14 feb. 2007

Let's see if this myth is true. Here is the first stanzas of a famous ED poem:

I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air -
Between the Heaves of Storm -

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry -
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset – when the King
Be witnessed – in the Room -

There's a yellow rose in Texas,
that I am going to see,
Nobody else could miss her,
not half as much as me.

She cried so when I left her,
it like to broke my heart,
And if I ever find her,
we nevermore will part.

The first problem is that the Emily D poem is in alternating lines of 4 and 3 stresses, whereas "The Yellow Rose of Texas" is in lines of 3 stresses. When you sing this song (not that you would do such a thing) you'll notice that there is no accented word sung on the fourth beat of the measure. In other words, you sing "NoBOdy ELSE coud MISS her [beat]..."

Of course you could fiddle around with the melody and the accentuation of the words to make it fit. But then the original statement turns into a far weaker claim: that any poem in any variation of the basic hymn or ballad stanzas can be sung to just about any melody in the hymn or ballad genre. In its weakest form: any stanza based on three or four beats per measure is going to be fairly adaptable to music in 4/4 time. If there's three beats in a line you just leave a rest at beat four of the music and you're fine. Yet you never hear anyone saying that all of Isaac Watt's hymns can be sung to the tune of The Yellow Rose of Texas. Or for that matter the "fourteeners" of renaissance poetry. Chapman's Homer could be sung to any ballad tune also, if you want to make that argument.

All of Alexander Pope can be sung to the tune of St. Louis Blues, for that matter. That's not a statement about Alexander Pope. You can rhyme St. Louis woman with her diamond ring with a little learning is a dangerous thing but that just means that certain basic things are shared across a wide spectrum.

Problem number 2 is the Emily is very irregular. She'll throw ipentameters or dimeters, or even one-stress lines, in the mix fairly often. Or mix up her fours and threes in jagged, unpredictable patterns. It's not (only) the dashes that make the rhythms irregular. She's no Isaac Watt and no Alexander Pope either.

5 comentarios:

Anónimo dijo...

You can do the ED thing with the theme song to Gilligan's Island too.

Jonathan dijo...

No, you *can't* do it with that *too* because you can't do it with The Yellow Rose of Texas in the first place, as i demonstrate in my post.

Andrew Shields dijo...

Maybe ED's poems are the ones one can sing to "A Night in Tunisia"? :-)

Oh, no, it's "Take the A Train"! :-)

But seriously, *some* of her poems can be sung to *some* traditional or folk melodies, right? But definitely not all of them.

(Isn't the way you used the ED thing with Silliman ... a snowclone?)

Andrew Shields dijo...

Sorry, I skimmed your original post too fast the first time and did not notice that you had my last point already!

Jacob Russell dijo...

I thought it was the hymn connection--ED to Amazing Grace.

Would make more sense.

Talk about irony... an eclipse they call Our Father.