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Mental Ears and Poetic Work.

In current, customary practice a lecture is rather generally expected to be a type of public performance in which a well-informed speaker communicates to an assembly of listeners some orderly sequence of information and argument or discussion which is shaped around a distinct topic; to be useful to the listeners a spoken discourse will commonly aim for clarity and accuracy: this is the format of instruction. The present occasion will not quite fit this model because it's my intention to explore some thinking which is not yet fully clear to me, and to bring in information and methods in which I claim no expert knowledge. This will sound like a recipe for confusion, and it is. The project is difficult because much abstractness is involved, and because of a reflexive application in which explaining oneself to oneself quickly discovers areas of rather crucial obscurity. All this has to do with presenting some thoughts about poetry, from the admitted position of being a poet involved over many years with reading and writing poetry as an engrossed way of life. This may look not so unusual in demographic terms, but is actually a highly eccentric mode of life when inspected from within.

I want to present experimentally a scheme for the description and analysis of poetic language mounted in the domain of poetic discourse. The specific domain is that of English poetry and the English language considered as a system and as a history; this choice is arbitrary except that a native-language aspect may be important, and in my own case I have only one of these. The task is not attempted with systematic reference to any known practice of explanation, though drawing on several; and to be satisfactory it should be inclusive, that is, give account of the centrally normative characteristics of how poems work. This because for all the pungent games in which poetry can engage, it comprises at its most fully extended an envelope which finds and sets the textual contours in writing of how things are; while also activating a system of discontinuities and breaks which interrupt and contest the intrinsic cohesion and boundary profiles of its domain, so that there is constant leakage inwards and outwards across the connection with the larger world order. That's an outline in broadest abstraction, for a start.

To attempt a description of poetic language is difficult for one who is persistently a poet, because the knowledge of and in poems which sets the pace for wider knowledge more generally is distinctive by virtue of interior perspective: poets know the operant features of their own language-work from the inside, and along the real-time sequence of composition, starting at the beginning. (1) They may also within a writing career be conscious of their own previous and shifting usages of style and manner, as a set of evolutionary gradients and even ruptures, linked in many cases to a particular responsiveness to the historical record correspondent with attentiveness to exemplars. Whereas for any reader thereafter, the way into poems is by retrospect and from the finished outside, through the shell of the boundary layer. And of course the many variant types of writing activity and productive outcome which express the practice of poetic work cover a broad spectrum of difference and historical succession, within many far-flung distinct language communities across the world. Being a poet is not a specific job description. But even within these spread-out and disparate lines of access to poetry there may just be grounds enough for some shots at diagnosis.

What initially resembles a generalizing overview must now be re-focused, as an idiosyncratic singular perspective. An English-language poet, from England itself, carries just one of the world dialects as inherent mental wiring, the circuit diagrams of a cradle speech which are cross-wired into the cultural history of a ramified national identity. All this wiring is also, of course, the site and motive for a vigilant resistance, for non-compliance: using a set of implements does not mean being used by them. I'll accept the risk of self-reference now as in no claimed sense a type case, in order to offer a particular scheme for the purpose of reference and as a tryout. To build a writing framework over an extent of regular practice, across many years, accumulates a profile more and more singular. Even family likeness may not be sufficient to accomplish recognition in full detail. At the same time the isolation of a self-interior retrospect is highly dangerous, because an encroaching narcissism of preoccupation will promote unrecognized claims of endorsement from chance occurrence, locked into the habits of procedure. Or maybe this is not exactly a danger, depending on point of view.

In my own case the language of unrealized possible poetic composition has drawn, initially and constantly, with profound hunger and gratitude upon the rich embankments of the English poetic record. As a vivid penumbra there are the poetic records of neighbor cultural traditions and indeed the whole range of poetry across the world, some in foreign languages with which I am acquainted, some in languages powerfully exotic and strange; but outside of translation, most (not all) of my own composition has been in the medium of my native speech. By no means all writing work sets down these traditional roots of origination; but the recovery of speech and song across former generations, and the span of many layers and locations of practice, set out a format of provisional continuity. That in turn primes the double twin directives of a textual-language process--inwards and outwards, backwards and forwards--to justify stereophonic marking for orientation in overt space and time, mental and social by parallel composure. It's widely believed that to read deeply and with enhanced attention the sedimented products of an earlier poetic history is to encounter the meaning of a cultural process, the intricate play of ethical agency and imaginative conjecture as composing a pedigree for full present-tense creative empowerment. (2) But for an emergent poet to read the output of precursory eras is a complex and recursive activity, because what in the record is output must for the poet-reader also be input, dismantled from its bounded emplacement as re-fluidized for soluble modularity.

