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Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-04rh16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: June 14, 2005 12:25PM

I am looking for particularly excellent examples of euphony and/or cacophony used by poets to illustrate specific themes.

For example, in Milton's Lycidas,

Yet once more, O ye laurels and once more
Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never sere,
I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,
And with forcčd fingers rude

The 'O' sounds in the first line seem to mirror the praise being given. Then, the hard 'R' (probably trilled when read) sounds make the berries more harsh, and the explosive Pluck/Berries/Harsh add emotion to the words themselves.

Similarly, in Browning's Meeting at Night,

The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed in the slushy sand.

Lot's of 'L' sounds in the first four lines, giving (at least to me) a lullabye effect to the rocking boat. Then the pointed prow pushes ashore and slides into the slushy sand, with protruding 'P' sounds and slippery 'S' ones.

Shakespeare's My mistress eyes has negative sounds with "in the breath that from my mistress reeks", but ends with nice 'L' sounds again at the finish:

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Many more soft 'Ls' in Byron's night beauty, along with interesting vowels:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

Anyway, I would appreciate further examples of the same technique, if they strike a familiar chord with readers here.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: June 14, 2005 12:48PM

Gerard Hopkins has many examples in his work. Here's a sample:

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves -- goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is --
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

-- Gerard Manley Hopkins


Les


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Marian-NYC (12.166.104.---)
Date: June 14, 2005 05:39PM

My favorite example is in prose, from THE THIRTEEN CLOCKS by James Thurber. I'll type it here from memory (used to use it as a vocal exercise), so compare to original before passing along:


"Farther along and stronger bonged the gongs of a throng of frogs, green and vivid on their lilly pads. From the sky came the crying of flies, and the pilgrims leaped over a bleating sheep, creeping knee-deep in a sleepy stream, where swift and slippery serpents slid and slithered silkily, whispering sinful secrets."


Some of these phrases are really just focused on a vowel sound, but the serpents at least qualify as euphoneous:








Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: June 15, 2005 12:36AM

From A Forsaken Garden
by Algernon Charles Swinburne

"The fields fall southward, abrupt and broken,
To the low last edge of the long lone land.
If a step should sound or a word be spoken,
Would a ghost not rise at the strange guest's hand?
So long have the grey bare walks lain guestless,
Through branches and briars if a man make way,
He shall find no life but the sea-wind's, restless
Night and day.

The dense hard passage is blind and stifled
That crawls by a track none turn to climb
To the strait waste place that the years have rifled
Of all but the thorns that are touched not of time.
The thorns he spares when the rose is taken;
The rocks are left when he wastes the plain.
The wind that wanders, the weeds wind-shaken,
These remain.

Not a flower to be pressed of the foot that falls not;
As the heart of a dead man the seed-plots are dry;
From the thicket of thorns whence the nightingale calls not,
Could she call, there were never a rose to reply.
Over the meadows that blossom and wither
Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song;
Only the sun and the rain come hither
All year long. "


Les


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.phoenix-01rh15-16rt.az.dial-access.att.net)
Date: June 15, 2005 01:23PM

What about this one by Owen? Lots of alliteration with plenty of assonance & consonance, plus off-rhymes (for a haunting effect?) The author manages to evoke fear and/or foreboding it seems to me. Still, one sees a large amount of 'L' words, which usually lend a lullaby effect, and also 'M' words, which one associates with 'yummy', 'mommy' and other such feel-good sounds. So, how did he do it? The 'B', 'S', 'SH' and 'K' sounds? The hard 'A' and 'E' at line ends? Or, is it merely the negative words themselves, without regard to their particular sounds?


Arms And The Boy - Wilfred Owen

Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman's flash;
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.

Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-heads
Which long to muzzle in the hearts of lads.
Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth,
Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.

For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.
There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple;
And God will grow no talons at his heels,
Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/15/2005 01:24PM by Hugh Clary.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-01rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: June 19, 2005 03:18PM

Is the attached image pleasing to the eye? Displeasing? Similar to a poem's euphony or cacophony, I mean. Could it be described as a poem in picture form? Not concrete poetry, no, not exactly.

