Glossary N

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Universal Elements of Poetry


negative capability - A term first coined by the poet John Keats (1795-1821) referring to the writer's willingness to accept "Uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason", referring to the need for writers to remain objective; to write without offering solutions, rebuke, or correction.

Neoclassicism - This term is applies to prose and poetry that adheres to classic virtues. In England it would be works of the 18th century; historically called the Queen Anne era with notables such as: Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, Sir Richard Steele, John Gay, and Matthew Prior. There is nothing to prevent a writer from developing a poem, story or play in the neoclassic style. But early on for drama there were three requirements or conventions called unities that must be present for a play to be designated neoclassic. The first is “time” which is not to exceed twenty-four hours. The second and third are “place” and “action” which must occur in close proximity or conjoining areas. These three requirements or unities were formally stated as rules of drama by Castelvetro in 1570. An early example would be Pierre Corneille’s Horace (1640). His earlier drama Le Cid was viciously criticized because of its lack of adherence to the three “unities” - Corneille was not going to make that mistake again. Many of Henrik Ibsens plays are good examples, My Master Builder for one. In film, the outstanding example would be Carl Foreman’s script High Noon, which is now stored in the Library of Congress designated “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.” In Ireland our choice would be Liam O’Flaherty’s The Informer.

nonce - A poem pattern invented by a poet for the "nonce" or "for this one time". All traditional patterns could be considered nonce patterns. There are several excellent examples: Gerard Manley Hopkins' Two-part poem The Wreck of the Deutschland, rhyming a b a b c b c a.

Thou mastering me
God! giver of breath and bread;
World's strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh, And after it álmost únmade, what with dread, Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find theé.

I did say yes
O at lightning andnd lashed rod;
Tho heardst me truer than tongue confess Thy terror, O Christ, O God; Thou knowest the walls, altar and hour and night:
The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurl of thee trod Hard down with a horror of height:
And the midriff astrain with leaning of, laced with fire of stress.

The frown of his face
Before me, the hurtle of hell
Behind, where, where was a, where was a place?
I whirled out wings that spell
And fled with a fling of the heart to the heart of the Host.
My heart, but you were dovewinged, I can tell, Carrier-witted, I am bold to boast, To flash from the flame to the flame then, tower from the grace to the grace.

I am soft sift
In an hourglass at the wall
Fast, but mined with a motion, a drift,
And it crowds and it combs to the fall;
I steady as a water in a well, to a poise, to a pane, But roped with, always, all the way down from the tall Fells or flanks of the voel, a vein Of the gospel proffer, a pressure, a principle, Christ's gift.

I kiss my hand
To the stars, lovely-asunder
Starlight, wafting him out of it; and
Glow, glory in thunder;
Kiss my hand to the dappled-with-damson west:
Since, tho' he is under the world's splendour & wonder, His mystery must be instressed, stressed; For I greet him the days I meet him, & bless when I understand.

Not out of his bliss
Springs the stress felt
Nor first from heaven (and few know this) Swings the stroke dealt Stroke and a stress that stars and storms deliver, That guilt is hushed by, hearts are flushed by & melt But it rides time like riding a river (And here the faithful waver, the faithless fable and miss).

It dates from day
Of his going in Galilee;
Warm-laid grave of a womb-life grey;
Manger, maiden's knee;
The dense and the driven Passion, and frightful sweat:
Thence the discharge of it, there its swelling to be, Tho' felt before, though in high flood yet What none would have known of it, only the heart, being hard at bay,

Is out with it! Oh,
We lash with the best or worst
Word last! How a lush-kept plush-capped sloe Will, mouthed to flesh-burst, Gush! flush the man, the being with it, sour or sweet, Brim, in a flash, full! Hither then, last or first, To hero of Calvary, Christ,'s feet Never ask if meaning it, wanting it, warned of it men go.

Be adored among men,
God, three-numberéd form;
Wring thy rebel, dogged in den,
Man's malice, with wrecking & storm.
Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue,
Thou art lightning and love, I found it, a winter & warm;
Father and fondler of heart thou hast wrung:
Hast thy dark descending & most art merciful then.

With an anvil-ding
And with fire in him forge thy will
Or rather, rather then, stealing as Spring
Through him, melt him but master him still:
Whether át ónce, as once at a crash Paul,
Or as Austin, a lingering-out sweet skill,
Make mercy in all of us, out of us all
Mastery, but be adored, but be adored king.