The poet works with mental ears. Via this specialized audition the real-time sounds of speech and vocalized utterance are disintegrated into sub-lexical acoustic noise by analogy with the striking clatter of real work in the material world. Plus also bird-song, weather sounds, and the cognates. From this first reduction the array of voice-sounds can then be transposed into a textual constellation in which compositional purpose begins to remake the anecdotal variety of actual speech. By this means the sociology of utterance-occasions is part-replaced by the textuality of a language domain. (3) All human speech performance operates by hybridizing the components of possible word narratives; but the textual domain is an intermediary condition very specific to poetic work. (4) This domain is constructed from the realized human sounds of words in voluble sequence, utterance as carried through to expression by the apportionment of phrase and sentence and the paragraph or strophic boundaries of their profession, the mental span of serial completions. (5) Written discourse projects into a representational text-composure the altered acoustics of speech events, real and conjectural. But the discourse of poetry installs a variable set of yet further dimensions.

The mental ears of the poet make here a second reduction, a process rather explicitly described by Mallarme, which imposes selection constraints with the purpose to define and empower the mode of a distinct and distinctive poetic textuality. (6) Within this further reduction the tendency of a composed text towards its completion can take on, via acts of free-ranging intelligence and sensibility, the formats of signifying deliberateness. These constraints are not only or primarily those of prosody or versification; they comprise a re-modelled schedule of speech-sounds and performance features within the constrained language itself. (7) Mental ears also permit reconstruction of raw phonetic data, in particular across precedent historical eras, so that the alert poet as reader can "tune in" to earlier schedules of poetic composition: the percipient self re-locates so as to occupy a prior station already inflected by knowledge of successor historical conditions. Mental ears are thus evolutionary by retroflex recognizance, from the outcomes of experiment back to the experimental matrix itself and its shifting points of origin.

It's often asserted that the rhythmical deployment of sense carried into sound is what gives poetic discourse its special power of making a grateful living-space for readerly attention and remembrance; that pattern by varied repetition captures the speech habits of interior and sociable language use, and profiles these into the formats of record that can re-emerge into a reader's vicarious experience, through the mental ears. And thus indeed for readers who learn to read by reading it must often be: it is the sonic domain of completeness as composed by the dynamic boundary lineations, chiefly intonational and stress-marked in Western metrical disposition, that works towards significant endings which are the bounds and conclusions of significance: the unit measures of part and whole. (8)

The scheme to be proposed here does not denounce this diagnosis of rhythmic contour as formative in the transfer of text composure into mental reception; but it comprises nonetheless an alternative (if also complementary) mode of reckoning: by the methods of descriptive and historical phonology. Nor shall this be a usage of these methods in normative application, because a distinct sub-variant of the generic phonology of a specific language and its derivational antecedents is to be claimed, perhaps for the first time, as the working phonological template for poetic language, the language-use of actual poems. What is a phonology? It's the system of sound forms in a speech practice that is structural to the coherence of a language and its evolution through time; a part-abstract mental representation that's to be somewhat distinguished from a phonetics, which is more concerned with the mechanics and acoustics of voice-sound production. (9) This distinction between phonology and phonetics, though often crossed over and blurred, is rather crucial to the present purpose, because the sounds that poems make are not here treated as acoustic sonorities, but as semi-abstract representations of relations and orderings between and across sounds, within a textual domain. (10)

It's from this distinction that my own lack of interest in the performance of poems in their author's own voice takes its origin; the specific occasional delivery is no more than an accidentalism of sound and behavior, since it is the language of the text that has and produces voice, and not the mere vocal equipment and habits of a speaker. (11) An author-speaker of text in self-performance may seem to be a special case, in that features of such delivery can seem to be communicating an authentic textual inwardness, from the stance of an authorized knowledge and self-interpretation. But such semblance is really delusional; this is to undo the work of mental ears, by a kind of primitive literal-mindedness: "Look, the poet is wearing red socks! Now at last we understand everything!"

