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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: March ::
Re: Funeral Elegy
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0159.  Monday, 4 March 1996.

(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Saturday, 02 Mar 1996 23:01:41 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0152  Re: Funeral Elegy

(2)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Saturday, 2 Mar 1996 15:32:08 -0800
        Subj:   Funeral Elegy

(3)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Sunday, 3 Mar 1996 17:51:15 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0152 Re: Funeral Elegy

(4)     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Sunday, 03 Mar 1996 15:40:34 +0000 (HELP)
        Subj:   re elegy

(5)     From:   David Evett <R0870%
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        Date:   Monday, 04 Mar 1996 10:34 ET
        Subj:   SHK 7.0142  Re: Funeral Elegy

(6)     From:   Judy Kennedy <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 Mar 1996 15:04:27 AST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0152  Re: Funeral Elegy

(7)     From:   David Evett <R0870%
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        Date:   Monday, 04 Mar 1996 14:52 ET
        Subj:   SHK 7.0142  Re: Funeral Elegy


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Saturday, 02 Mar 1996 23:01:41 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0152  Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0152  Re: Funeral Elegy

>        Venus and Adonis    15.7 (1592-93)
>        Lucrece             10.7 (1593-94)
>        Phoenix & Turtle     9.0 (1601)
>        Sonnets              7.7 (1593-1603)
>        Lover's Complaint    8.8 (1603-4)
>
>Bill Godshalk asserts that this non-dramatic poetry is all "basically early",
>and that we should thus be cautious about using these numbers for comparison
>with the Elegy.  Maybe so, but there's much room to doubt the traditional view
>that this poetry is all early; in particular, I've become convinced that the
>Sonnets were primarily written around the turn of the century or later, and
>that *A Lover's Complaint* was mostly written c.1608, right before the
>publication of the Sonnets (cf., e.g., John Kerrigan's Penguin edition of the
>Sonnets, and the article by Hieatt, Bishop, and Nicholson in Notes & Queries,
>June 1987, p.219).  If anything, Shakespeare's use of feminine endings in
>rhymed verse seems to have decreased, rather than increased, over time.

I've added some dates (from the Oxford Textual Companion and Bevington) to Dave
Kathman's list of poems. The first two long poems have to be early because they
were printed and published early.  We can argue about the dating of the sonnets
-- and why not?  But the sonnets seem to have a direct relationship to the
early plays. *The Phoenix and Turtle* had to have been written before it was
published in 1601, and that leaves the *Lover's Complaint.*  The Oxford editors
obviously want to place Shakespeare's non-dramatic poetry in a ten year period
(1593-1603).  If Shakespeare's career is divided into two parts with 1600 as
the dividing line, then, if we accept the Oxford dating, the poems are
basically early.

But my major point is that we should not mix our criteria of judgment in
ascribing FE to Shakespeare or anyone else.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Saturday, 2 Mar 1996 15:32:08 -0800
Subject:        Funeral Elegy

David Kathman defends a point not brought into question: No one has suggested
that the W.S. initials on the Funeral Elegy are misprints.  The question is, is
W.S. William Shakespeare? He adds that "The initials are just one piece of
evidence, and the other evidence of Shakespeare's hand would not change if the
elegy were totally anonymous."  I entirely agree.  If the thing were signed
"William Shakespeare, Sweet Swan of Avon," I still wouldn't believe the bard
wrote it.  As Kathman says, it wouldn't change the poem, wouldn't help it a
bit, and I agree.

That's the trouble and the fundamental question.  David Kathman calls the
writer of the Elegy an "accomplished poet."  No one else has dared to say so
much for the unknown W.S.. I'll agree that the writer was an accomplished
"rhymer," or an accomplished "versifier," but hardly an accomplished poet.
It's a third-rate piece of work.  The Shaxicon program is the solitary voice
singing over this barren poem, this wilderness of rhyme and versification What
Don Foster needs is for some first-rate poets to champion the Elegy, but none
have thrown their reputations that way yet.

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Sunday, 3 Mar 1996 17:51:15 GMT
Subject: 7.0152 Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0152 Re: Funeral Elegy

David Kathman has shifted his ground significantly:

>Gabriel Egan is skeptical of my explanation
>of differences between rhymed and blank verse in this regard, and asks, "What
>evidence is there that the decision to use rhyme makes a poet less likely to
>use feminine endings?"  Well, for one thing, if you take a bunch of rhymed
>verse and a bunch of blank verse by any given Elizabethan poet, you will in
>virtually every case find that the rhymed verse has a much lower percentage of
>feminine endings than the blank verse.

Kathman formerly offered an explanation for the relative rarity of feminine
endings in rhymed verse:

> the nature of rhyme (with its emphasis on the end of the line) tends to
> discourage feminine endings (with their unstressed final syllable)
[Posting of 20 Feb]

But now Kathman merely asserts that:

>whatever the reason might have been, it's clear that rhymed verse had
>significantly fewer feminine endings than blank verse; comparing the two is
>like comparing apples and oranges.
[Posting of 2 March]

I suggest that an explanation for the different frequencies of feminine endings
is vitally important and that without it stylometrics cannot be of use on the
subject. Kathman's explanation in terms of rhyme alone seems quite invalid to
me. I suspect he dropped it because he saw that rhyming feminine endings is not
too difficult, and that in any case an argument based on the difficulty of
finding such rhymes would be objectionable on the grounds that a particular
piece of text might simply have taken greater effort to produce.

Surely the significance of feminine endings is that they are necessarily
extra-metrical. Might not some determinant other than rhyme be responsible for
the relatively high correlation of blank verse and feminine endings? A poetic
context which makes a poet choose to use rhyme might be one which also (but not
therefore) discourages extra-metrical effects. In such a conjecture, in which
Kathman's causal relation between rhyme and feminine endings is rejected, the
averages used by him are invalid. An analysis of the different poetic contexts,
the 'pears' to his 'apples and oranges', would be called for.