Still, it appears to be a quatrain, with similar endings (near rhymes) on lines 1 & 3. There are figures of repetition, reversal, and some that merely turn. The alternating colo(u)rs remind me of a poem's rhythm.

Plus, it is virtually impossible to figure out, much like poetry by W B Yeats or W S Merwin!

If it doesn't attach correctly hereto, click on the link below, and Enlarge More.

[tinyurl.com] />


Attachments: kandins.jpg (90.2KB)  
Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: June 19, 2005 04:14PM

A chant or a dirge was what came to mind initially


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: ns (202.88.172.---)
Date: June 20, 2005 01:23AM

Is the attached image pleasing to the eye?
I see it as some one trying to communicate something. If Seti came up with a result it would probably look like this.

about cacophony Euphony- I have always thought the beauty of the Leda and the swan is in its sounds. I do not know whether the sounds would qualify as Cacophony or Euphony.

"Browning's Meeting at Night" that you have quoted is so lovely. One of my favourites.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.nycmny83.covad.net)
Date: June 20, 2005 11:43AM

I understand the sounds, but i do not know the words


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Veronika (---.213.143.81.63.dc.telemach.net)
Date: June 23, 2005 11:41AM

Hugh, thank you for posting Wilfred Owen's poem. It was new to me and I found it very interesting, especially in the light of the subject discussed. Here’s my take on it:

It starts off with the word Arms, which can carry a connotation of an embrace, but the reader quickly learns it is an embrace of war and death.

The first stanza reminds me of alliteration verse (a medial caesura and alliteration across it), suitable for strong, heroic themes like war, etc. The sounds alliterated are strong, hard (b, f (th), k). It’s no surprise that the l sounds get less attention and never seem to achieve the usual effect. Instead they help to create a sort of struggling atmosphere, where all that is soft becomes hard. “Let the boy try” feels like an ordinary, familiar, innocent phrase, but again it is turned upside down. It’s not about a boy discovering new things, becoming a man. It’s about “bayonet-blade”, “hunger of blood”, “malice”, “madman’s flash”, “famishing for flesh”. (All bound together with alliteration). Instead of a comforting rhyme at the end of each line there is an accentuated alliteration. Not very euphonic.

The second stanza starts in a similar way. “Lend him to stroke” which sounds harmless enough, to stroke even evokes a certain gentleness, is countered by “blind, blunt bullet-heads”, the sounds that come at you like bullets. The second part of the stanza is no longer holding back, trying to express the horror through contrast and sound, but says it plainly: Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.

(BTW I was wondering: was zinc used in cartridges or is there some other connotation that I’m missing? (Lorca in one of his poems uses Zn and Ni oxide when describing, speaking about death).)

The third stanza seems the strangest to me. A lot of l-sounding words, the rhymes (or consonances) apple - supple and heels - curls give a softer feel to it. The imagery is also less terrifying – as if he is trying to make a plea for this boy, that was not created for the horrors of war. “No antlers through the thickness of his curls” for me states the uselessness of such sacrifice (symbolised by the deer).

Rather than foreboding or fear the poem (to me) conveys a feeling of sheer terror and at the same time is a desperate plea for the life of all these young boys/men. Reminds me of Dulce et decorum est.

I could hardly say I enjoyed the poem, filled with horror as it is, but I enjoyed the art within it.




Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-03rh16rt-04rh15rt.co.dial-access.att.ne)
Date: June 24, 2005 02:21PM

Good stuff, thanks for the note.

was zinc used in cartridges ... ?

I seem to remember from the days when I reloaded my own (target-shooting) cartridges that bullets were at one time made from zinc, but the metal turned out to be too hard. Bounced around and became a 'crowd pleaser', I mean. Lead with copper coating was a better choice for ammunition, the full metal jackets punching through our soft flesh nicely, not splattering extra organs like all-lead would do, and less ricocheting. Why would you care if an enemy got hurt worse by exploding lead bullets? Rules of war are weird. You can shoot the other guy, for example, but you can't use poison gas.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.nycmny83.covad.net)
Date: June 24, 2005 02:52PM

Apparently, Nickled Zinc has to do with etchings

So here are the etchings. Take a good look at them. It is your luck to see them, and to have them, because the man who made them might as well-have been in jail or killed two years ago when they put the Bourbon out. But that was a good one, that one succeeded. So a man had time to work, to make this world, and scratch it on nickled zinc a line at a time, a million lines, that make a world where there is light and depth and space, humor, pity and understanding, and a sound earthy knowledge that gives us the first true Madrid we have seen since Goya.


