"La Danse Medieval" 16th century French tapestryAn Arthurian Interlude in Alliterative Verse, by Rahul Gupta The Society April 4, 2020 Beauty, Culture, Poetry 15 Comments Loading... Taking too long? Reload document | Open in new tab Download [83.44 KB] Rahul Gupta holds a PhD for a thesis on mediaeval Germanic and modern mediaevalist metre and poetics from the University of York. His poetry and translations have appeared hitherto in Agenda, Acumen, Carillon, Eborakon, Equinox, and Molly Bloom, among other journals. I have recently published prose in British Intelligence and have Old English verse-translations forthcoming in Wiðowinde. NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets. NOTE TO POETS: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here. CODEC News:Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 15 Responses Joseph S. Salemi April 4, 2020 This is an interesting and delightful modern version of the four-stress Anglo-Saxon line, with medial caesura. Dr. Gupta is also deliberately using rare Anglo-Saxon-based words to heighten the effect: knosps, swarf, rime-relics, clemmed, enswathe. And of course there is the alliteration in every line. Reply Rahul Gupta April 4, 2020 Many thanks for this appreciative comment. I should just like to add that each half-line is also metrical according to the 6 verse-types, and to note that this is a very short excerpt from a much longer work. An earlier canto from the epic may be read in The Long Poem Magazine, Issue 15, May 2016, whilst the prose Synopsis of the whole narrative was published in The Temenos Academy Review, Issue 21, 2018 (issued in 2019). Reply C.B. Anderson April 4, 2020 I’m not sure whether I have ever read anything quite like this. It sets the mind’s ear to ringing, and I can almost smell the moldering leaves. There is no discernible narrative, but there is mood and texture aplenty. Reply Joseph S. Salemi April 4, 2020 Perhaps the complete poem has a more visible narrative line. But Anglo-Saxon poetry does have a tendency to describe natural life and weather conditions in great detail. Reply James A. Tweedie April 5, 2020 As I read, I felt much the same as when I take the time to study the often-missed details of foliage and woodland wildlife in medieval manuscripts and tapestries. Rahul’s verses reflect a similar fascination with such details. Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece (1432–which I consider painting’s greatest masterpiece) is a culmination of the Middle Ages’ decorative obsession with such things insofar as at least 75 varieties of plants, trees, and flowers have been identified, details that serve no particular function other than to give glory to God for the diverse beauty of the created world. Rahul may not be scientifically precise in his descriptions but he captures details in ways that trigger graphic memories of our own experience and observations of this “shrivelled shrinking” “wilt(ing) withering” season. The wizened scraps, brown-freckled blades, like brittle husks drained dry of pith, drossy tinsel, cling on clawed twigs. Exquisite. Reply Paul Oratofsky April 6, 2020 I hear the influence of Gerard Manley Hopkins in this, but I feel it needs trimming down, more poetic tension, and more of a spiraling inward and coming to a point, a climax. Some of the alliteration is overdone. Still, there’s a deliciousness and playfulness about it that makes it a good start. I do think it needs work, though. Reply Rahul Gupta April 6, 2020 Dear Mr Oratofsky, Thank your for taking the trouble to read and offer your comment. There is no “influence from” Gerard Manley Hopkins. As stated, the versification is Old English so-called alliterative verse; furthermore it is accurate, strictly-metrical Old English verse, as in ‘Beowulf’. Hopkins was himself interested in this verse and influenced by a generalized impression of its rhythmic and acoustic impact, but was unable to read Old English and Old Norse, and could not, from the philology available to him in his time, learn how it worked technically. As is stated, I hold a PhD in this versification. Whether you happen personally to like that metre and style is another matter. Enough is stated in the presentation here to make clear, and I have reiterated it in a previous comment, to the attentive, that this is _a very small except_ from a much longer poem. Please note “_From_ A Seasonal Interlude” and the use of asterisks to indicate excerption. This is NOT a lyric to be read on its own as a standalone piece. This is a mere 2 pages from an Interlude weighing in at around FIFTY pages; which Interlude is one third of the whole epic. On either side of the interlude are two narrative chunks. An earlier canto from the epic may be read in The Long Poem Magazine, Issue 15, May 2016, whilst the prose Synopsis of the whole narrative was published in The Temenos Academy Review, Issue 21, 2018 (issued in 2019). This is a very small descriptive excerpt from an Interlude describing the whole year as imagined in an Arthurian Albion. This passage on the leaves is itself a very small scene even in the context of the narration of Autumn. I hope reiterating this points may be helpful in facilitating better understanding. I submitted five