On Poetic Forms - 8 (Heroic Verse: Theory & Practice)
HEROIC VERSE - THE THEORY
(a) Heroic Verse is quite a simple one
(a) ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum
(b) with five strong beats per line it’s quite a game
(b) to keep it running more-or-less the same.
(c) Five ‘feet’, iambic, some no doubt have noted
(c) can also make you famous and be quoted:
(d) “know then thyself, presume not God to scan
(d) the proper study of Mankind is Man”(1)
(e) those lines are writ by Alexander Pope
(e) a man who clearly was no kind of dope.
(f) And this is how John Dryden used it well
(f) with moralistic tones he used to tell
(g) he died in 1700, yes, please note
(g) and way ahead of time let’s read his quote:
(h) “By education most have been misled;
(h) So they believe, because they so were bred.
(i) The priest continues what the nurse began
(i) And thus the child imposes on the man.”(2)
(j) It also lends itself to epic tales
(j) heroic journeys round the world - and nails
(k) the reader to their seats if written well
(k) but otherwise is tedious as hell.
(l) Enjambment(3) can of course be added, used
(l) to pique the reader’s mind - and half-rhymes too.
(m) Caesura(4) has its place. Of that no doubt.
(m) Cleverly substitutions(5) add some clout.
(n) Braced Triplets(6) too are welcomed, let me think, )
(n) are bracketed as shown, to read your ink )
(n) and breaks the couplets, making readers blink. )
(o) And neither is one stuck with single endings
(o) ‘feminine’(7) words, and ‘scudding’(8) - no defending
(p) for such techniques give added ‘zing’ to verse
(p) to stop them going boring; bad to worse.
(q) So if you wish to tell a certain story:
(q) romantic love, to dark or really gory
(r) perhaps Heroic Verse is just your thing -
(r) for centuries it’s had that special ring … etc, etc
(s) … etc
(s) ... etc
Notes for Theory part:
(1).From Pope’s “An Essay on Man” (1735) - Epistle II, section I, Lines 1&2 (all written all in heroic couplets).
(2).From Dryden’s “The Hind And The Panther” (1687) - Part III, line 389.
(3).Enjambment: phrase sense rolls over from one line to the next (ie: not ‘end-stopped’).
(4).Caesura: A stop, or break - mid-line.
(5).Substitutions: Can be various. Used here is where an ‘iamb’ (ti-tum) is flipped around into a trochee (tum-ti); this would be called a ‘Trochaic substitution’).
(6).Braced Triplets: bracketed to draw attention to them, to break up the possible monotony of endless couplets, and used as an insert to make a complete point; usually end in a full-stop.
(7).Feminine Endings: are ti-tum-ti, rather than ti-tum. They add an extra syllable but it is a ‘weak’ one, which means you can use end rhyming words with -ing (eg: ending, waiting), -ed (as in noted, quoted, -y (as in story, gory) and -tion words (eg: nation, contemplation), etc. By the way, blame the French for associating 'feminine' with 'weak' endings, in poetry.
(8). Scudding: where two syllables are rolled into one; e.g.: feminine would be pronounced ‘fem-nin’ rather than ‘fem-in-ine’ in the above sample; or “on a boat” might be scudded to 2 syllables ‘ona-boat’, rather than three.
HEROIC VERSE - THE PRACTICE
The Tale of Knight Verity (opening sequence)
They say affairs on earth are aptly ruled
by certain gods who number very few
and they in turn have favourites they call
to carry out their plans, affecting all
and some of them are jealous gods to boot
who pounce deception caring not a hoot
where ordinary humans bear the brunt
of special golden deals, and not up front
they wheeler-deal their earth-bound counterparts
who joined the ranks of gofers at the start
to wreak destruction, havoc, chaos, wars
and then say “nought to do with me!”, of course
yet other gods would counter all this evil
by raising up true warriors who’re able
to stand against the rise of mass confusion
and point the way unmasking vain illusions
but such good men and women are quite rare
requiring faith and courage, those who dare
to fight determinedly their inner demons
and understanding all with healing reason
until these enemies become their friends
are integrated, serving noble ends
and thus the inner power is released
whereby the One True God is very pleased
to bless the run of universal laws
which focus on the fundamental cause
and when it’s done the scene will flip around
and all is changed to hum a higher sound -
and rarest of the rare who serve this way
are female knights in history’s time array
about whom you won’t find that much to read
but I will right this dearth by my good deed
recount events of one old famous tale
before it’s lost forever in the mail
for what’s communicated down the line
is often piles of lies - and that’s not fine -
so here’s the story I’ve been asked to tell
about a special Knight who fought a spell
and facing fear with knightly calm and courage
cleansed her powered mind from all the rubbish
and when her inner world was cleaned and cleared
she’d dealt with all the monsters that she feared
releasing her to be the honoured Knight
who led the others in their quests and fights
which happened over thousand years ago
but only now has come to us to know
and since her time has nothing been the same -
Knight Verity, yes verily t’was her name.