Type in "Nickled Zinc" in Google for the whole website about Quintanilla


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Veronika (---.213.143.81.63.dc.telemach.net)
Date: June 27, 2005 05:31AM

Thank you, Johnny, for the interesting link. A good poem by A. Machado. And also the rest, very good stuff.

The day after I read Owen's poem I saw a documentary about the Isonco front (Soška fronta) and fights on Mount Škabriel (Monte san Gabriele). The number of casualties was not new to me, but it amazes me every time. And the conditions in which they fought. Truly terrifying. And to think Slovenes fought on both sides. Makes even less sense.

---

Reading this thread, a poem by Auden came to mind, not sure if it is a good example of euphony/cacophony, but it is bulit primarily on sound. Here it is:

"O where are you going?" said reader to rider,
"That valley is fatal when furnaces burn,
Yonder's the midden whose odors will madden,
That gap is the grave where the tall return."

"O do you imagine," said fearer to farer,
"That dusk will delay on your path to the pass,
Your diligent looking discover the lacking
Your footsteps feel from granite to grass?"

"O what was that bird," said horror to hearer,
"Did you see that shape in the twisted trees?
Behind you swiftly the figure comes softly,
The spot on your skin is a shocking disease?"

"Out of this house" ‚ said rider to reader,
"Yours never will" ‚ said farer to fearer,
"They're looking for you" ‚ said hearer to horror,
As he left them there, as he left them there.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/27/2005 06:48AM by Veronika.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.phoenix-01rh15-16rt.az.dial-access.att.net)
Date: June 27, 2005 09:59AM

Thanks for reminding me of that one, Veronika. I believe Auden wrote it to silence his critics when escaping to America from the coming war in Europe. He nicked it from this one, if memory serves:


The Cutty Wren

Oh where are you going said Milder to Moulder
Oh we may not tell you said Festel to Fose
We're off to the woods said John the Red Nose
We're off to the woods said John the Red Nose.

And what will you do there said Milder to Moulder
We'll shoot the Cutty wren said John the Red Nose.
And how will you shoot us said Milder to Moulder
With bows and with arrows said John the Red Nose.

Oh that will not do said Milder to Moulder
Oh what will you do then said Festel to Fose
Great guns and great cannon said John the Red Nose.
Great guns and great cannon said John the Red Nose.

And how will you fetch her said Milder to Moulder
Oh we may not tell you said Festel to Fose
On four strong men's shoulders said John the Red Nose.
On four strong men's shoulders said John the Red Nose.

Ah that will not do said Milder to Moulder
Oh what will do then said Festel to Fose
Great carts and great wagons said John the Red Nose.
Great carts and great wagons said John the Red Nose.

Oh how will you cut her up said Milder to Moulder
With knives and with forks said John the Red Nose.
Oh that will not do said Milder to Moulder
Great hatchets and cleavers said John the Red Nose.

Oh how will you boil her said Milder to Moulder
In pots and in kettles said John the Red Nose
O that will not do said Milder to Moulder
Great pans and large cauldrons said John the Red Nose.

Oh who'll get the spare ribs said Milder to Moulder
Oh we may not tell you said Festel to Fose
We'll give 'em all to the poor said John the Red Nose
We'll give 'em all to the poor said John the Red Nose.
-- Anon.



Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: ns (---.65.131.126.bgl.dialup.vsnl.net.in)
Date: June 28, 2005 12:20AM

Why don't Fose and Moulder answer?


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: joet (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: June 28, 2005 05:28PM

The first two lines of Herrick's, "Upon Julia's Voice" always struck me as examples of euphony. Must all lines in a poem be melodious for the poem to be considered euphonic?

So smooth, so sweet, so silv'ry is thy voice,
As, could they hear, the Damned would make no noise,
But listen to thee (walking in thy chamber)
Melting melodious words to Lutes of Amber.