I should make clear at once that I have no formal expertise in either phonology or phonetics. But the discovery of explicit phonological features within a poetic discourse practice is perhaps enabled because both phonology and poetry make a reduction upon the language base of their raw counterparts. (12) To recognize and identify the phonological systematics of poetic idiolects also does in all likelihood require enhanced proficiency in reading and construing poetic texts, and to characterize such features as indigenous within procedures of poetic composition probably also requires experience of original poetic authorship. What in this context of reading poetry in and across an historical culture-span can give phonology as a discipline its especial relevance are the realized links in the stages of an evolving speech usage discovered in alteration of sound-values over time, mutations not arbitrary or accidental but following observable regularities amounting to descriptive and also proscriptive regulation. The rule-structure of descriptive and historical phonology, in its many variant and indeed mutually contesting versions, is a complex elaboration, and as the term strongly suggests, is intimately involved with the sound-formats of language as an acoustic modality. (13) A community of readers and listeners, the audience for poetry, will be familiar with sound-patterns and sonic performance, as if an argument from phonology could present little that's new. But now we must insert some refinements. First, the patterns discovered by phonological analysis are in varying degrees binding, and not selective options (like for instance a poet's metrical choices): they function as rules of the base structure. And second, the sound-values in a description are abstract, by reference from surface features to underlying typologies: how an actual poet speaks, the ups and down and elisions and quirks of the spoken occasion, are excluded by reduction. And third, the rules give shape and expression to the grammar of speech, to its rational and evolutionary linguistic skeleton which supports the productive inventiveness of textuality.

Do these features make a difference, to any claimed similarity with prosodic and metrical formalisms within the composition of poetry? The answer must for sure be yes. The rule-patterns of rhyme, for example, or of metrical regularity or strophic enclosure and repetition, are arbitrary in regard to grammatical structure, and much of their effect arises from cross-play between one system and another, maneuvered by composing habits of practice into productive contrasts and parallelisms. (14) This versification activity is thus not intrinsic to the base language, although it may appropriate base features and manipulate them into secondary formalisms. The lexicon may be restricted in poetic employment by reductions which may be systematic or may be habitual ("signature-features"), but the lexicon itself is not inflected or modified at base level by reference to poetic usage, even if a vocabulary may indeed be altered by surface variation; (15) and the same is true of the base-grammar as opposed to variation in applied syntax. Even when selection of vocabulary for stress and accent features (under metrical surface-rules) may be modelled on aspects of natural speech, these too don't regulate a grammar or sound-value structures, or, come to that, a lexical meaning-profile.

Thus the novel claim here is two-fold: that a phonological analysis of poetic speech usage may disclose base-level rule patterns and their historical evolutionary forms; and that such analysis may provide a diagnostic template for some of the ways in which an attentive reader of poems may intuitively model the surface features of performance into a mental representation of signifying relations and connections within the textual ordering of poetic language in action. This tentative claim gives a new and sharper sense to the expression "mental ears," because by this analysis we hear through (by means of) abstract representation, and also because we integrate the surface formalisms with explicit cognitive recognition of the underlying base forms: in each case we know by such hearing because the mere anecdotalism of sonic variety in speech sounds and phrasal accent-contours is brought into diagnostically understood formalization. (16) All this, we should note, must call upon the rules of a grammar in construing word-sequence but is concerned with dimensions and features not merely subordinate to syntax or morphology; and it has not yet been necessary at all to invoke questions of meaning. For features in an analysis to be significant or signifying does not transfer into a requirement that they be meaningful, that is, semantically productive in a discoverable way.

