Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ford Madox Ford on Vers Libre

Although I've never been attracted to "free verse," perhaps because I fell in love, as a child, with Shakespeare and the Jacobean dramatists, and love iambic pentameter to the point that I've dreamt of it, I have to respect this comment by Ford Madox Ford:

"The other day I wrote to a literary journal to protest against an editorial in which it had contemptuously dismissed a very beautiful volume of Vers Libre with the argument that emotion led one naturally to rhyme. I pointed out that the Book of Ruth was a work of emotion, and that it contained no rhyme....
"I am talking of the Jacobean translation merely as a literary achievement. And it has always appeared to me that most of the Psalms of David, the Books of Job and of Ruth, and some of the prophetic writings if, as has been my good fortune, you can read them with eyes and ears uncloyed by ecclesiastical chantings and customary dimnings -- just, in fact, as you might read Fitzgerald's adaptations from the Persian or Mr. Pound's from the Chinese -- these writings, then, in the English language, as they are printed, and without reference to the Hebrew original, present an unanswerable case for rhythmic expression of emotions. I do not say that they exclude metrical or rhymed expressions, merely that they present an unanswerable case for the existence of Vers Libre as a form."

-- Some Reminiscences, by Ford Madox Hueffer. E. P. Dutton and Company, New York, 1921.

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