Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Campion's Prosody




Allen Ginsberg's January 1980 Naropa  class on Basic Poetics continues with transcription of one-on-one conversation that appears to take place after the formal end of the class  

AG: Pat (sic), did you ever read that -  (Thomas) Campion's treatises on the music and poetry?
Student (Pat (sic)) :  I've read the Observations in The Art of English Poesie 
AG: Is that the one that takes up quantitative.? 
Student (Pat): Yeah
AG: Do you have a copy of Campion ?  Could you prepare a little summary of his ideas on quantity...You know what he says about that?

[Allen is temporarily distracted by another Student - Student: Is this my book?  AG Yes. I brought it back in . Student;: Thank you. AG: Peter (Orlovsky's)'s got the other one.] 
AG: [proffering a copy of George Saintsbury's A History of English Prosody…] - Is this good?
Student (Pat): I enjoyed it immensely
AG: He [Basil Bunting] said the defect of it was  - a very great line - on.. Saintsbury, (that)  "in two fat unreadable books.."
Student: (Pat) Make it three, actually!
AG: Yeah, but  "in two unreadable fat books.."  -  and his point was that Sainsbury, "in two fat unreadable books, concluded that there was no other measure in English poetry but stress"
Student (Pat): Now, see Saintsbury is saying the exact same thing as Bunting, actually. They're just arguing about the terminology, basically.
AG: You think so?
Student (Pat): I think so
AG: I'm not sure. But you can hear it in Bunting's ear, as he speaks..


                                                            [ Thomas Campion (1576-1620)]


Student (Pat): So what do you want on the Campion?
AG: Well…It would be interesting to get into what really the quantity is. because, actually, I know how to write it, and I do use it, and I hear it, but I would like to be able to know it better, and then, actually, open it up for the class to get (them) to do something with it, so that they actually do get it.
Student (Pat): He's actually trying to evolve some rules..
AG: Right
Student (Pat): So ..They don't really work so well. They probably work as well as any rules..
AG: They're probably the rule(s), the general practice(s) that he uses in his writing, right? - or..?
Student (Pat): Well, he's… primarily in this. You see, he thinks in terms of, as I remember.. And it's just the last chapter of it, actually, that deals with quantity. He's actually more interested in getting around lines.. of getting an English meter forced onto the Greek trochaic and...
AG: Yeah.
Student (Pat): He does do specific things..
AG: So what's… what is he using.. what's the difficulty getting in English (that which) corresponds to…?
Student (Pat): Well, he slips up on the hexameter right away. He says it's just against the nature of the line. So..
AG: On iambic hexameter?
Student (Pat): No, the dactylic hexameter, the imitation of Homer, which was, at that time, or just previous to that time, a great problem. Everybody was trying to write English hexameters, and, you know, pragmatically, it wasn't working. So he limits himself pretty well to the trochaic and iambic meters and various combinations of these. Yeah, I could work through...
AG:  "Cause, yes..  Could you prepare a little summary of his gists and main ideas and how we can understand his poetry from his theory, his descent into.. I mean, how we can understand the quantitative element in his poetry

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-one minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-two-and-a-half minutes in , and also from approximately forty-five-and-a-quarter minutes in to the end of the tape]

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