Shakespeare's "Spring" has many euphonic lines, as well:

When daisies pied and violets blue,
And lady smocks all silver white,
And cuckoo buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
"Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo!" O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-04rh16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: June 29, 2005 11:44AM

Interesting choices. One would think the hissing 's' sounds in the smooth voice line would contradict the tender tone, but perhaps the 'w' sounds (sweet/voice) mimic the kissing movements of one's lips?

The yucky 'k' sounds in Will's cuckoo are clearly cacophonous, if I may be forgiven excessive alliteration myself.



Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: joet (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: June 29, 2005 12:19PM

That'll teach me to try to make sense late in the afternoon after a particularly trying day.

In the Herrick piece, I intended to point to the first and last lines as euphonic (not the second line at all). I'm not too disturbed by the s sounds; I find them pleasant enough on the ear on their own.

As for Willie's piece, it is clearly cacophonous; I must have typed "euphonic" in my stupor. Thanks for pointing that out.

Oh, and a little aliteration is always allowable.

JoeT

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/30/2005 05:23PM by joet.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: drpeternsz (---.hsd1.ca.comcast.net)
Date: June 29, 2005 09:00PM

Would this do, Hugh-- Hopkins is a favourite of mine for many a day?

Gerard Manley Hopkins poems (1876-1889)

GOD'S GRANDEUR

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod ?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: ns (202.88.172.---)
Date: June 30, 2005 03:51AM

and also 'M' words, which one associates with 'yummy', 'mommy' and other such feel-good sounds. So, how did he do it? The 'B', 'S', 'SH' and 'K' sounds? The hard 'A' and 'E' at line ends? Or, is it merely the negative words themselves, without regard to their particular sounds?

Perhaps the meaning of the line does dictate the feel of the sounds. For example in the line "in the breath that from my mistress reeks", assonance brings a negative feeling that enhances the meaning of the line. Elsewhere, those same vowels could have been used to bring about a positive feeling if the meaning was so.

Is appropriate to generalise that assonance is connected to euphony and excessive consonance to cacophony?


Again alliteration connected to the meaning is apparent in this line, which does not work for me: "World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings." Where the "w" sounds are used (I think) only to bring about the feeling of warmth which goes against the meaning of the line which is primarily about brooding (again if I have understood the meaning right).

---
BTW, thanks for this discussion. I learnt a lot from it.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/30/2005 04:07AM by ns.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: L Rye (---.proxy.aol.com)
Date: June 30, 2005 12:11PM

Hugh---

I think the effect he achieves is partly by careful placement
of one syllable words. They seem to offer more punch
and then he softens things down with two (and some three) syllable words---careful juxtaposition
seems to be combined with the assonance and consonance.

"Lend him to stroke (SOFT) these blind, blunt (HARD) bullet-heads (SEMI-HARD)"

See I guess there is sexual sublimation in most poems.

Lisa


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: L Rye (---.proxy.aol.com)
Date: June 30, 2005 12:30PM

And yes,

that Kandinsky is pleasing to my eyes (I can only speak for myself)

but I feel it's due to balance and a sense of color and design (composition)
which poems have too of course

but if this is a paper you're composing
I think you're not on solid ground with an argument that may choose to compare
visual art with poetry in this sense . . .

because the use of imagery or non-imagery is done so very differently---
that's why different tools are used---
thus perhaps euphony and cacaphony may not be terms one can apply so readily
to visual art.

Lisa


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-03rh15rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: June 30, 2005 02:48PM

I am currently working on a paper of sorts, but it concerns the heretofore unrecognized 'single-syllable' foot. More on that later. Here, I am only looking for feedback on the euphony/cacophony idea as it is related to words that mimic a particular poetic theme. How poets delve deeper into specific techniques to provide an individual mood or flavor to their words, I mean.

Robert Graves writes in Harp, Anvil, Oar, for example:

"[...] though the muscular 'str' and 'scr' words: strain, strength, string, strangle, stretch, struggle, strident, extravagent, screw, scrape, scrawny, and such easy skipping words as, melody, merrily, prettily, harmony, fantasy match sense with sound, other words are not so onomatopoeic. A 'strangly striped strip of satin' is far too emphatic in sound for the sense, and 'a terribly powerful Florida hurricane' is not nearly emphatic enough. Yet to alter the spirit of an original poetic thought for the sake of metre or euphony is unprofessional conduct. So the art of accomodating sense to sound without impairing the original thought has to be learned by example and experiment. [...] It is an axiom among poets that if one trusts whole-heartedly to poetic magic, one will be sure to solve any merely verbal problem or else discover that the verbal problem is hiding an imprecision in poetic thought."

