“GETTING YOUR RHYTHM RIGHT”

Photo by pavan gupta on Unsplash
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance, 
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence, 
The sound must seem an echo of the sense; 
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows, 
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows; 
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore, 
The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar; 
When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw, 
The line too labours, and the words move slow;
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain, 
Flies o'er the unbending corn, and skims along the main. 
Alexander Pope Essay on Criticism    

“Pope lived in an age when dancing was an art, not just for professionals, but for all requiring physical suppleness and co-ordination, good rhythmic sense, nimbleness, grace, and lots of stamina. Those who understand the discipline needed for good dancing can understand by analogy that good writing comes from a similar taxing discipline; and can appreciate, moreover, the dancelike steps and grace of Pope’s lines and how, reading them aloud, the sound does echo the sense. ” (P..J.M. Robertson Criticism and Creativity Brymill 1987)

This excerpt from Pope is an excellent guide for writers of verse dealing with that perennial problem “How do I get the rhythm sound right without getting the meaning wrong?” Everyone will remember getting into a jogtrot rhythm which starts a poem well but cannot be adapted to changes in meaning. So they try free verse and then find it comes out flat and prosaic. Whatever you try the important thing is to make the sound adapt to the meaning of what you are seeking to say. The changes in Pope from light to powerful from laboured to swift gives a good lesson on this.

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