Suppose that we take stock of what's at issue so far. As I have admitted, I develop these inchoate thoughts in order somewhat to reflect on my own writerly practice. The discourse of poems is rather usually less directly able to be construed and normalized than the ordinary language of every day. The discourses of modernism in Western poetics make steeper descents into sub-intelligibility; and in my own case I am rather frequently accused of having more or less altogether taken leave of discernible sense. In fact I believe this accusation to be more or less true, and not to me alarmingly so, because what for so long has seemed the arduous royal road into the domain of poetry ("what does it mean?") seems less and less an unavoidably necessary precondition for successful reading. The task, however, is not to subside into distracted ingenious playfulness with the lexicon and cross-inflectional idiomatics, but to write and read with maximum focused intelligence and passion, each of these two aspects bearing so strongly into the other as to fuse them into the enhanced state once in an old-fashioned way termed the province of the imagination. (17) "Mental ears" do not relegate us to the dominion of performative sonority, nor do they elevate us into the paramount abstraction of inferred ideas and beliefs: they are an intense hybrid and I treat them as the essential equipment for reading poetry in today's post-traditional world space, and also as required attentional receptors for the professional phonologist, as indeed they were for the philologists of previous eras. (18)

It's the usual practice of phonologists to analyze the abstract sound-structures of a specific language or dialect, often in wider context of comparative purview; the smallest units of scrutiny are probably sub-group communities like creolized or immigrant populations, the sound world of young children learning a native speech, or the non-sound world of sign language used by deaf people. (19) But not much has so far been done to analyze the interface between the phonetics of poetic formalisms and the phonology of their underlying structural representation. Intuitively I have an increasing sense of the instructive work that might be done here. It will perhaps be recognized that this argument has up to now not strongly distinguished between a descriptive phonology and its historical or evolutionary counterpart. But by restricting the field of analysis to the current surface features of one language only, English, and by further restricting the set of linguistic data to poetic composition and its procedures and to the textuality thus implied, the historical axis must assume a strongly paramount position as characteristic of this material. And a certain type of professing poet working along the span of a productive career will construct a self-history that may infold parallels with the generic histories of English and pre-English poetries, and trace out a specifically evolutionary version of the more inclusively historical dimension: one thing leads in and out of another, in dispositions not merely chronological nor even accumulative. So that "mental ears" are also empowered by linkages of memory and retrospect, as reconstruction of what originally faced towards the undeclared future, just as today's practice also does. "Mental ears" will hear in older sounds the then new sounds of making and marking a track into forward space: a future in the past. (20)

What may be referenced as an evolutionary phonology may thus open some not previously acknowledged gateways into understanding and analyzing some baseline procedures in poetic composition: not as a key to all the mythologies but maybe to some of them. It's time to mount up at least one example, and here I again warn that the methods to be adopted are a long way from professional within any of the variant pursuits of current phonology: they are intuitive, and non-technical, and are put forward by way of untested conjecture. Be ready, then, for some wonky thinking and part-connection, especially if any present have some phonological training or expertise: this may be a bumpy ride.

At the conclusion of a walking tour with his sister Dorothy in the summer of 1798, William Wordsworth composed a now-famous poem with the title: "Lines [,] Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798." This poem has been much discussed and, indeed, argued over; to speak personally, I can add that I have loved this poem deeply, almost since childhood. Describing his memories of an earlier visit to this same location, confirmed by again viewing the same prospect, the poet speaks of the influence which subsequently these remembered scenes had upon his mental and emotional life; also, indeed, upon his spiritual life and inward personal being:
 But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din Of towns and cities,
I have owed to them, In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, Felt in
the blood, and felt along the heart, And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration:--feelings too Of unremembered pleasure; such,
perhaps, As may have had no trivial influence On that best portion of a
good man's life; His little, nameless, unremembered acts Of
kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust, To them I may have owed another
gift, Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood, In which the burthen of
the mystery, In which the heavy and the weary weight Of all this
unintelligible world Is lighten'd:--that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on, Until, the breath of this
corporeal frame, And even the motion of our living blood Almost
suspended, we are laid asleep In body, and become a living soul. (21) 