He goes on to say magic implies a sort of dreamlike trance where the poet's critical faculties are extremely acute. I think I know what he means by that trance (often enhanced by booze or drugs?), but I wonder if the results can be completely trusted, or if they are not better served by extensive revision after the fact.

The discussion thus far has been quite intriguing, and I appreciate the help.



Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: LRye (---.brmngh01.mi.comcast.net)
Date: June 30, 2005 06:44PM

Well Hugh---

As you probably know by now if you've read many of my posts,
I believe it's a combination of both---

best to explore with the booze and drugs and other means
of getting the words out on the page---maybe even sitting on the beach or crying as dry alternatives but then

reign in the rough words with intellect.
I'll search around in my stacks for some examples on your topic
if you're still working on it. It's very interesting.
Is this a thesis paper might I ask? Do you have a thesis in regard to this idea of yours or will it come as you explore the topic further?

When I wrote my thesis I found that it developed as a sort of stream of consciousness---the conclusion the paper arrived at was not what I had set out thinking. Makes the process incredible.

Lisa


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-01rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: July 01, 2005 12:23PM

Is this a thesis paper might I ask?

Nah, merely scratching the itch of curiosity. Consider the one below, noting the number of 'l' sounds WBY uses:


The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evenings full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
-- William Butler Yeats


I remember he used the 'h' sounds (hive for honeybey) in his Prayer For My Daughter also:

Once more the storm is howling, and half hid

And the 'l' sound he consistently feels has a loving aspect, for example:

Beautiful lofty things; O'Leary's noble head;

As I said, just trying to better understand how the sounds of words/letters themselves contribute to the structure of fine poetry.



Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: LRye (---.proxy.aol.com)
Date: July 01, 2005 12:49PM

Well Hugh---

That sure is a beautiful poem.

Another one that comes to mind, but that is so overused in dicussions is
Jane Kenyon's "Let Evening Come." The poem above reminded me of her's.

I think Kenyon's repetition of the "mmmmm" sound or actually
it's almost an "um" (like a yogi) sound that makes her poem so soothing.


I'm sure it's online somewhere since it's so popular.

I'll keep hunting.

Lisa

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/01/2005 12:52PM by LRye.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: chuckl (---.hsd1.mn.comcast.net)
Date: July 01, 2005 02:15PM

euphony/cacophony is in the ear of the beholder....or the reader aloud....


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: ns (---.65.133.147.bgl.dialup.vsnl.net.in)
Date: July 02, 2005 12:51AM


Consider the one below, noting the number of 'l' sounds WBY uses:
Hugh, I wonder in your reading if you have come across more information about vowel sounds. Categorising consonants comes easily. "B", "K" are all harsh or power sounds or "w" can be for warmth,"l" can give a water feeling. This is more or less easy. How does one categorise vowel sounds? Or do some vowel sounds go well together. Do poets take care while pairing some vowel sounds and not putting others together.
I know nothing about this. I wondered whether any infomation exists on using assonance to write better poetry, and not necessarily only for the sake of alliteration.

itch of curiosity.
contagious!

but I wonder if the results can be completely trusted, or if they are not better served by extensive revision after the fact.
I am sure it differs from poet to poet, but this is one way: I think, revision is defintely necessary, but revision through cold analysis can kill the poem. It is necessary to remain in the trance even during the revision. Sometimes revision takes a long time. I am sure it must be mentally exhausting.

WYB
I think, he is the master of sound.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: joet (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: July 02, 2005 08:24AM

Hugh:

In his poetry primer, "Sound and Sense," Laurence Perrine of Southern Methodist University devotes several chapters on how poets use the combination of rhythm and sound to "produce what we call the music of poetry." One chapter in particular discusses such topics as "phonetic intensives," "liquid consonants," "smoothly wet words," and "moving light consonants." He illustrates how poets combine these techniques and others, such as euphony, cacophony, alliteration, and onomatopoea, with the use of meter to produce their "music."

