Anthony Esolen, who often makes me wish I had gone to college in Rhode Island, has posted a fascinating poem by George Herbert on Mere Comments. I say fascinating because it is deliciously profound and yet… Well, I can’t read it. It doesn’t “scan,” as they used to say.
I can’t tell if there’s some trick of pronunciation, lost in the intervening 400 years, that is causing me to miss beats, or if, at that time, getting precisely the right number of syllables in a line was not considered all that important. I keep trying to screw the oral delivery around until it fits into a nice chant, but it just won’t do, so I suspect Mr. Herbert was being a little cavalier with his rhythm. And this gets under my skin, because I was raised in an era, influenced by Emily Dickenson and E. E. Cummings, which believes that rhyme and rhythm are impediments to the true poetry of free association writing. In reaction, I like the stuff that hits every Iam straight on the head.
Since hardly anyone’s done *that* for over 800 years, I suspect I may be doomed to a life of perpetual minor frustration.