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Reading the RhythmThe Poetics of French Free Verse 1910-1930$

Clive Scott

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198158820

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198158820.001.0001

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(p.256) Appendix I Glossary of Technical Terms

(p.256) Appendix I Glossary of Technical Terms

Reading the Rhythm
Oxford University Press

  • acatalectic

    Line of verse in which there are no unfilled metrical positions, no implied beats or off-beats, no missing syllables or feet, in short, a line without catalexis (q.v.).

  • accent dʼimpulsion

    The way the voice inhabits and projects rhythm, colours accent, and bestows a dynamic on rhythmic measures. The accent dʼimpulsion is the expressive and psychophysiological dimension of the accent tonique (q.v.), turning the tonic accent into a speech-act, a linguistic function.

  • accent dʼintensité

    This term has two meanings: (1) it may refer to an accent tonique (q.v.) whose principal characteristic is its strength (stress) as opposed to its duration or pitch; (2) it may refer to an accent allocated to a non-tonic syllable for expressive or rhetorical purposes; in this sense it is synonymous with the accent oratoire (sense (2)) (q.v.).

  • accent oratoire

    This term also has two meanings: (1) in the theoretical texts of de Souza and Mockel it is synonymous with Kahn's accent dʼimpulsion (q.v.); (2) in modern prosodic parlance, it is an accent allocated to a non-tonic syllable for expressive or rhetorical purposes; its point of impact is the consonant(s) before the vowel, but it reverberates through the vowel to produce a properly syllabic accent, e.g.:

    Contemple-les, mon âme; ils sont vraiment affreux!

    (Baudelaire, ‘Les Aveugles’)

    It should be emphasized that this kind of accent oratoire is not an accent tonique (q.v.), not part of the rhythmic/metrical structure of the line; it is a paralinguistic, recitational accent. The tonic accents in the line quoted create a 4 + 2 + 4 + 2 rhythmic configuration.

  • accent tonique

    (tonic accent) The accent which falls on the last accentuable syllable of the word or word-group and thus creates the rhythmic measure. This is a properly linguistic accent; it inheres in, and organizes, linguistic structure, and is not supplied, on an occasional basis, by the expressive impulses of the reader (cf. accent oratoire, sense (2)).

  • alexandrine

    The ‘national’ French line (enjoying the same prestige as the iambic pentameter in English verse), twelve syllables long, with, in its regular form, a fixed medial caesura (q.v.). It may have as few as two accents (on syllables 6 and 12), but usually has four. The classical proportions and rhythmic equilibrium of the regular alexandrine were undermined in the nineteenth (p.257) century by the development of the trimètre (q.v.), and by an increasing incidence of enjambement, both at the caesura and at the line-ending.

  • alexandrin trimètre

    see trimètre

  • allongement

    The scansional device whereby one syllable is made the equivalent of two by doubling its duration (scansional mark: an exclamation after the newly increased measure). Thus what at first sight might look like, say, a trisyllabic measure may be scanned and enunciated as 4!.

  • anacrusis

    Extrametrical syllable or syllables, occurring before the metre proper is under way and acting as an upbeat. In Anglo-German versification, anacrusis always involves line-initial unstressed syllables.

  • apocope

    (cf. syncope (q.v.)) The non-pronunciation (metrical deletion) of an unelided, word-terminal e atone (q.v.), e.g. ‘un(e) blanch(e) main’: /yn blã∫ mε̃/. Apocope should not be confused with the standard elision of a word-terminal e atone before a following vowel or mute ‘h’.

  • ballade

    Old French fixed form, dominant in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in which the number of lines in the stanza usually corresponds with the number of syllables in the line. The most common type of ballade is made up of three eight-line octosyllabic stanzas rhyming ababbcbC and a four-line envoi (address to patron or to subject of poem) rhyming bcbC. As the capital letter indicates, the last line of the first stanza serves as a refrain. The decasyllabic ballade is usually composed of three ten-line stanzas (ababbccdcD), with a five-line envoi (ccdcD).

  • caesura

    The major metrical/rhythmic juncture within lines of nine syllables or more, which usually, but not necessarily, coincides with a significant syntactical juncture. In the regular alexandrine (q.v.) the caesura is medial and fixed (at the sixth syllable), and thus a metrical feature of the line. In other lines (hendecasyllable, decasyllable, enneasyllable) the position of the caesura is determined by the particular verse-context and achieves metrical status only by virtue of its regular recurrence at that position.

  • catalexis

    In Anglo-German usage catalexis usually refers to the omission, at the end of a line, of one or more unstressed syllables (particularly in trochaic and dactylic metres). In more extreme instances (e.g. irregular ode) catalexis may involve the omission of whole feet. The reader is reckoned to compensate for these shortfalls by pausing, silent beat, silent stress, or other mental events.