long excerpts from The Interlude (a third of the whole epic) to The Society: they chose the shortest and the most familiar in content. Reply C.B. Anderson April 7, 2020 This particular excerpt was well chosen, indeed. Is it possible that the original legend has been better understood by someone whose cultural roots lie elsewhere? Why not? I think we’ve just seen it. My world has just been turned upside-down, and I thank you for that. Rahul Gupta April 10, 2020 Dear Readers, I fear to outstay my welcome, nor does it seem proper for me to intervene overmuch, yet I should like to express my thanks to readers and commentators for their kind and generous interest and engagement. I have observed some recurring misunderstandings hence I hope I may be forgiven for venturing the following notes as a help. Please permit me first to remark again —and I beg leave to invite consideration of the implications of this fact—that this is a very short excerpt from a much longer piece. Of the excerpts I submitted this is the shortest. This is one passage from a continuous c.50-page ‘Interlude’, the second section in an epic in three sections, the flanking first and third of which recount narrative action. This Interlude depicts the cycle of the year in an imaginary Arthurian Albion: it evokes the world in which the narrative takes place. The passage published here is itself an excerpt from those pages in this interlude concerning Autumn. In fact in the poem these passages are separated by other pages still depicting the same season: I have put these two together here to form a kind of Leaves-Diptych. A prose summary of the whole reconstructed narrative has been published in The Temenos Academy Review Issue 21 (2018/19). A previous canto from this interlude was published in The Long Poem Magazine Issue 15 (May 2016). As this is a forum dedicated honourably to formal versification, those interested in prosody may like to know that the metre is the so-called Alliterative Metre, the ancient native versification of the English language, as of ‘Beowulf’. (Some passages in the whole poem are in the Old Norse form[s] of this metre.) It is termed “Alliterative Verse” but this is a misnomer. Apart from the so-called alliteration being about not letters but sounds, the metre is also syllabic, accentual, and involves vowel-length. I have sought to recreate this as strictly as linguistically possible in Modern English. Space, as they say, forbids a full account here. However. There are 6 basic verse-‘Types’; each line is composed of 2 of these verses, usually and preferably of different types: two hemistichs with a medial cæsura or breath-pause; linked by the so-called alliteration. The hemistichal verse-types are paradigmatically tetrasyllabic, but anacrusis and resolutions obtain rather as in Latin quantitative prosody, and there are numerous permissible variations. (The hemistich cannot consist of fewer than 4 syllables, but it may often be somewhat longer in terms of number of syllables though not by way of number and patterning of stresses.) A full-line is made up of two hemistichs, divided by a cæsura always medial yet intrinsic to the phrasing, and of varying emphasis and duration, each hemistich conforming to one of the 6 basic metrical verse-types. Normally the two verse-types are different on either side of the cæsura, but A : A and occasional runs of the same type are permitted. The 6 basic accentual patterns, or metres, are formed by permutations in the arrangement of stressed and unstressed elements in the hemistich, according to three grades of accent: stressed /, unstressed x, and half-stressed \. Half-stressed syllables are crucial in forming Types D-E. There are also licit subtype-variants of these patterns (hence below D jumps from D1 to D4, as these are the most common): Type A / x / x Light is fading Type B x / x / the naked trees Type C x / / x the leaves languish Type D1 / / \ x Last leaves falling. Type D4 / / x \ Knee-deep beneath Type E / \ x / redgolden rain The full-line of two hemistichs is linked by the alliteration, a matter of initial sounds (thus in this versification end-rhyme is replaced by head-rhyme). The structural function of alliteration is to bind the two half-lines into a full-line. The rule is that the strongest stressed syllable in the first half-line must alliterate with the first stressed syllable of the second half-line. It is not unusual for the second stressed syllable in the first half-line also to participate in the alliterative scheme, but there must be such double alliteration in the first half-line in Types D-E. The second stressed syllable in the second half-line, the last stress of the full-line, must not participate in the alliteration, except in certain fancy patterns seldom to be used. The possible alliterative patterns are thus: 1. a x || a x : ‘simple’ 2. a a || a x : ‘full’ } normal 3. a b || a b : ‘crossed’ 4. a b || b a : ‘double’ } special I hope this may be of interest. My thanks again to The Society. RG. Reply Paul Oratofsky April 13, 2020 The writing of poems is a way of leaving Earth, and some of us need this regular escape to spiritually and mentally survive. We [who write poems] don’t do this out of pressure [except for the academics