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The rhetorician's couldn't figure it out (1 Viewer)

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lumino

Senior Member
What I have often researched on the web is prose rhythm, looking for some principles by which to arrange metrical feet in my writing, in order to give it the sound of something as eloquent as the King James Bible. I have not found much of anything to do with rules for rhythm, except things that simply do not work, especially those principles which are offered for use in establishing harmony. According to the rhetoricians on the subject, it is achieved merely by mixing together a variety of feet, in which feet that are the same or of the same kind seldom occur next to one another. But this simply does not work.

For one thing, if this principle were of any value, it would have the power to produce a consistent voice, and there would be rules enabling the selection of a particular voice, seeing that no two pieces of writing hardly ever sound the same, and if such rules cannot produce any one of the various kinds of voices found in those pieces with any consistency, they are clearly of no good use. It is my experience that mixing together various kinds of feet seldom produces anything smooth, let alone anything in a particular voice. When I have succeeded in putting down certain smooth phrases, thinking myself to be following that principle, I have unknowingly done so by depending on my ear.

Therefore it is evident that in matters of harmony, there is no determiner of quality except the ear.
 
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EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
Good luck with your search -- it's an important topic. When I contrasted my lyrical passage with my action passage, I found the first stronger beat closer to the start of the phrase for the action scenes. Logically, if you want to mix them up, a sentence that starts with a strong beat will probably be blunter; same for sentences with a lot of strong beats.

Is all of King James as you describe? I don't see a consistent style throughout the whole work. Second, I can't find a rhythm to this example:

2 In the place where they kill the burnt offering shall they kill the trespass offering: and the blood thereof shall he sprinkle round about upon the altar.
3 And he shall offer of it all the fat thereof; the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards,
4 And the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the caul that is above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away:
 

lumino

Senior Member
Good luck with your search -- it's an important topic. When I contrasted my lyrical passage with my action passage, I found the first stronger beat closer to the start of the phrase for the action scenes. Logically, if you want to mix them up, a sentence that starts with a strong beat will probably be blunter; same for sentences with a lot of strong beats.

Is all of King James as you describe? I don't see a consistent style throughout the whole work. Second, I can't find a rhythm to this example:

Prose rhythm, in my opinion, doesn't mean a rhythm that is uniformly regular throughout a piece, but one that may be regular in some places and varied in most others. Consider the phrase from Romans 1, "...which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures...". There is a regular interval between stresses here but it only occurs twice. In most places in the Bible the rhythm is not regular; nevertheless, each book in the Bible has its own consistent voice, which is due to the varied rhythms throughout it constituting what is called its prose rhythm.
 

moderan

WF Veterans
the rhythm of the heat

Prose rhythm, in my opinion, doesn't mean a rhythm that is uniformly regular throughout a piece, but one that may be regular in some places and varied in most others. Consider the phrase from Romans 1, "...which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures...". There is a regular interval between stresses here but it only occurs twice. In most places in the Bible the rhythm is not regular; nevertheless, each book in the Bible has its own consistent voice, which is due to the varied rhythms throughout it constituting what is called its prose rhythm.

(The subsequent preachment is not the views of writingforums.com or of any duly licensed commercial subsidiary. Please feel free to hurl brickbats. Everybody must get stoned.)

*leans into lectern*

Actually, no. It's due to editing by subsequent scribes. The individual passages are the product of about 400 years of scriveners either promoting themselves and their work or performing hired bullshit akin to history books in Texas.
Prose 'rhythm' is literally the beat of the words. You can analyze it the same way you can a drum-beat, which keeps a regular pulse though the individual beats may vary.
...which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures...


This is on the one like good funk, with drumroll flourishes on the four. WHICH he had promISED afore, by his PROPHETS in the holy SCRIPtures, uh.

Remember that thread about the relation of words and music? Yeah.

Let's make it reggae, on the three, and see if it parses. Say it out loud, it'll be easier to grok. BEATS IN BOLD.

Which he HAD promised Afore, by HIS prophets in THE holy scriptures, UH...(the emphasis here comes after the stop.)

*Pounds pulpit*

Just call me Hector. Smiling faces sometimes and all that. Don't get any onya.
 

lumino

Senior Member
(The subsequent preachment is not the views of writingforums.com or of any duly licensed commercial subsidiary. Please feel free to hurl brickbats. Everybody must get stoned.)

*leans into lectern*

Actually, no. It's due to editing by subsequent scribes. The individual passages are the product of about 400 years of scriveners either promoting themselves and their work or performing hired bullshit akin to history books in Texas.
Prose 'rhythm' is literally the beat of the words. You can analyze it the same way you can a drum-beat, which keeps a regular pulse though the individual beats may vary.



This is on the one like good funk, with drumroll flourishes on the four. WHICH he had promISED afore, by his PROPHETS in the holy SCRIPtures, uh.

Remember that thread about the relation of words and music? Yeah.

Let's make it reggae, on the three, and see if it parses. Say it out loud, it'll be easier to grok. BEATS IN BOLD.

Which he HAD promised Afore, by HIS prophets in THE holy scriptures, UH...(the emphasis here comes after the stop.)

*Pounds pulpit*

Just call me Hector. Smiling faces sometimes and all that. Don't get any onya.

That's not what prose rhythm is, and neither of those rhythms fit the text because the true rhythm of the text is much more impressive than that.

"which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures"

xxx'xx'xx'xxx'x'x

As you can see, like I said, there is an interval between stresses that occur twice in the verse, but there is no regular beat.
 
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moderan

WF Veterans
That's not what prose rhythm is, and neither of those rhythms fit the text because the true rhythm of the text is much more impressive than that.

"which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures"

xxx'xx'xx'xxx'x'x

As you can see, like I said, there is an interval between stresses that occur twice in the verse, but there is no regular beat.

The true rhythm of the text. Do tell.
 

moderan

WF Veterans
bibulous.jpg
 

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
If you're looking for prose that emulates the King James Bible, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck may be the best model out there.
 

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
In the Preface to The Lyrical Ballads (1797? [too lazy to look it up]) Wordsworth and Coleridge said that in these poems they strove for "language such as men do speak"; Robbie Burns, of course, sought to 'record' the real cadence of real people speaking everyday language; JM Synge would lie on the floor of his room at the inn, ear pressed to the floor, listening to the lovely lilting cadence of the servant girls in the kitchen below, that he might incorporate it into the language of his plays. There is an easy unforced natural iambic cadence to the speech of ordinary people in their ordinary talk and to LISTEN to and ABSORB that into one's writing is probably as close as one can get to a rhythmic "model". The cadence of the KJV is often achieved through use of (NOW) archaic prepositions, inverted word order and other tricky little strategies which would seem very contrived if turned to for rhythmic effect in modern prose. I appreciate the desire for some sort of sound pattern that could be used to produce beautiful prose, but I doubt it is inherent in the language itself. Perhaps simply reading the greatest of our authors and permitting the best of their rhythmic achievements to enter our consciousness. . .would be as good a 'program' as any.
 
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