I want first to give close attention to the line, "Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart," and to notice the word-final stops, plosive (t and d) and nasal (ng). If we reverse-trace the morphology here we shall find "felt" as derived by regular suffixation from "feel," which is not end-stopped; the -t of "felt" being a rule-governed assimilated form of the regular weak-verb inflectional suffix, -ed (properly -d). (22) We shall find "blood" derived, not quite so regularly, from "bleed," since "blood" is a kind of preterite outcome of bleeding as it comes to visible self-knowledge: "living blood" precedes bleeding but our observationally confirmed knowledge of blood has been until recent times consequent upon bleeding events. (23) "Heart," Middle English herte, Old English heorte, proto-Germanic *hertan-, has been word-final end-stopped throughout its evolutionary history; vowel shifts mark out these stages of historical development, part rule-governed and part by pragmatic adaptation. (24) The underlying forms here represented by these word-final or syllabic-final stops demonstrate conditions originally continuing, chiefly in tense structure systems, that have been clipped or stopped and thus marked as concluded, so that they shift out of immediately present knowledge into recognition by retrospect. (25)

This argument regarding Wordsworth's text may be extended. The poem continues:
 Nor less, I trust, To them I may have owed another gift, Of
aspect more sublime; that blessed mood, In which the burthen of the
mystery, Of all this unintelligible world Is lighten'd ... 

Here the word "trust," inserted as a parenthesis, implicates another historical transmission of formal outcome, from "true," attested e.g. in the cognate link with Old Icelandic tryggr, "faithful, safe, true." (26) Thus to have or keep trust is to derive confidence and consolation from a condition of grateful dependence upon a sustaining verity; we may compare Gothic trausti, "agreement, covenant." Once more the word-final stop in "trust" represents a derived completion or ended-ness, continuing but secondary to its unstopped original form. In this context we may note too that "mind" (Old High German gimunt, "memory", and minna, "love") is end-stopped; also for Wordsworth "purer" because not distracted and thus more free to assimilate blessing, but also held strongly in place by the more fixed emplacements of memory and of trust. (27)

In like fashion "gift" puts the same stop to "give," as some finite outcome of open giving; (28) "burthen" (though not end-stopped) is the definitive end-consequence of "bear" (in the sense of "load" and also of "birth"); and "blessed" locates the endowment of benefit in the past tenses of "bless." (29) This in turn traces a formal link with "blood" and "bleed", as deriving from ME blessen, OE bletsian, bloedsian, all linked through the sense-development of "to make sacred or holy by ritual shedding of blood." (30) Thus, "bless" performs an outcome from "bleed" through the performative derivation of "blood", and "blessed" marks out a threshold for the sublime, sub + limen, where the end-stop is word-medial but syllabic-final, in the affix sub, "up to, as far as" the lintel or entrance portal to the spirit world of beatitude and love. (31) The word-medial stop in "sublime" is displaced in "suspend" by usual b > s before p, but the double-final stop in "suspend-ed" is then echoed in similar end-stopping to "almost," "laid," and "asleep"; thus, almost the soul is freed from the body, and this almost is the two-way threshold into the spiritual sublime, the uppermost dialectic of stop and release.

See how this works. "Heart" is end-stopped, and the "living blood" that flows by its agency will come to its final stop, as all mortal hearts must do at the end of human life. (32) At precisely this point, according to Christian doctrine, the soul gains immortal freedom and rises to an unstopped spiritual enlargement. The soul becomes "living" in this new life because the heart has surrendered the blood-life that held the soul back. What is passionately daring in these lines is to take impetus from the heart's own life so as to reach the very threshold itself of the soul's subsequently continuing immortality: the closed end of one state opening the portal to the freedom of the other, from heart to soul, across the line marked by the end-stopped "almost." The daring lies in asserting not that the soul at the last becomes free of the expired body, but that while still within our mortal frame it is not merely the exalted poet but, inclusively, we who become living souls. The mortal beings that we are can be stopped, almost, in gentle anticipation of our final end so as to glimpse the soul's flight beyond the blood-limits, and in this singular moment to be present at this flight and to be part of it. The "blessed mood" (both words end-stopped) may be transient but it can be trusted to recur, leaving a permanent alterative trace in grateful memory; for the poet and, by transfer of hope, for the reader also. (33)

