20 oct. 2010

Rhyme and Line Endings

Romance languages are really rhyme happy. Some day I'd like to look at rhyme, which has several functions, in terms of one of its main uses: marking the ends of lines. For today I'll just think out loud about it:

Line endings are significant for verse, because verse is defined as a series of verse-units. The end can simply be obvious, in unenjambed verse of the "single moulded" variety. In other words, in some kinds of verse knowing where the end of the line is is unproblematic.

Blank verse does without rhyme but also tends toward increased enjambment. Those two developments are practically one and the same. Heavily enjambed verse with rhyme, then, is an interesting hybrid, since the verse marks line endings while the sense is carried over to the next line. It would be possible to have rhyme that is not all that perceptible to the ear, if you enjambed enough and didn't pause at the end of the line or overemphasize those rhyming words. Rhyme would almost be "internal."

In Claudio Rodríguez, we have a kind of "rhymed blank verse," where there is rhyme, but the movement from line to line suggests blank-verse verse paragraphs. When his verse gets freer, he rhymes more randomly. Rhyme is no longer structural. It occurs where it wants to, and is often internal rhyme. Carlos Piera pointed out to me that the silva, with its combination of seven and eleven syllable words, is really the Spanish equivalent of blank verse. He didn't say that in so many words, but that's the upshot.

Classical verse is rhymeless (Greek, Latin) and sometimes constructed in paragraphs rather in sequences of end-stopped lines (Virgil.) Why is European neo-classicism so rhyme happy?