going for a degree in literature.] It’s hard, scary work, to catch a notch in the mundane, slip through its cracks (using language) and fly off somewhere to the great beyond, the great behind, the great beseem, the great belie, the great belly of existence that tugs between absurdity and profundity, in a curry of sprinklings of attention and dimension and dementia, where we all have to gather sometimes to keep our sanity intact. What the hell do you think we’re doing here if not that? The making of works of art is not so much a luxury as a necessity, a coming up (or going in) for air. I know there is some air in here; I can feel it. I’m looking for it. Excuse me, sir, can you please point me to where the air is in here? It’s not always apparent. Reply Rahul Gupta May 5, 2020 Dear Mr Oratofsky, It saddens and pains me to see that my work seems somehow to have caused you such baffled dismay, and which response I should guess is moreover quite needless. Therefore I dare to break silence to try to address your seeming disquiet and outcry; although I must acknowledge I find what you have kindly taken such trouble to write rather hard to understand, hence I fear my poor words may yet again prove wide of the mark for you. I am of course far from unaware that my poetry is unusual and unlike other poetry around, and I understand that it is right for folk to hold differing views as to what poetry is or should be. Now it seems, from what I can understand of what you have written, you and I may have rather unalike ideas as to the nature and purpose of poetry. Let me say then, that I am not seeking to claim that this very small sample from a far longer narrative poem, or the latter itself, should be some kind of model for all poetry, in content, in tone, in diction, or in style and form. I am not at all seeking to revive the so-called “alliterative” verse for universal use in all of today’s poems. I am not seeking to replace all poetry with mythopœic epics. I should like there to be room and market for all thinkable kinds and modes of poetry; as many poetries as there are poets; insofar as these are well-made, good of their kind, have an integrity and justification, and each work embodies in itself its own self-evident and unifying aesthetic rationale. By the same token, I should like my kind of poetry to be allowed to partake also of this diverse currency. This poem is not some kind of representation, in any simple or obvious or explicit sense, of me as an individual, speaking in my own voice, about myself. This is not poetry which aims to be, in some obvious and direct way, either personal or “contemporary”. I beg that it be understood and the understanding weighed that this work is a Traditional Epic on archaic mythological themes, matter that is collective and indeed National. An epic calls for an epic subject and a fitting epic diction and a suited epic form. It is a specific, particular, thing, done in a specific, particular way. The style and form have been specially and specifically devised to suit the content, properly and peculiarly to itself. It is a very specific, deliberate, targeted, particular thing. The whole has been designed to make a single whole, part and parcel and all of a piece. This is not a modern, personal, Lyric poem about the inner lives of contemporary individuals. This poetry is not me talking. Or one could say, that what is encountered straight away, the surface of the poem and its style and versification, is a kind of fictional device. The epic is a mythopœic fiction, the surface of which is the archaistically-stylized verse. It ventures a case, somewhat as indeed C. S. Lewis once phrased it, of “Just Suppose we entertain, for this kind of thing, something like this…” If the most ancient traditions in Britain and in English could themselves bespeak themselves, what would they say and how would they sound? This may happen to be remote or alien to you, but I would argue that it touches closely upon all who speak and write in this tongue. This is a conjuring of ancestral voices and presences. This is a return to the source. I am not seeking, as you rhapsodize in your Beat-esque manifesto, to “leave the earth”: I am trying to return you to the earth, and delve into and under the earth, my earth. This is an excerpt from a section dealing with the seasons, the beasts, the trees, the farming- and the ritual calendar. I am sorry if you find my work “mundane”. Likewise there is I think light and air enough in the whole work, however this is a story, that of Arthur and Merlin, dominated by inexorable Fate, whilst this small passage does after all concern Fall, and the Fall of Leaf, the downturn into Winter. The models in my tradition here are, plainly, Old English and Old Norse poetry, and the Arthurian Matter of Britain as told and retold in The Mabinogion, in ‘Sir Gawain and The Green Knight’, in ‘Le Morte Darthur’; or by Steinbeck, T. H. White, and T. S. Eliot. The matter and style is profoundly Traditional, and it is an experiment in reviving, in this instance and for this purpose, a kind of Deep Tradition poetically; but the overall æsthetics, of the whole work, in literary-critical terms, are better understood as “postmodernist”, as, say, something by