At this point in an already far-conjectural reconstruction may further be observed that the vocabulary of blood and blessing and trust are all terms in a Christian dispensation, which gives the final end of man a special function in the ways and means of a divine immortality for the soul. To have trust in the resurrection of the body and the inextinguishable prospect of a blessed future state was part of a covenant which placed life-endings outside the reach of fear, because the shedding of innocent blood in divine sacrifice had redeemed the mortal limits of the human spirit; but this covenant, though Wordsworth's terminology is redolent with its structure of assurance, is not called on here and indeed may not at that moment have been quite felt by him as valid beyond any question; so that the end-stops of mortality take on function as the markers of a personal dialectic, between past and future and between fear and hope. "Blessing" in that unstopped form is the mark of future trust in an alternative natural covenant of joy, as for instance in the very first line of the 1805-6 text of The Prelude:
 Oh there is blessing in this gentle breeze That blows from the
green fields and from the clouds And from the sky ... (34) 

And yet of course the phonological features of preterite tense-structure marking reach back to eras of Indo-European language formation long before the development of Christian doctrine in any form. Blood-sacrifice as a concept and practice is found in some of the earliest cultic behaviors evidenced in the archaeological record. (35)

All these risky elaborations borrow formal phonological features in order to analyze, conjecturally and by reconstruction, a surmised evolutionary process in language history which gives Wordsworth's text some of its complicated sense of the past in the present and future, the stoppage of one dimension part-sublimated into acknowledgement and derived renewal in another. These features are by no means instances of adventitious sound symbolism, or association of semantic values with surface features; they are within the structure and history of English as an evolved system, and furthermore they are selected here for a mutually reinforcing, if latent, prominence: in other words, they are motivated. I should not wish to claim that this selection was in any sense deliberate or conscious; if the underlying textual features exist it is because poets are tuned into their language structures to an unusual degree of linguistic susceptibility. Such features are neither invented nor discovered, they are disclosed. Also perhaps to be asked is, does such motivation (if it exists) extend into other parts of Wordsworth's copious and varied output, and into the work of other poets: these would be questions for a much larger and more elaborate enquiry. (36)

This, I'd by this first experiment tentatively claim, is the kind of recovery that a phonological analysis could advance. In the specific context of Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" poem, and maybe more acutely in the localized context of these few lines, there is a latent dialectic of contradiction which this reconstructed outline narrative has been (perhaps) able to bring to view. It concerns mortality and the closure of human life, the stopping of heart and mind when blood will no longer infuse the power of feeling or of being itself. A generic feature of word-sounds that is commonplace within the system of English could not bear this implication ordinarily; but here, I contend, this feature is persistent in recognizably signifying ways, and is thus tacitly motivated by its proximate collocations. In the midst of joyous continuity, the steady pulse and flow of verse movement, these intimations point towards a possible immortality as the dialectical counterpart to a certain prospect of eventual mortal finality and decease. The actions or forms of agency spoken of here are not acts of will but acts of being and human life, of a lifetime extended towards its terminus and also its fulfillment. (37) What is felt "along the heart" follows the stream of blood flow, parallel with the duration of self-being and its bodily precondition, even though circular and thus not properly linear; but what is thus stored and restored in personal memory ("mind," Gothic gamunds, "memory," etc.) will not outlast the beating heart: "long" is a finite span (the word closed with a nasal word-final stop) and is not immortal. (38)

This must also bring "love" into the frame, since "mind" connects intimately both with memory and with love, the latter as affection rather than desire: Old English myne has been textually interpreted in this sense of "love," by a development from thought to kindly thought and gratitude, to love; the wide-ranging discussion of an Old English textual crux in the edition by Dunning and Bliss of The Wanderer (c. early tenth century) is highly informative. (39) For Wordsworth these little nameless acts of kindness and of love were "unremembered" not held in finite recollection, so that their influence can still flow onwards when the specific occasions have been lost to mind and memory; they form the tacit habitual prosody of a man's ethical character. (40) Latent presence of these system links and connections is stored textually within a knowledge that belongs with the underlying base forms, not declared directly in surface features but implicit in the motivated sound-structures and time-logic of phonological evolution. (41)