I do not understand why Kathman considers the 12 line song of Juno and Ceres in
The Tempest (4.1.106) to have "every line...deliberately feminine". It is
trochaic tetrameter throughout, with no extra-metrical lines.

Gabriel Egan

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
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Date:           Sunday, 03 Mar 1996 15:40:34 +0000 (HELP)
Subject:        re elegy

The CD containing my reading of the Elegy will be ready by the end of this
month. In rehearsing it, my director Paul Hawkins of Concordia has brought me
to realize that there may well be two authors, as the first hundred lines or so
are much less accomplished than the rest. I have grown to like the poem very
much through greater familiarity with its methods and spots of really fine
concreteness.

Ed Pechter at my university will be taking some of the disks to the Shakespeare
Congress in April.

        More later...
        Harry Hill
        Montreal

(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870%
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Date:           Monday, 04 Mar 1996 10:34 ET
Subject: Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        SHK 7.0142  Re: Funeral Elegy

I'm so glad Richard J. Kennedy has identified himself to the rest of us as the
infallible arbiter of poetic excellence in our time; it is so comforting to
know that when we have a question about quality we need only send him a few
samples of the text, disburdened of any of those tedious questions about
context and audience and so on, and he will return us an absolutely reliable
evaluation by return email.

And I am so glad to learn from him that Don Foster invented the term "plain
style," just in order to defend his tentative attribution of "A Funeral Elegy"
to Shakespeare.  Foster must, indeed, have done it a while ago, for I find this
paragraph in _Stylists on Style_, by my colleague and friend Louis T. Milic,
Jr., published in 1969: "there have long been two tendencies, one of which is
called the Plain Style; its opposite has no standard name, though Cyril
Connolly . . . has called it the _Mandarin_ style. . . . In a sense, the Plain
Style is a way of distrusting the artifice of language" (344.) I had, indeed,
thought to find the phrase in Yvor Winters' essays on Elizabethan lyric poetry
(_Poetry_, 53:258-72, 320-25; 59:35-51 (1939), reprinted in Paul J. Alpers,
ed., _Elizabethan Poetry: Modern Essays in Criticism_ [N.Y.: Oxford University
Press, 1967], 93-125), and was a little surprised to find that the phrase
"plain style" does not actually appear in his text, through the adjective,
applied to work by Gascoigne, Wyatt, Ralegh, and others, appears repeatedly."
Nor could I find it in a quick search of such C16 rhetorical texts as I could
quickly lay my hand on, though to be sure George Puttenham does say, in the
section of _The Arte of English Poesie_ (1589) called "Of Stile", "therefore
there be that haue called stile, the image of man. . . for man is but his
minde, and as his minde is tempered and qualified, so are all his speeches and
language at large, and his inward conceits be the mettall of his minde, and his
manner of vtterance the very warp and woofe of his conceits, more plaine, or
busie and intricate, or otherwise affected after the rate." Which indeed struck
me as a plausible English way to translate Scaliger's distinction between
_puritas_ or _simplicitas_ and _floridum_ or _splendor_.  Something, perhaps,
rather like what George Herbert wrote in "Jordan II," reprehending "fictions
only, and false hair," and concluding--with an eye perhaps to issues such as
the probable state of a dead man's soul, and the moral lessons his survivors
might learn from his life, "Nor let them punish me with losse of rhyme, / Who
plainly say, _My God, My King_." So, to repeat, it's a great relief to have
Kennedy assure us that it's all Don Foster's invention.

Finally, I am so glad that Kennedy has demonstrated to all of us who thought
that scholarly discourse ought ideally to be carried on in terms of courtesy
and some finesse, that it can be even more enlightening when it is intemperate,
rude, vulgar, ignorant, arrogant, and coarse.

Plainly,
Dave Evett

(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judy Kennedy <
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Date:           Monday, 4 Mar 1996 15:04:27 AST
Subject: 7.0152  Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0152  Re: Funeral Elegy

> There is no such thing as an elegaic poem.

>Why ever not?

>It is a tautology, but elegaic has a distinct meaning now.>

Perhaps the point would have been clearer if I had said there is no such word
as elegaic.

Consult the OED for the derivation, meaning, and usage of elegIAC.

Judy Kennedy
St.Thomas University

(7)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870%
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Date:           Monday, 04 Mar 1996 14:52 ET
Subject: Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        SHK 7.0142  Re: Funeral Elegy

Addendum to the material on "the plain style" in my earlier posting.  Richard
A. Lanham, in his _Handlist of Rhetorical Terms_ (U. of California P., 1968),
after noting the widely familar 3-level model of low, middle, and high, goes on
to summarize a four-fold division made by the Greek rhetorician Demetrius, into
"Plain," "Grand," "Elegant," and "Forceful."  On the same page, less
historically, he comments in an interesting way on "Two further categories. . :
the style (plain or ornate) which acknowledges that it is a style, a rhetoric,
an effort at persuasion, and the style (plain or ornate) which does not. He
also quotes Kenneth Burke's paraphrase of Cicero: "the plain style is best for
teaching, the tempered style for pleasing, kland the ornate (grandiloquent)
style for moving" (114-15).  All of this handsomely substantiates Richard  J.
Kennedy's assertion that Don Foster invented the plain style.

I might add, as somebody who writes a good many occasional poems, that the
knowledge that a piece will be read or heard by Aunt Jane and neighbor John is
a strong inducement to throttle back the rhetorical engines: they always like
best those works that are most straightforward, and whose images and allusions
are well-worn, familiar, comfortable.

More plainly yet,
Dave Evett
 

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