Sprung Rhythm

I’m not sure I’ve got the hang of the explanation of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Sprung Rhythm  as explained at  http://dversepoets.com/2012/05/17/formforall-sprung-rhythm/  .   

I have always counted stresses rather than syllables, so that part is not a problem, but to me “The Caged Skylark”, http://www.bartleby.com/122/15.html described in the notes as “Falling paeonic rhythm, sprung and outriding”,  reads like a rather lumpy attempt at iambic pentameter. I hasten to add that the sense of the poem is wonderful.

I shall, therefore try my best to be lumpy, too, but don’t count on it.

Sprung Rhythm

Sigh, with a sigh uncomprehending,
groan at the bitter ache of my despair;
inability to fathom this sprung rhythm,
balance it with what I know of meter.

Monosyllable, that I understand—
if trochee, dactyl, spondee are allowed
then why not iamb,  amphibrach or anapest?
Hopkins, it seems, can do no wrong—

syllables with stress can come most any place—
he it is who sets these half-baked rules.
Sprung rhythm, as defined, is no rhythm
anarchic prosody’s not poetry to me.

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17 Responses to Sprung Rhythm

  1. You’re on the target by calling it “anarchic”, I think: he seemed to have found that limping halfway point between formalism and free verse that was becoming commonplace in the mid-to-late-1800s. (Walt Whitman did it better, in my opinion; he gave up rhyme too, though.) I always thought “nonce” rhythm seemed like a better bet, where you have consistency of meter and pattern, but you’re not beholden to one form or another. Something like, “in this poem, I’m going to alternate between a dactyl-three iambs-dactyl line and a dactyl-dactyl-iamb line, and rhyme ABA CBC etc.”, or what have you. At least it’s more honest, and doesn’t seem as slapdash.


    • vivinfrance says:

      slapdash was the word that came to mind when I read some of his poems. I just wish he’d written either free verse or metrical rhyming, because his themes and language are gorgeous But I can’t get over the unmusical rhythm.


  2. I’m sighing with you! I try though my try was way short of yours… brilliant!


  3. I love it…I can almost always count on you to write a parody of the form itself. Smiles.


  4. zongrik says:

    i felt just as confused as you, but i never thought of writing a spoof on trying to write one of these things. it’s sooooo cute!!

    when time races like a bullet


  5. Viv, you know how I feel about forms in general, but this one seemed so forced, so unnecessarily complicated… and yet Hopkins found his voice in it. Perhaps it’s best left to Hopkins?! In the meantime, your biting satirical wit shines through. You have a gift for signaling sarcasm without making it sound mean. Can you send me a bottle of whatever it is you drink, ha ha ha,

    Well done, my friend. Amy


  6. Gay says:

    I smiled and laughed straight through this and yes, believe you succeed in rebel thought, but snugly fit into the way I understand the requirements of sprung rhythm. Here you let the stresses stand out and the ideas do spring one to the next without effort but without any “sing-song” quality whatsoever. However, one scans it – this poem is FINE!


  7. Laurie Kolp says:

    I didn’t understand it either, but you seemed right on, Viv!


  8. ManicDdaily says:

    Well, this is super clever, but I have to say that Hopkins is one of my very favorite poets. (So I disagree.) That said, you are very funny here and your poem is really well done. K.


  9. brian miller says:

    i am an admirer…if for no other reason than my stresses can go where they please…haha…having no formal schooling in poetry i find it rather hard to hear a forced rhythm but much easier just to let mine find its own….


  10. claudia says:

    haha…i think hopkins was a bit of a rebel himself… trying to find his own rhythm which i find quite interesting as it reads a bit like you lay your ear closely on the poet’s chest…da_Dum…smiles..


  11. Tilly Bud says:

    The jargon has always been a foreign language to me but in this poem it sounds great on the tongue!


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