Monday, March 30, 2009

we got the beat

To be an English-speaking child is to have poetic meter -- and one meter in particular -- drilled into your head almost daily. Technically speaking, it's either "tail-less" trochaic tetrameter or "headless" iambic tetrameter: seven syllables, four stresses. It's the meter of most nursery rhymes:

"London Bridge is falling down."
"Mary had a little lamb."
"Twinkle twinkle little star."

And of the playground rhymes Evan brings home from school:

"Give me something good to eat."
"Eenie meenie miney moe."
"I see someone's underwear."

And it remains with us throughout our lives. In high school:

"We've got spirit, yes we do."

In the military:

"I don't know but I've been told..."

Even in seven-digit phone numbers: listen to yourself saying 353-2915, and you'll notice you're stressing the first, third, fifth and seventh syllables.

Sage seems very sensitive to the rhythms of the world. When we're driving around, her backseat monologues may be a mixture of sense and nonsense, but they're pretty consistently tetrametrical.

Tonight Sonja was reading to Sage from a book of children's poems. Then she let Sage "read" to her from the same book, and every sentence seemed to have four beats to it. She even managed a rhyming couplet. I give you Sage's first original poem:

I lie down in the deep dark woods.
I see a flower and the flower is good.


Gavin said...

Could well be the first words of Adam in the Book of Genesis. Nice.

Leslie said...

Full fathom five thy father lies
Of his bones are coral made
Those are pearls that were his eyes
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea change
into something rich and strange.

I love the term acephalic.

But then there's

I do not like green eggs and ham
I do not like them Sam I am.

Eric said...

This one has a little star.
This one has a little car.
Say, what a lot of fish there are!

Gavin said...

I am actually still thinking about "Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf". And, you know, "Alan Keyes, a.k.a. A.K.".

Grandma Sue said...

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

or my favorite Emily Dickinson, which mixes tetrameter and trimeter:

My life closed twice before its close/There yet remains to see/If immortality unveil/A third event to me.

So huge, so hopeless to conceive/As these that twice befell./ Parting is all we know of heaven/And all we need of hell.

JP said...

And remember: John Fitzgerald Kennedy? And your president name theory? (Though Obama isn't helping you any, metricallys peaking.)

Eric said...

We could probably put together a pretty good cento using only lines of tetrameter from 70s and 80s commercial jingles. It'll end with:

You deserve a break today,
With B-O-L-O-G-N-A.

Leslie said...

My bologna has a first name
It's o-s-c-a-r
My bologna has a second name
It's m-a-y-e-r
oh I love to eat it every day
and if you ask me why i'll say
'cause Oscar Mayer has a way
with b-o-l-o-g-n-a