Nabokov, Borges, Eco. In some measure, in some sense, it might best be understood as a postmodernist novel in verse: and that versification an element in the constructed or confected fiction. The whole enterprise is a modernistically self-conscious enterprise of Artifice. It could also be thought of Philologically as an “*asterisk-” construction. I conceive, I should guess in the common and historical manner, of the aesthetic realm as a space made in public culture for this kind of speculative Play. I hope you will forgive me if what I now say here again makes all-too little sense to you, and can only say I am sorry if I seem to you and others to be labouring obscurities. Please do not feel obliged to answer; I do not hold with explanations. It would be unseemly for me to obtrude manifestos or apologetics here. If you like and understand this sort of thing, read it and I hope you like it. If not, not. Read and write summats else. Perhaps I might be permitted to note, that this Society is avowedly devoted to the revival and championing of formal verse, and this website was only very recently publishing calls for epic and narrative poetry. I risked adding a brief account of the versecraft merely because I supposed it might be of interest and use to those appreciative of technique. Best wishes, Rahul Gupta Reply Paul Oratofsky May 26, 2020 Dear Mr. Gupta – My apologies, but I feel I should respond. I studied for over 8 years with José Garcia Villa whose poetics I found brilliant. James Sale from this site reviewed Robert L. King’s book (“Poetry Is”) documenting and describing that poetics here: https://classicalpoets.org/2015/11/06/book-review-poetry-is-by-jose-garcia-villa/ Here are some excerpts from Mr. King’s book – that I feel are germane to this matter. “What is called metrics (iambic, trochaic, dactyl, anapest, spondee, etc.) are merely the popular mechanics of verse. No good poet sits down to write a poem and says to himself or herself: ‘I’m going to write this poem in iambic pentameter.’ The poet only finds what his or her meter is after he or she has written the poem. I can assure you that no good poet ever literally scanned his or her lines—he or she has an inner ear that tells him or her that the lines are moving either rightly or wrongly.” “You must in addition read the modern poets, for we must be in equilibrium with and at pace with our own time. As the philosopher Heraclitus said centuries ago: ‘You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing in.’” “A poem picks up thought as it goes along but it is still exploratory of meaning until the final line occurs. In poetry, you do not get a semantic answer until the poem is finished. All of its elements are in flux and merely tentative—they do not crystallize until the end of the poem.” Paul Reply Dr Rahul Gupta February 20, 2021 As should be obvious, you are, again, as I have already sought to explain, espousing a very different kind of poetry, characterized by very different criteria, principles, aims. Furthermore, it seems you have perhaps not noticed that this is a forum at least avowedly and in explicit name devoted to “Classical”, formal, Verse, to versification. No poet of formal versification, let alone any epic poet or writer of long poems, would agree with the dubious matter you have adduced. Try telling it to any “Classical” poet, from Homer to Virgil to Arnaut Daniel and Dante to Chaucer to Milton to Tennyson and Hopkins. Neither would Pound and Eliot or Auden or Dylan Thomas or Ted Hughes or Geoffrey Hill have agreed with it. I rather feel I have wasted enough of my time here already. Reply Dennis April 20, 2021 Dear Dr. Gupta, I was recently reading your dissertation because of a project I’m working on about modern alliterative poetry, and after googling you, I discovered that you wrote quite a good deal of original alliterative verse yourself — I saw your Interlude on the Society of Classical Poets, although I couldn’t access any of your writing from The Long Poem Magazine or from the Temenos Academy. (Your Academia.edu link to the latter shows only one page.) Well, the project I’m working on happens to be SPECULATIVE POETRY AND THE MODERN ALLITERATIVE REVIVAL: A CRITICAL ANTHOLOGY (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press), and I wondered if we could discuss including any of your own alliterative work. As suggested by the title, I’m MOST interested in anything with fantastic, SF, or speculative elements, but I’m also including an “Speculative Adjacent” section that might include non-speculative alliterative poets who might be of interest to my target audience. If you’re interested in contributing or if you have any questions at all, please let me know. I’d be greatly excited to hear from you. Best wishes, Dennis Wise University of Arizona Reply Dr Rahul Gupta April 20, 2021 Dear Dennis, Many thanks for writing. I’d probably be delighted. I have e-mailed you at your University of Arizona address. I hope this is not problematic. If so is it possible for you to contact me more privately via Academia.edu? Or via Facebook even? Many thanks & all best wishes RG Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. Δ This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.