Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Descort part 4

    Sheriffs and troopers and Highway Patrol,
    Squad car and motorbike, horseman and hound,
    Chasing Dupree like a fox to its hole,
    Bloodlust won't cease till they run him aground.
    Radio says that Dupree has been found,
    Betty just listens and says a soft prayer,
    Bull horns bark orders and SWAT teams surround,
    Dupree walks out with his hands in the air.

I moved to a ballade for the next stanza, which moved away from the blues, and brought me to a very different moods. There are many ballades, but the one that always sticks in my head is Edmund Rostand's, from Cyrano de Bergerac -- the part where Cyrano improvises a ballade as he duels with a churl, ending

Qu'a la fin de lenvoi, je toiuche!

There are various translations, but I still like the one voiced by Jose Ferrer in the movie:

Then, as I end the refrain, thrust home!

There's certainly room for this sort of boast in the blues, although not in Betty and Dupree, and not quite in that language:

Going to Black Mountain, with my razor and my gun,
Going to Black Mountain, with my razor and my gun,
Gonna cut him if he stands, shoot him if he runs.

The rest of the scansion story -- and here it gets really boring, unless you're a poet, or even if you are -- it's hard to imagine Gregory Corso reading this and not throwing his laptop across the room in disgust. Well,  it's hard to imagine Gregory Corso having a laptop, or any circumstance under which he would not have thrown it across the room. But back to scansion. This particular ballade was written in dactylic tetrameter, which means it goes DA-da-da four times. Except, of course, it doesn't go DA-da-da four times. It only goes DA-da-da three times, and then ends with DA. Or anapestic tetrameter, which means that it doesn't quite go da-da-DA four times, more like one DA and three da-da-DAs.

That's called a catalexis, and that's a term I only learned recently from R. S. (Sam) Gwynn, who...well, the expression is, has forgotten more about scansion than I'll ever know, except that he hasn't forgotten anything about scansion. Anyway, a catalexis occurs when you truncate one of the metric feet,  either at the beginning of a line or the end. I first fell in love with this gambit reading W. H. Auden:

Time, that with this strange excuse,
Pardoned Kipling and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardon him for writing well.

Before I learned about catalexes, I would just have described that line as either truncated iambic or truncated trochaic, but what I loved about it is that there was always a tipping point, where the line subtly moved from one to the other:

TIME, // that WITH // this STRANGE// exCUSE,
PARDoned // KIPling // AND his  // VIEWS,
AND will // PARDon // PAUL // ClauDEL,
PARDon // HIM // for WRIT // ing WELL.

Anyway, my favorite poem employing that galloping anapest is Browning's "How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix":

And I think Dupree takes on a little of that rollicking British hunting song quality in this stanza.

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