I've found the whole book to be very helpful to my understanding and enjoying poetry. I have no idea if it is still in print. The publisher is Harcourt, Brace & World. The ISBN is 0-15-582600-x, and the Library of Congress Catalog Card Number is 69-19558.

This is a fascinating topic. I hope you will update us on your progress.

Happy hunting!

JoeT

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/02/2005 12:04PM by joet.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-03rh16rt-04rh15rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: July 02, 2005 12:47PM

Thanks. I don't see a copy in my local libraries, so I will have to add it to my 'get from online bookstores' list.

There are supposedly 15 vowel sounds in English (from low to high):

boo
bone
book
bought
boy
bough
bar
bud
bird
bat
bet
bit
buy
bay
bee

If you say those words out loud, you can see how the lips and tongue change position in forming the sounds. One would think the 'little' vowel sounds (bud/bit/bet) would make nice, quiet images and the 'bigger' ones (bee/buy/bay/beau) more cacophonous. Not always so, though. Consider this nursery rhyme:

Hinx, minx, the old witch winks;
The fat begins to fry ...

That's from memory, but I think it is right. It has (mostly) softer vowel sounds, but for some reason it gives me a sense of foreboding. The Ws again give the lips a kissing movement, but it's not a 'kissy' rhyme.

Perhaps the key is the gutteral Xs? Or, maybe the rhythm itself? In the first line, there are six syllables with (at least) four of them getting a major stress,

HINX, MINX, the OLD witch WINKS (spondee, iamb, iamb?)

Then a straight iambic trimeter on line two:

the FAT beGINS to FRY

Why that in itself would prompt such a response in a reader escapes me, but it DOES appear to happen. Perhaps the fricative Fs are a factor?


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: LRye (---.brmngh01.mi.comcast.net)
Date: July 02, 2005 12:55PM

Hugh---

I think it would be a blast to walk through the produce section
of a grocery store with you . . .

BRRRR OK LEE

BRRRRRRR US UL SPRRR OUTS

KA RRRUTS

PPPPPEEEZ

Lisa


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: joet (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: July 03, 2005 11:51AM

Hugh:

The answer is: all of the above. You've pretty much cited all of the aural and rhythmic characteristics in this short verse, and it's the combination of these that provides the ominous feeling. Now, as to why that happens - why the gutteral x's, fricative f's, and 'little' vowels, in combination with the meter keys a sense of foreboding rather than, say, a sense of serenity, is quite another study - one more appropriate to psychology, I think.

JoeT


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-02rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: July 03, 2005 03:13PM

What about euphony that creates cacophony? Everyone is familiar with Browning's Ghent to Aix classic, but look at this take-off by Donald Justice:

I sank to the pillow, and Joris, and he;
I slumbered, Dirck slumbered, we slumbered all three.

I can't help laughing when I read that. It must be the good snooze from Ghent to Aix! Browning's galloping rhythm is transformed by the quiet, restful words and sleepy theme. Call it ironic cacophony, I guess.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: ns (202.88.172.---)
Date: July 04, 2005 04:32AM


Hinx, minx, the old witch winks;
The fat begins to fry ...

Thinking only in terms of vowels: I think the two "i" sounds after the "o" sound in "old witch winks", gives a nice winky feeling.
And the foreboding in the second line could also be due to the combination of two short vowels "fat" "gins" with the final long vowel sound "fry", which ends the line. "She begins to fry the fat" does not have the same effect.

Also the tense matters. The "fat began to fry" would also not have been so effective.

The answer is: all of the above.
Yes!


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-01rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: July 05, 2005 12:19PM

Jabberwocky might be a valuable addition to the topic.


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

(I think some of these words were successful, some less so. I certainly did not get the same drift Dodgson intends when I first read this classic.

[www76.pair.com] />
Brillig means 4pm, for example. I heard more of a 'brilliant' takeoff. Slithey toves seemed slimey creatures to me; mimsy was restful; borogoves (not borogroves, Marian) sounded like trees; mome raths I thought were creatures outgrabbing out for me. The overall tone, again, was foreboding. Something bad was about to happen.)

