Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Supernumerary there

'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' From memory I had this sentence down as 'In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit' -- a version which seems to me (not to get too pedantic) as better in several ways: not just briefer but with more of a feel for the rhythmic flow of the line. It breaks into three anapests, with an unstressed final syllable. That supernumerary 'there' clogs the prosody. Ah well.


Nicola Vincent-Abnett said...

Ah, but if you write it as poetry, you'll see the difference. You like it like this:

In a hole,
In the ground
Lived a hobbit.

But, surely, we'd like our hobbit to have a line to himself, like this:

In a hole,
In the ground
There lived
A hobbit.

Adam Roberts Project said...

Maybe; though I'm still wrongfooted by that 'there lived' line 3 of your second poem. Hmm ...

David Moles said...

No, follow the stresses. It's Tolkien's old favorite, iambic tetrameter:

'n a hole'n
the ground
there lived
a hob[bit].

(As much iambic tetrameter as a lot of Shakespeare is penta-, anyway.)

(Yes, I'm reading month-old Europrogocontestovision entries. It's that kind of Friday afternoon.)

David Moles said...

(It keeps going, too:

not a nas/ty, dir/ty, wet/ hole, filled
with the ends /of worms /and an ooz/y smell,
nor yet a dry, /[] bare, /[] san/dy hole
with noth/ing in't /to sit down /on or to eat...)