Summer 1956 • Vol. XVIII No. 3 English Verse and What It Sounds LikeJuly 1, 1956 |

Donne’s Prosody

(From an essay in the Kenyon Review of Spring 1951.) How shall we read the last three words of this line?— Li So, if I dreame I have you, I have you. The underlying iambic pattern may seem to be of no immediate help, except that it emphasizes the difficulty of keeping the parallel when the clause is repeated. The first have, reinforced by the meter, is very emphatic, and so prepares a pressure that is felt by the second have. But the second have must resist at least part of that pressure; it cannot coincide with the meter, any more than it can avoid the influence of the rhetorical emphasis. One may imagine that the ear, with a swiftness and sureness which outstrip thought and have been acquired as by second nature, experimentally listens ahead. (There seems good reason to believe that a simpler version of this talent may account for some sound-changes in the historical development of languages.) The ear knows in advance, by its memory of meter, that the I and the you are t

Already have an account? Login

Join KR for even more to read.

Register for a free account to read five free pieces a month from our current issue and digital archive.
Register for Free and Read This Piece

Or become a subscriber today and get complete, immediate access to our digital archives at every subscription level.

Read More


Your free registration with Kenyon review incudes access to exclusive content, early access to program registration, and more.


With your support, we’ll continue 
to cultivate talent and publish extraordinary literature from diverse voices around the world.