In celebration of National Poetry Month, here’s a great fact from one of our latest poetry books, The Rise and Fall of Meter:
FACT: “A group of scholars under the name of the ‘Philological Society’ met in London in 1830 with the aim of combining the old classical philology with the new comparative philology. By 1842, Edwin Guest founded the English Philological Society, whose published intentions were to ‘investigate the Philological Illustration of the Classical Writers of Greece and Rome; and to investigate the ‘Structure, Affinities, and the History of Languages’ both in England and in other countries. This is, of course, the society that eventually created the New English Dictionary (NED) and its members included, at one time or another, NED editors James Henry Murray and Richard Chevenix Trench, as well as Alexander Ellis and Henry Sweet, both late-century pioneers in the study of English phonology.”
The Rise and Fall of Meter:
Poetry and English National Culture, 1860—1930
by Meredith Martin
Why do we often teach English poetic meter by the Greek terms iamb and trochee? How is our understanding of English meter influenced by the history of England’s sense of itself in the nineteenth century? Not an old-fashioned approach to poetry, but a dynamic, contested, and inherently nontraditional field, “English meter” concerned issues of personal and national identity, class, education, patriotism, militarism, and the development of English literature as a discipline. The Rise and Fall of Meter tells the unknown story of English meter from the late eighteenth century until just after World War I. Uncovering a vast and unexplored archive in the history of poetics, Meredith Martin shows that the history of prosody is tied to the ways Victorian England argued about its national identity. Gerard Manley Hopkins, Coventry Patmore, and Robert Bridges used meter to negotiate their relationship to England and the English language; George Saintsbury, Matthew Arnold, and Henry Newbolt worried about the rise of one metrical model among multiple competitors. The pressure to conform to a stable model, however, produced reactionary misunderstandings of English meter and the culture it stood for. This unstable relationship to poetic form influenced the prose and poems of Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, and Alice Meynell. A significant intervention in literary history, this book argues that our contemporary understanding of the rise of modernist poetic form was crucially bound to narratives of English national culture.
“This innovative book changes the prosodic landscape of modernism and Victorianism—it shows that rather than constituting a dramatic break with outworn Victorian metrics, modernist experiment is continuous with Victorian experiment. From Hopkins to Owen, and Bridges to Pound, this book’s vital and many-sided topics stretch across World War I and come alive through meticulous writing.”—Isobel Armstrong, University of London
We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9715.pdf