RHYTHM AND VERSE FORM WITH ALEC NEWMAN continuted

The next sonnet I want you to look at is Arthur Symons’s (1865-1945) ‘The Opium Smoker’. This is from page 29 of the Fyfield Books edition of ‘Arthur Symons Selected Writings’, which is well worth buying. You will notice from the rhyme scheme that this is a Patrarchan sonnet:

I am engulfed, and drown deliciously. a Soft music like a perfume, and sweet light b Golden with audible odours exquisite, b Swathe me with cerements for eternity. a Time is no more. I pause and yet I flee. a A million ages wrap me round with night. b I drain a million ages of delight. b I hold the future in my memory. a Also I have this garret which I rent, c This bed of straw, and this that was a chair, d This worn-out body like a tattered tent, c This crust, of which the rats have eaten part, c This pipe of opium; rage, remorse, despair; d This soul at pawn and this delirious heart. c

Again, I have added the spaces myself. In the octave or octet the poet describes the delightful effects that opiates have upon the mind. After the volta the mood of the poem changes and in the sestet the poet describes the terrible effects that opium has upon the body, and ones finances. You will notice that the rhymes are not quite right, because the poet uses consonance, rather than full rhyme. This is particularly evident in lines 12 and 14 where the consonant ‘t’ is all that links lines 11 and 12. The first two stanzas, or rhyme groups, that form the octave are quatrains, and the last two stanzas that form the sestet are tercets.

We will now look at a technique for analysing difficult lines. When a line is hypercatalectic or catalectic, or just plain hard to do, it is best to mark the stresses before you mark the metrical feet. Have a go at annotating these difficult lines, using your dictionary, and then name the feet using the list.

I am engulfed, and drown deliciously. Soft music like a perfume, and sweet light Golden with audible odours exquisite, I drain a million ages of delight. When you have annotated the first line using your dictionary you may have something that looks like this:

[x / ][ x / ][ x / ][ x / ][ x x ] [I am][ engulfed,][ and drown][ delic][iously.]