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

(Jabberwock doesn't come across as that intimidating a foe, but it has claws and jaws. Jubjub bird sounds a very mild creature, but frumious Bandersnatch might be frightening.)

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought--
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

(Vorpal sword/blade - sounds big. Manxome foe sounds mild. Tumtum tree is mild.)

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

(Uffish sounds like expelling a breath after running; tulgey wood seems soft and squishy; whiffling sounds like a whiffle ball; burble seems more of a gurgle than a threat.)

One two! One two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

(Snicker snack - yeah, that could be bones being sliced through by a sword. Galumphing seems more of a heavy tread than a triumphal gallop, though. Note the sometimes internal rhymes in the third lines of stanzas also.)

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

(Frabjous day with callooh, callay is happy making, yeah. Chortle, too. Charlie never does say it is the boy's father speaking, but the quote marks do so indicate.)

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

(And we return to a repetition of the first stanza for a finish. If the original intent was foreboding, it returns to threaten again, so one infers it must have been a happy time, with dancing and singing, so my original impression was incorrect. It goes from happy to battle-the-beast to happy.)


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: July 05, 2005 01:29PM

I'm always lost in the melody of this one:

After While
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

I think that though the clouds be dark,
That though the waves dash o'er the bark,
Yet after while the light will come,
And in calm waters safe at home
The bark will anchor.
Weep not, my sad-eyed, gray-robed maid,
Because your fairest blossoms fade,
That sorrow still o'erruns your cup,
And even though you root them up,
The weeds grow ranker.

For after while your tears shall cease,
And sorrow shall give way to peace;
The flowers shall bloom, the weeds shall die,
And in that faith seen, by and by
Thy woes shall perish.
Smile at old Fortune's adverse tide,
Smile when the scoffers sneer and chide.
Oh, not for you the gems that pale,
And not for you the flowers that fail;
Let this thought cherish:

That after while the clouds will part,
And then with joy the waiting heart
Shall feel the light come stealing in,
That drives away the cloud of sin
And breaks its power.
And you shall burst your chrysalis,
And wing away to realms of bliss,
Untrammelled, pure, divinely free,
Above all earth's anxiety
From that same hour.

Les


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: LRye (---.proxy.aol.com)
Date: July 05, 2005 01:52PM

Good to see you back Les!!

Lisa


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: July 05, 2005 02:13PM

Never left Lisa, just golfing more and reading less. Good for the eyesight, but not too stimulating for the thought processor.

Les


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.att.net)
Date: July 20, 2005 03:09PM

I am gonna drop these two by Shakespeare into the thread before it drifts off the bottom of the page, merely as two more examples. In these, the cacophony seems to be created by the juxtaposition of consonants, so that the alliteration becomes annoyingly plosive. Perhaps something is to be learned from that. One of the keys may be to force the mouth to make sounds that are difficult to enunciate, thereby creating discordance.

Sonnet 129 (CXXIX)

1. The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
2. Is lust in action: and till action, lust
3. Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
4. Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
5. Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight;
6. Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
7. Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait,
8. On purpose laid to make the taker mad.
9. Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
10. Had, having, and in quest to have extreme;
11. A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
12. Before, a joy proposed; behind a dream.
13. All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
14. To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.


King Lear - Act 3, Scene 2

KING LEAR Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Veronika (---.213.143.81.63.dc.telemach.net)
Date: July 21, 2005 07:05AM

Slightly off topic perhaps, but Miss Moore's poem you posted, (since I have no ear for syllabic meter, at least not when used in English) made me think about this: meter/rythem is another improtant element that adds to euphony/cacophony of a piece.
But intrestingly asymmetry or irregualrity is often considered as more euphonic than a perfectly regular meter.


(P.S.
Hugh, thank you for alerting me to the book The Western Wind by J.F.Nims. I borrowed it from a local library. Even though much of what he writes about was not new, I find it a very good book.)

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2005 08:22AM by Veronika.


Re: Euphony/cacophony
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.att.net)
Date: July 21, 2005 12:25PM

Mon plaisir. Try also his Harper Anthology of Poetry for more poetry and less prosody. It was my 'bathroom book" for a couple of years, again incredibly fascinating each trip through it.

[tinyurl.com] />




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