27 may. 2007

Rhyme in a certain kind of poetry is a constraint. The eleborate rules of classic French poetry are one example of this. There is a prescribed alternation of "masculine" and "feminine" rhymes. The rhyming words must not only rhyme phonetically, but they must be of the same category, marked by the silent e or the absence of the silent e (masculine). A word ending in this silent letter aren't necessarily feminine in gender. They might be verbs, for example. So the criterion isn't strictly speaking either purely phonetic, or based on grammatical gender. It's both phonetic and orthographic.

These rules are valid from Racine to Valéry and Roussel. (I haven't gone back to check to see when they became codified. 16th century?) Rimbaud follows them when he isn't writing unrhymed verse or prose.

Rhyme might also be something in addition to being a constraint, even in cases where that is one of the things that it is.

Some other consideration: a syllable can rhyme with itself. That is, it doesn't need to have a different phoneme at the beginning. This is called "rime riche."

Is it any accident that Perec chooses to omit the letter e in his novel La disparition? That's the letter that the elaborate constraint of French rhyme is based on.

If you were to translate French poetry...

(1) View the constraint as something that just should be left behind. After all, we don't have that kind of thing in English!

(2) Come up with some other constraint not identical to the constraint in the original, but equally strict.

(3) Just use some kind of rhyme in the translation, but not be too consistent about it. Gesture vaguely in the direction of the constraint.

(4) Try to find an exactly equivalent constraint. For example, rhyming the silent e in English for every other rhyming pair.

Of these alternatives, only (3) seems very, very, wrong to me. Generally, I'm for all or nothing. I hate translations that "sort of" use blank verse. "It's like hanging around but not attending a school, or 'almost' being friends with someone."

(1) is preferable if you aren't going to do the work of (2) or (4).

1 comentario:

Joseph Duemer dijo...

Until you have seen classical Vietnamese poetry you have not seen complicated rhyme schemes. Imagine a language with six tones in which different forms of poetry require not only sound similarity but patterns of rising and falling & level tones. (Vietnamese is a monosyllabic language.) The most fascinating thing that happens is that a particular syllable has a primary meaning determined by its tone, but in poetry can also have a kind of semantic shimmer around it consisting of the syllable's tonal cousins.