Glossary Q

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Universal Elements of Poetry


Quantitative verse - Concerned with prosody, the duration of syllables that make up the feet in poetic verse having nothing to do with word accents or syllable stresses. Actually the length of time needed to speak the words. Thus found in Greek choric. Poets select on the basis of long and short syllables. Or according to Thomas Campion (1567-1620) timing and sound duration are the fundamental elements in verse structure. Much of his work required accompaniment of a lute. Here is an example:

“Rose-cheeked Laura, Come;
Sing thou smoothly with thy beauty’s
Silent music, either other
Sweetly gracing.

Lovely forms do flow
From concent divinely framed;
Heaven is music, and thy beauty’s
Birth is heavenly.

But still moves delight
Like clear springs renewed by flowing,
Ever perfect, ever in them-
Selves eternal.

quatrain - The term is from Middle French meaning quatre, four, from Latin quattuor. The earliest known usage of quatrain in English dates from 1582. The quatrain is a four line stanza of rhyming verses. Lines can be any length and measure. Thus the rule is the quatrain must contain four lines of approximately equal length with some kind of rhyme pattern. Here is an example by Francois Villon titled Le Quatrain:

Je suis Franois, dont ce me poise,
N de Paris emprs Ponthoise.
Or dune corde dune toise
Saura mon col que mon cul poise.

Villon was somewhat of a scoundrel and was to meet his demise in 1463. In the autumn of 1462 Franois Villon was arrested and expected to be hanged. Instead, on this date, parliament granted him a pardon and banished him from Paris. Here is an interesting free translation of Le Quatrain:

Surname? Villon, just my luck.
Born? In Paris, near Pontoise.
You wonder what my backside weighs?
Ask my neck when they string me up.

Voltaire, famous for his epigrams, wrote them in quatrain form as in this example:

Gardens from you I must retire,
Too much of art I can't admire.
The spacious forest suits my mind,
Where nature wanders unconfined.

It's versatility of rhyming four lines is what makes the quatrain a favorite form of poets and of poetry readers. In English poetry the favorite rhyming pattern is abab. Thus the common meter stanza of A.E. Housman:

Oh, when I was in love with you,
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.

And now the fancy passes by,
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they'll say that I
Am quite myself again.

Another type of quatrain is the memoriam stanza as in Tennyson's In Memoriam. In this example the rhyme pattern is abba. Here is Stanza twenty-five:

I know that this was Life,the track
Whereon with equal feet we fared;
And then, as now, the day prepared
The daily burden for the back.

But this it was that made me move
As light as carrier-birds in air;
I loved the weight I had to bear,
Because it needed help of Love:

Nor could I weary, heart or limb,
When mighty Love would cleave in twain
The lading of a single pain,
And part it, giving half to him.

The last type of quatrain that should be discussed is the Rubaiyat stanza. This type is in pantameters aaba. It may best described as a quatrain with rhyme skip since all lines have the same rhyme sound (as in the French Villon example) except one which is skipped. So one must expect that the couplete in lines three and four is absent but is compensated for the echo of the opening rhyme pair in the last line. Here are the first twenty-one stanzas from Fitzgerald's translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky
I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry,
"Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry."

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted"Open then the Door.
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more."

Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
Where the WHITE HAND OF MOSES on the Bough
Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.

Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose,
And Jamshyd's Sev'n-ring'd Cup where no one knows;
But still the Vine her ancient Ruby yields,
And still a Garden by the Water blows.

And David's Lips are lock't; but in divine
High piping Pelevi, with "Wine! Wine! Wine!
Red Wine!"the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That yellow Cheek of hers to'incarnadine.

Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flyand Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

And looka thousand Blossoms with the Day
Wokeand a thousand scatter'd into Clay:
And this first Summer Month that brings the Rose
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.

But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot
Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot:
Let Rustum lay about him as he will,
Or Hatim Tai cry Supperheed them not.

With me along some Strip of Herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of Slave and Sultan scarce is known,
And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne.

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verseand Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Here is a modern example written by Ethyleyn Hartwich titled What Shall Endure:

Great roads the Romans built, that men might meet,
And walls to keep strong men apart - secure;
How centuries have passed, and in defeat
The walls are fallen, but the roads endure.

The quatrain also appears in Turkish literature as drt misralik siir parasi or drtlk and in Persian as ruba'i. (See ruba'i)


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Appendix