The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1013  Wednesday, 2 May 2001

From:           Nancy Charlton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 01 May 2001 19:18:52 -0700
Subject: 12.0966 Re: Wedding of Sound and Image
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0966 Re: Wedding of Sound and Image

Stephanie Hughes wrote several days ago:

>No doubt my description fell short. Here's another try.
>The rhythm of "Leg over leg" sounds like a four-footed animal running.
>The following words continue to describe the action while maintaining
>the same running rhythm. With "jump" the dog leaps over the stile, then
>with "he went over" he continues to run in the same rhythm.

(I'm inventing a convention here: ' accented, - unaccented, _ as a beat
of silence, like a rest in music.)

'--'_-'--'-_  Leg over leg etc
--'--'_'_--'_  When he came to a stile etc

This is how I hear the lines, at any rate.  Dogs have different ways of
running: some gallop like a horse, some leap with first both forelegs
then both hind legs. Maybe this one did both!

If you consider a horse's legs to be numbered, front to back with front
going thataway --> you have:

4  1
3  2

A trot is where the pair 1&3 alternate with 2&4, the typical clop-clop,
not really an iambic or trochaic but more of a spondeeic (daic??) rhythm
if there could be such a thing.  A walk is a broken trot, 1-3-2-4.  A
canter or gallop (or lope in the western USA) is the three-beat rhythm
of "leg over leg," with the pattern either 1-2&4-3, or 2-1&3-4.

You could argue for this as anapestic if you consider the first hoof to
hit the ground as taking the greatest shock: PUM pa pa.  Or you could
argue that it's dactylic since it's the last one that gives the forward
thrust (the one that propels the jumper over the fence) and hence pa pa
PUM.  Either way, you're in for disaster if each and every foot isn't
either --' or '-- !

>My father used to make the sound of a horse running by slapping first
>one hand against one thigh, then the other against the other thigh, then
>the two hands together. When done rapidly, this sounds like a horse
>galloping in the same rhythm as the nursery rhyme.

Oddly enough, that's right.  The second beat, with the two hooves
hitting the ground together is not the most emphatic one.  Incidentally,
any of the gaits can be done at any speed; I once had a horse who could
walk faster than most could trot, and if you've ever seen a performance
of the Spanish Riding School you'll know how slowly a well-dressed horse
can canter.

T. Hawkes took Stephanie to task over her claim that a sound could
"replicate meaning."  In my opinion, both are right.  Language mimics
natural sounds all the time, and in poetry can suggest or even recreate
the natural effect.  I can imagine but have never seen a Lear for whom
no props are needed to create heath and storm.  But the sounds don't
'mean' heath or storm in a cognitive sense.  As several have suggested,
plenty of cultural influences come to bear here.  But all this oft was
thought and twice as well expressed.

How about these examples of melopoeia:

        The highwayman came riding, riding
        Up to the old inn door.


        Bells, bells! . . .
        The tintinnabulation of the bells.

And the pidgin English of Queequeg.  And the kennings of Old English.
Golly, it's practically the whole of the language!

Nancy Charlton
Hillsboro OR
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