Spring 1959 • Vol. XXI No. 2 NonfictionApril 1, 1959 |

The Metrical Emblem

Some remarks entitled "Literature and Language," R. A. Sayce, an English critic, voiced a complaint which I expect has recently diminished, and will continue to diminish, in force and frequency. Objecting to what he feels has become a dominant trend in poetic analysis, "This, then," he insists, "is the first great problem of literary language--to discover the relation between technical studies of prosody or prose rhythm and the music of words." I think that we may take Mr. Sayre's implied request as demanding not philosophical clarification (e.g. of the general problem, "What is the connection between our knowledge about a process or thing and our normal uses of that process or thing?"), but instead, a justification of prosodic analysis in terms of its success in confirming and accounting for the almost magical effects upon a reader of the "musical" or non-semantic patterns of poetic structure. One of the ways in which structural linguistics has been extremely helpful to literary

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John Hollander was the author of numerous books of poetry. His first, A Crackling of Thorns, was chosen by W.H. Auden as the 1958 volume in the Yale Series of Younger Poets. He also wrote criticism, including the award-winning Rhyme's Reason: A Guide to English Verse and The Work of Poetry, and edited or coedited twenty-two collections, among them The Oxford Anthology of English Literature, and American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century. Before his death in August, 2013 he was Sterling Professor emeritus of English at Yale University.

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