Thursday, February 16, 2006

He chains me to that bed & he berates me

In the comments to a recent post, batailleseyes took me to task for ignoring the ending of the Bishop(?) poem I referred to, that is:
He chains me & berates me--
He chains me to that bed & he berates me.
Ok, the rhythm here is really striking:
-'-   -   -'-
-'-   --'--   -'-
but it's got a bit of the usual amphibrach comic flavor, which maybe doesn't help the "chain"-"berate" contrast out.

The rule I've just invented for deciding these matters is as follows: Imagine Ricardo Montalban in his Wrath-of-Khan finery declaiming the lines in question, and if they don't seem silly they're fine. Consider, for example, the ending of Dylan Thomas's "Fern Hill":
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
This passes, I don't think the title line does.

Thinking about repetition put me in mind of a favorite passage from the beginning of Paul Park's Soldiers of Paradise:
Two ponies pulled a sledge piled with gutted animals, and when the barbarian saw it, he spat, and touched his nose with the heel of his hand, and ducked his face down into his armpit. It is your ritual of hatred; seeing it for the first time, standing in the snow, I found it funny. My brother had climbed up onto the mule, and he was kicking his boots into its ribs, while I kicked its backside. "Look how he hates death," sang my brother, as the barbarian muttered and prayed. "He hates the sight of it." A strutwing goose trailed its beak along the snow from the back of the sledge, its feathers dripping blood. "He hates it," sang my brother.

Here's one more quote, from Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana, a fantasy novel of unusual depth and vigor but the usual unevenness on every scale:
"My love," [he] said. Mumbled, slurred it. She saw death in his eyes, an abscess of loss that seemed to be leaving him almost blind, stripping his soul. "My love," he said again. "What have they done? See what they will make me do. Oh, see what they make me do!"

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