  • césure enjambante

    (cf. coupe enjambante (q.v.)) This occurs when a word ‘straddles’ the caesural coupe (q.v.), that is, when an accentuated syllable at the caesura (q.v.) is immediately followed by an unelided e atone (q.v.); the accentuated syllable belongs in the first hemistich (q.v.), the e atone in the second. The césure enjambante is a rare phenomenon:

    Le silen: | ce, les clo: | | ches, le silence | encore

    (Séverin, ‘Le Rêve du voyage’)

  • césure épique

    In modern prosody an unelided e atone (q.v.) falling immediately after the accentuated syllable at the caesura (q.v.) may be treated in the same (p.258) way as a line-terminal e atone, i.e. as extrametrical, not counted as a syllable in the scansion of the line. This is called a césure épique, because it was standard practice in medieval epics, the chansons de geste.

  • cheville

    A word or phrase (interjection, discourse filler, pleonasm) called upon, not for any semantic or expressive reason, but merely to satisfy a metrical demand, whether it be to fill out the required number of syllables in a line, or to extricate the poet from a rhyming problem.

  • clausule

    The closing line of a stanza, or closing measure of a line, or the final clause/phrase of an oratorical period.

  • constante rythmique

    A measure which recurs with sufficient frequency within a passage of verse to constitute a rhythmic leitmotiv, a structuring principle. The term was coined by Duhamel and Vildrac (1910).

  • coupe

    The ‘bar-line’ which usually falls immediately after an accentuated syllable and divides one measure from the next:

    Ainsi, | toujours poussés | vers de nouveaux | rivages 2 + 4 + 4 + 2

    (Lamartine, ‘Le Lac’)

    The coupe is a purely scansional device, an aid to prosodic description, and has no bearing on the enunciation of the line, other than in the cases of the coupe enjambante (q.v.) and the coupe lyrique (q.v.). The caesura (q.v.) is a coupe, and something more: a crucial metrical articulation which combines measures into larger units (hemistichs (q.v.)), and acts as a fulcrum about which the semantic energies of the line play.

  • coupe enjambante

    When an accentuated syllable is immediately followed by an unelided e atone (q.v.), it is usual to place the coupe (q.v.) after the accentuated syllable, so that the word ‘straddles’ the coupe and so that the e atone is counted as the first syllable of the measure following:

    Jʼai: I me de vos longs yeux | | la lumiè: | re verdâtre 1 + 5 + 3 + 3

    (Baudelaire, ‘Chant dʼautomne’)

    This is the coupe enjambante. But, for expressive or syntactic reasons, it may be desirable or necessary to place the coupe after the e atone, so that the e atone is included in the measure of the accentuated syllable, rather than initiating the measure following. This is the coupe lyrique, which is indicated by an apostrophe in the tabulation of measures:

    Mais parle: | de son sort | qui tʼa rendu | lʼarbitre? 3′ + 3 + 4 + 2

    (Racine, Andromaque, v. iii)

  • coupe lyrique

    see coupe enjambante

  • diaeresis

    (cf. synaeresis (q.v.)) The pronunciation of two contiguous vowels as two distinct syllables (separation of the elements of a diphthong): e.g. suicide (/syisid/); diamant (/diamã/).

  • (p.259) dipode

    A compound ‘foot’ made up of a pair of feet in which one stress is primary (thesis) and the other is secondary (arsis). A sequence of dipodes will, therefore, create a rhythm not only of alternating strong and weak syllables, but also of alternating stronger and weaker stresses. When thesis precedes arsis, then the dipode is ‘falling’; when the arsis is following by the thesis, then the dipode is ‘rising’.

  • e atone

    A more appropriate term for the so-called ‘e mute’, since in verse—and in regular verse particularly—an unelided ‘e’ is by no means mute; atone (atonic) reminds us that the ‘e’ (/s/) cannot be accentuated under any circumstances, whereas other word-terminal syllables will be either accentuated (tonic) or not (non-tonic) depending on the specific verse-context. Word-terminal ‘e’ is elided (neither counted nor pronounced) when it is followed by a vowel or mute ‘h’; it is not elided (both counted in the scansion and articulated to a greater or lesser degree) when it is followed by a consonant or aspirate ‘h’. In regular verse an e atone at the end of the line is not counted in the scansion, though it may attract some articulation in reading; it serves principally to identify the rhyme as feminine.

  • emboîtage

    (cf. remontage (q.v.)) The process whereby two or more metrical entities are combined, often with some overlap, to form a single longer line.

  • hemistich

    Each of the pair of half-lines created by a caesura (q.v.). Although the very definition ‘half-line’ naturally associates the hemistich with a medial caesura (as in the regular alexandrine (q.v.)), it is also frequently used where the ‘half’-lines are unequal, as, for example, in a 4 || 6 decasyllabic

  • iambe

    Satiric poem of variable length in rimes croisées (q.v.), in which alexandrines (q.v.) alternate with octosyllables throughout. Cultivated particularly by André Chénier and, in the nineteenth century, by Auguste Barbier.

  • incise

    An interpolated phrase or clause, usually of a parenthetical or incidental nature.

