this in the rhyme of "thumb-nail dipped in tar" and "don't know where he are". "Is" is the expected word in the context, and the humour is in the poet's supposed stretching for a rhyme.

    The other kind of humour in the verses you have posted is that of the contrast between the very elevated style of the narrator, who uses highly complex and academic-sounding diction ("‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it") and the shearing-mate's less rarefied, ungrammatical style.

    The metrical pattern here is 8 beats to a line, then 5, alternating. This suggests a long pause to the reader. If the beats of these poems weren't so regular, pauses would be at the discretion of the reader (as they are with, for example, something by Shakespeare), but the skipping rhythm of these pieces demands that they be read to a steady sort of beat, like a song.

    There's not much I can tell you about the style of the piece itself from only this short fragment, other than that the use of the slang "cracks" and "a thousand pound" (rather than "a thousand pounds", more standard) suggest that this poem's narrator is less posh than that of the previous poem.

  3. #3
    Honoured/Sadly Missed The Backward OX's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Up the Creek without a paddle, Queensland, Australia
    P B
    Thanks for your valuable input. I will now make an attempt to find out even more. My library may have books on poetry.

    It’s interesting that you should mention setting this type of poetry to music. It’s already been done, with professional recording of “Clancy”, and additionally, as a kid, I put many of Paterson’s poems to existing tunes and sang them.

    Your remark about unstressed and stressed syllables at line ends was something I never consciously thought about, but now you’ve drawn it to my attention I can see perhaps it’s that skipping rhythm that makes it easy to memorise. I learnt dozens of his poems when younger and they’ve stayed with me.

    That eight beats followed by five is interesting. Someone told me that particular structure has a name. It’ll be part of my search at the library. The only thing I know about five beats is iambic pentameter and clearly that’s not what we’re dealing with here.

    *Maybe I’ll google it* haha

    Differing narrative styles - Paterson could write a poignant tear-jerker about horses being abandoned in South Africa after the Boer War, and the next minute have you splitting your sides with some nonsense about riding a mule in a circus. And he also wrote a lot about clever people. Clever as in smart. Good stuff, imo.

    Thanks again.

    Ps I wonder if it’s possible to analyse free verse? Just kidding.
    Pps You may recall, I'm the guy with AS. Analysing, understanding (things), is what we do.
    Last edited by The Backward OX; September 13th, 2007 at 03:19 AM.

  4. #4
    You're welcome.

    Oh, a PS of my own: I remembered the name of the alternating stressed/unstressed thing. It's trochaic here because it goes stressed then unstressed. If it was unstressed then stressed it would be iambic (a word you mention, I notice). An eight-beat trochaic line is called trochaic octameter.

    And, in fact, a PPS of my own: I know you were kidding about whether it's possible to analyse free verse, but I do find it interesting that such a seemingly simple art form should have had essays written about it in the early twentieth century by no less two giants than T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound:

    The text of "Reflections On Vers Libre" by T.S. Eliot

    Ezra Pound reviews T. S. Eliot ("Poetry," 1917) (the section titled Versification is the relevant one)

    If you want something to analyse, Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" could keep an expert occupied for a lifetime: there are so many things going on in that poem, both in terms of subject and form.

    Good luck on your quest!


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