In equally experimental spirit another text-example may be more briefly nominated: Paradise Lost, IV. 449-91, Eve's narrative of her earliest moment of self-encounter as a determinate identity. (42) To the modern reader this initial failure of resolved, other-directed loving attachment strongly suggests an attributed primal narcissism, as if, very obliquely, Eve is being prepared for sacrifice; but an alternatively directed enquiry may observe in the diction employed a preponderant density of end-stopped formations: "That day I oft remember, when from sleep / I first awaked, and found myself reposed, / Under a shade of flowers ..." (449-51). (43) The past-tense re-telling causes -ed verb-forms to be expected: but oft, sleep, first, shade, together with awaked, found, reposed, comprise once again a phonologically recognizable tendency, accentuated by Milton's own regular if not always consistent preference for -t and -d spellings (awak't, repos'd, etc.), to demonstrate the restricted sound-closure of these word-forms. (44)

The effect of these surface features, symptomatic of an underlying structural sound-patterning, points to closure and time-process cut back from its own continuity or development. Here these end-stopped markers may indeed intimate a tacit critique of Eve's predicament: she has been taken out of Adam (membered) but now she self-discovers to be shut in, unable to escape this initial regression. In semantic force, oft and first should point to onwardness; but all the Germanic family cognates for oft, though of somewhat obscure ultimate origin, are end-stopped, before often enters early Modern English (c. 1250) by adaptive extension; (45) this modernized replacement (without end-stop) is then nullified by Milton's archaizing preference (massive) for the oft-form, even though in "avoidance of obsolescent verb terminals" he was "outstandingly modern"; (46) and first traces back to the same source as Old English fore (adv.), "formerly, previously" also Sanskrit pura, "formerly, before": thus in closed-anterior even more than open-forward reference. (47)

From the very first the reader is forewarned of Eve's trial by ordeal (the "first disobedience," PL, I.1), which is the necessary engine of Milton's poem and to the logic of which he must as its narrator be obedient; God did not at first predetermine the transgression (III. 97-128), but Milton did, and the ensuing divine punishment is incommensurate, unforgiving, and sacrificial. (48) The phonological tendency of these end-stops to oft and first may demonstrate in Eve a proleptic loss of future self, or self-future, from which she is here (though not later) assisted to escape by Adam's impassioned rescue (IV. 481-91). All too soon she and Adam together will be under darker shades than the umbrage of flowers. Thus what has opened the story also by strong entail comes duly to pass, and forecloses it: first may look to be innocently open, but it is already shut.

But now after so much untested conjecture there is more to be said about the work of "mental ears," even more riskily and even less supported by established professional methods. These word-final or segment-final speech stops allow various modes of continuing process or states of being to be interrupted or broken into, opening faults and cleavages within the representation of language and thought in action. This observation must be in some general sense true for most if not all human language usage: a language system operates in discrete packets not as an unbroken linear continuity; it is unitized in fundamental ordering, unlike for example the system of color in which the transitions are seamless and gradualized. (49) But poets in especial have incorporated prosodic breakage into almost all systems of poetic composition, whether by traditional versification or oral performance or by verse in experimental free forms. The word-boundary markers within "natural" phrasal sequencing are cross-structured by textual constraints of formal division and metricality. (50)

Here to cite only the most conspicuous instance, the line-breaks or step-ordering that override the unfeatured page space of normal printed language perform the overt function of continuity by versus and retroflex, manipulating syntax and sentence completion by complementary but also rivalrous formalisms. (51) These are not merely contrastive or format-based features; this is the dialectical argument of poetic form within the textual domain, when fully activated to encounter the contradictions in poetic diction and discourse, to disrupt a complaisant surface harmony by the head-on turns which generate energy of conception and conscience and bring discrepant aspects face to face. (52) How can the blessing of benediction, as Wordsworth nominated this to be the source of his profoundest gratitude, be rooted not just in the living bloodstream but in the deliberate prior spillage of innocent blood? (53) Is this just an "accident" of European language-history, assimilated opportunistically into Christian dogma, or an aspect of global-humane values emerging from earlier epochs of barbaric superstition? In Wordsworth's own case, what in some final reckoning did the French Revolution really mean to him?