"Some find me a sword; some
The flange and the rail; flame,
Fang, or flood" goes Death on drum,
And storms bugle his fame.
But wé dréam we are rooted in earth -- Dust!
Flesh falls within sight of us, we, though our flower the same,
Wave with the meadow, forget that there must
The sour scythe cringe, and the blear share come.

On Saturday sailed from Bremen,
American-outward-bound,
Take settler and seamen, tell men with women,
Two hundred souls in the round
O Father, not under thy feathers nor ever as guessing
The goal was a shoal, of a fourth the doom to be drowned;
Yet díd the dark side of the bay of thy blessing
Not vault them, the million of rounds of thy mercy not reeve even them in?

Into the snows she sweeps,
Hurling the haven behind,
The Deutschland, on Sunday; and so the sky keeps,
For the infinite air is unkind,
And the sea flint-flake, black-backed in the regular blow,
Sitting Eastnortheast, in cursed quarter, the wind;
Wiry and white-fiery and whírlwind-swivellèd snow
Spins to the widow-making unchilding unfathering deeps.

She drove in the dark to leeward,
She struck not a reef or a rock
But the combs of a smother of sand: night drew her
Dead to the Kentish Knock;
And she beat the bank down with her bows and the ride of her keel:
The breakers rolled on her beam with ruinous shock?
And canvass and compass, the whorl and the wheel

Idle for ever to waft her or wind her with, these she endured.
Hope had grown grey hairs,
Hope had mourning on,
Trenched with tears, carved with cares,
Hope was twelve hours gone;
And frightful a nightfall folded rueful a day
Nor rescue, only rocket and light ship, shone,
And lives at last were washing away:
To the shrouds they took, they shook in the hurling and horrible airs.

One stirred from the rigging to save
The wild woman-kind below,
With a rope's end round the man, handy & brave
He was pitched to his death at a blow,
For all his dreadnought breast and braids of thew:
They could tell him for hours, dandled the to and fro
Through the cobbled foam-fleece. What could he do
With the burl of the fountains of air, buck and the flood of the wave?

They fought with God's cold
And they could not and fell to the deck
(Crushed them) or water (and drowned them) or rolled
With the sea-romp over the wreck.
Night roared, with the heart-break hearing a heart-broke rabble,
The woman's wailing, the crying of child without check
Till a lioness arose breasting the babble,
A prophetess towered in the tumult, a virginal tongue told.

Ah, touched in your bower of bone
Are you! turned for an exquisite smart,
Have you! make words break from me here all alone,
Do you! mother of being in me, heart.
O unteachably after evil, but uttering truth,
Why, tears! is it? tears; such a melting, a madrigal start!
Never-eldering revel and river of youth,
What can it be, this glee? the good you have there of your own?

Sister, a sister calling
A master, her master and mine!
And the inboard seas run swirling and hawling?
The rash smart sloggering brine
Blinds her; but shé that weather sees óne thing, one;
Has óne fetch ín her: she rears herself to divine
Ears, and the call of the tall nun
To the men in the tops and the tackle rode over the storm's brawling.

She was first of a five and came
Of a coifèd sisterhood.
(O Deutschland, double a desperate name!
O world wide of its good!
But Gertrude, lily, and Luther, are two of a town,
Christ's lily and beast of the waste wood:
From life's dawn it is drawn down,
Abel is Cain's brother and breasts they have sucked the same.)

Loathed for a love men knew in them,
Banned by the land of their birth,
Rhine refused them, Thames would ruin them;
Surf, snow, river and earth
Gnashed: but thou art above, thou Orion of light;
Thy unchancelling poising palms were weighing the worth,
Thou martyr-master: in thy sight
Storm flakes were scroll-leaved flowers, lily showers sweet heaven was astrew in them.

Five! the finding and sake
And cipher of suffering Christ.
Mark, the mark is of man's make
And the word of it Sacrificed.
But he scores it in scarlet himself on his own bespoken,
Before-time-taken, dearest prizèd and priced
Stigma, signal, cinquefoil token
For lettering of the lamb's fleece, ruddying of the rose-flake.

Joy fall to thee, father Francis,
Drawn to the life that died;
With the gnarls of the nails in thee, niche of the lance, his
Lovescape crucified
And seal of his seraph-arrival! and these thy daughters
And five-livèd and leavèd favour & pride,
Are sisterly sealed in wild waters,
To bathe in his fall-gold mercies, to breathe in his all-fire glances.