  • isochronous

    The principle whereby the recurrent units in a metrical/rhythmic pattern (syllables, feet, measures, lines) are deemed to be of equal duration. If such units are ostensibly unequal, certain compensatory mechanisms (pause, increased accentuation, silent time-marking, etc.) may be activated to restore isochronicity to the sequence.

  • isosyllabic

    The metrical principle whereby poems are constructed of lines each with the same number of syllables. If a poem consists of a sequence of heterosyllabic stanzas, then the same syllabic structure must be exactly repeated in each stanza.

  • isotopie

    Term coined by Greimas to describe the semantic field or thematic reference created by a set of semantic components.

  • palter

    Coinage to describe a long line which, occurring in a context of predominantly shorter lines, acts as breathing space, a relaxation of tension, an opportunity to re-establish developed discourse and rhythmic continuity and coherence.

  • (p.260) remontage

    If démontage is the process whereby a larger rhythmic unit is subdivided and presented as separate, smaller ones (e.g. a decasyllable presented as a tetrasyllable line followed by a hexasyllabic one, or as two pentasyllable lines), then remontage is the reconstruction of the ‘original’ larger unit out of the smaller ones.

  • rimes croisées

    Alternating rhyme: abab.

  • rimes embrassées

    Enclosed rhyme: abba.

  • rimes plates

    Couplets: aabbec etc.

  • rime suffisante

    In the French system of differing degrees of rhyme, rime suffisante is produced by the homophony of two phonemes in the rhyme (i.e. tonic vowel + one consonant, preceding or succeeding the tonic vowel: ‘père’/‘fr ère’, ‘assauts’/‘vermisseaux’). Rime suffisante is thus stronger than rime pauvre (homophony of one phoneme, the tonic vowel: ‘bonté’/‘aimé’), but weaker than rime riche (homophony of three or more phonemes, tonic vowel + two or more consonants: ‘marche’/‘arche’, ‘rêve’/‘trêve’).

  • synaeresis

    (cf. diaeresis (q.v.)) The pronunciation as one syllable (diphthong) of two contiguous vowels; that is, one of the vowels—usually the first—is treated in pronunciation as a semi-consonant, e.g. ‘lumiere’ (/lymjεr/); ‘nuit’ (nqi).

  • syncope

    (cf. apocope (q.v.)) The non-pronunciation (metrical deletion) of a word-internal e atone (q.v.): ‘vêtements’ (/vetmã/).

  • temps de lecture or temps de la lecture

    Time necessary for reading the text, or time taken to read the text, or the reader's experience of time while reading.

  • temps de récit or temps du récit or temps de la narration or temps racontant or temps de lʼécriture

    The time of telling, the time that belongs to the process of narrating rather than to what is narrated, textual time.

  • temps dʼhistoire or temps de lʼhistoire

    Recounted or represented time, the time of the story, of the events narrated.

  • terza rima

    An Italian verse-form (Dante uses it in his Divina Commedia), quickly adopted by other European poets, it consists of interlinked tercets in which the second line of each tercet rhymes with the first and third lines of the one following: aba beb ede, etc. The sequence of tercets formed in this way may be of any length, and is brought to an end by a single final line which rhymes with the second line of the tercet preceding it: yzy z.

  • trimètre

    A line of three measures and, more especially, the three-measure alexandrine (q.v.) popularized by Hugo and the Romantic poets. The (alexandrin) trimètre disregards the sanctity of the medial caesura (q.v.) and the four-measure structure it usually begets (tétramètre) and, instead, produces a central syntactical group which straddles the caesura, deaccentuates the sixth syllable, and creates rhythmic configurations such as 4 + 4 +4, 3 + 5 + 4, 4 + 5 + 3.

  • verset

    A verse-line of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, deriving from the short numbered paragraphs (‘verses’) of the Bible and from similar paragraphs in other sacred books. It is the most elastic of rhythmic units, ranging (p.261) in length from just one syllable to seventy syllables or more. It owes its rhythmic cohesion to a variety of possible sources: to patterns of parallelism and repetition, to the combination of familiar metrical entities, to the ordered variation of respiratory spans, to a recurrent number of accents per verset, to the rhythm of its boundaries (junctures), or to a blend of these elements.

  • vers libéré

    A ‘liberated’ form of regular verse, which came into its own in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Vers libéré makes free with the rules of rhyme, and destabilizes the line's rhythmic structure by exploiting the asymmetries of the trimètre (q.v.), the equivocations of the impair, and the disarticulations of enjambement. But, for all its liberties, vers libéré maintains the principle of isosyllabism (q.v.) and the indispensability of rhyme.

  • vers mêlés

    Also called vers libres classiques and vers irréguliers. A kind of verse current in minor or hybrid genres (verse-epistle, fable, madrigal, idyll, epigram) of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in which lines of different length, though regular in their internal construction, are irregularly and unpredictably combined. Isosyllabism (q.v.) gives way to heterosyllabism, and a single, repeated rhyme-scheme is replaced by a free-rhyming structure, still subject, however, to the rule of alternating masculine and feminine rhyme-pairs.