Away in the loveable west,
On a pastoral forehead of Wales,
I was under a roof here, I was at rest,
And they the prey of the gales;
She to the black-about air, to the breaker, the thickly
Falling flakes, to the throng that catches and quails
Was calling "O Christ, Christ, come quickly":
The cross to her she calls Christ to her, christens her wildworst Best.

The majesty! what did she mean?
Breathe, arch and original Breath.
Is it lóve in her of the béing as her lóver had béen?
Breathe, body of lovely Death.
They were else-minded then, altogether, the men
Wóke thee with a we are périshing in the wéather of Gennésaréth.
Or ís it that she cried for the crown then,
The keener to come at the comfort for feeling the combating keen?

For how to the heart's cheering
The down-dugged ground-hugged grey
Hovers off, the jay-blue heavens appearing
Of pied and peeled May!
Blue-beating and hoary-glow height; or night, still higher,
With belled fire & the moth-soft Milky way,
What by your measure is the heaven of desire,
The treasure never eyesight got, nor was ever guessed what for the hearing?

Nó, but it was nót these.
The jading & jar of the cart,
Time's tásking, it is fathers that asking for ease
Of the sodden-with-its-sorrowing heart,
Not danger, electrical horror; then further it finds
The appealing of the Passion is tenderer in prayer apart:
Other, I gather, in measure her mind's
Burden, in wind's burly and beat of endragonèd seas.

But how shall I make me room there:
Reach me a Fancy, come faster
Strike you the sight of it? look at it loom there,
Thing that she ... There then! the Master,
Ipse, the only one, Christ, King, Head:
He was to cure the extremity where he had cast her;
Do, deal, lord it with living & dead;
Let him ride, her pride, in his triumph, despatch & have done with his doom there.

Ah! there was a heart right!
There was single eye!
Read the unshapeable shock night
And knew the who and the why;
Wording it how but by him that present & past,
Heaven and earth are word of, worded by?
The Simon Peter of a soul! to the blast
Tárpéían-fast, but a blown beacon of light.

Jesu, heart's light,
Jesu, maid's son,
What was the feast followed the night
Thou hadst glory of this nun?
Féast of the óne wóman withóut stáin.
For so conceivèd, so to conceive thee is done;
But here was heart-throe, birth of a brain,
Word, that heard and kept thee and uttered thee óutríght.

Well, shé has thée for the pain, for the
Patience: but pity of the rest of them!
Heart, go and bleed at a bitterer vein for the
Comfortless unconfessed of them
No not uncomforted: lovely-felicitous Providence
Fínger of a ténder of, O of a féathery délicacy, the bréast of the
Maiden could obey so, be a bell to, ring óf it, and
Startle the poor sheep back! is the shipwrack then a harvest, does tempest carry the grain for thee?

I admire thee, master of the tides,
Of the Yore-flood, of the year's fall;
The recurb and the recovery of the gulf's sides,
The girth of it and the wharf of it and the wall;
Staunching, quenching ocean of a motionable mind;
Ground of being, and granite of it: pást áll
Grásp Gód, thróned behínd
Death with a sovereignty that heeds but hides, bodes but abides;

With a mercy that outrides
The all of water, an ark
For the listener; for the lingerer with a love glides
Lower than death and the dark;
A vein for the visiting of the past-prayer, pent in prison,
The last-breath penitent spirits the uttermost mark
Our passion-plungèd giant risen,
The Christ of the Father compassionate, fetched in the storm of his strides.

Now burn, new born to the world,
Doubled-naturèd name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Miracle-in-Mary-of-flame,
Mid-numberèd he in three of the thunder-throne!
Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came;
Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released shówer, let flásh to the shíre, not a líghtning of fíre hard-húrled.

Dame, at our door
Drówned, and among oúr shóals,
Remember us in the roads, the heaven-haven of the reward:
Our Kíng back, Oh, upon énglish sóuls!
Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east,
More brightening her, rare-dear Britain, as his reign rolls,
Pride, rose, prince, hero of us, high-priest,
Our héarts' charity's héarth's fíre, our thóughts' chivalry's thróng's Lórd.

And for a second example see John Berryman's Homage to Mistress Bradstreet written in heterometer and rhyming a b c b d d b a.

nonsense verse - A newer verse form written to amuse. It lacks coherency and is written mostly for children. The most often quoted source would be Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense written in 1846. An often cited example is the first verse of Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll.

Ex. "Faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null," Tennyson from Maud.


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Appendix