The very medium of poetic textuality incorporates and instantiates the features of breakage at local and microscopic levels, as discoverable by phonological and other types of analysis, into a dialectic which may look arbitrary or merely optional but which polarizes the task of poetic composition. Formal and structural features within the language system, the selective-discourse system, the prosodic and formal verse system, all within the contrastive perspectives of historical development, compete to provoke the formation of shifting hybrids across boundaries of sometimes radical counter-tension. The active poetic text is thus characteristically in dispute with its own ways and means, contrary implication running inwards to its roots and outwards to its surface proliferations: not as acrobatic display but as working the work that, when fit for purpose, poetry needs to do. (54) These are the proper arguments of poetry as a non-trivial pursuit, the templates for ethical seriousness. As just one example, the condoned spillage of innocent blood is everywhere around us, now, and the artificers of consolatory blessing who are the leaders of organized religion are up to their dainty necks in this blood. (55) I have believed throughout my writing career that no poet has or can have clean hands, because clean hands are themselves a fundamental contradiction. Clean hands do no worthwhile work.

In these ways maybe it's possible and perhaps even obligatory to think with "mental ears," focused via the fault-lines in language and thought as a discontinuous system upon the inevitable fault-lines in ethical being and in material reality. (56) There is no mere reconciliation of these profoundly discrepant aspects that is not also, in differing and reckonable degrees, corrosive to strong knowledge and understanding: the systems of public and private ethical awareness ensue in contested practical agency by means of this knowledge. Because active human knowledge is thus inherently dialectical and in dispute with itself and its base in reality, the apparently segregated domains of poetry turn out, by reverse transit through the mental ears, to connect at full intensity with the disorders of public conscience; so that, in my own view at least, even silence on this account must be reckoned and held accountable. (57) We get direction and sometimes proper warning from the "mental ears" active in poetic work and in our reading practice of poetic textuality. Language is itself an intrinsic fault system, and it is worse than a mistake not to understand this as best ever we can.


This lecture was given by invitation at the University of Chicago in April 2009, for which occasion grateful thanks are here expressed; subsequently in June 2009 it was also re-presented to the Cambridge Graduate Theory Seminar, for which occasion further thanks are also placed on record.

(1) "My unique relation with my work--and it is a tenuous one--is the making relation. I am with it a little in the dark and fumbling of making, as long as that lasts, then no more. I have no light to throw on it myself and it seems a stranger in the light that others throw" (Samuel Beckett, letter to Arland Ussher, 6 November 1962, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Texas, cit. in Samuel Beckett, The Letters, Vol. I: 1929-1940, ed. Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck [Cambridge, 2009], p. xi).

(2) Thus e.g. Matthew Arnold: "The substance and matter of the best poetry acquire their special character from possessing, in an eminent degree, truth and seriousness. We may add yet further, what is in itself evident, that to the style and manner of the best poetry their special character, their accent, is given by their diction, and, even yet more, by their movement. ... So far as high poetic truth and seriousness are wanting to a poet's matter and substance, so far also, we may be sure, will a high poetic stamp of diction and movement be wanting to his style and manner" ("The Study of Poetry" [1880], in The Complete Prose Works, IX, ed. R.H. Super [Ann Arbor, MI, 1973], p. 171); and then e.g. this: "If to our English race an inadequate sense for perfection of work is a real danger, if the discipline of respect for a high and flawless excellence is peculiarly needed by us, Milton is of all our gifted men the best lesson, the most salutary influence" ("Milton" [1888], in Complete Prose Works, XI, ed. Super [Ann Arbor, MI, 1977], p. 330). Such orotund self-confidence had surely blunted Arnold's ears: Chaucer "lacks the high seriousness of the great classics, and therewith an important part of their virtue" ("The Study of Poetry," Prose Works, IX, p. 177).

(3) Textuality has undergone much discussion and counter-definition over recent time. What is here meant is roughly the conceptual manifold of writerly script in production format of projection beyond the confines of compositional selfhood. Poetic textuality is thus a discourse of language signs founded in dispositions corresponding generically to historically current beliefs about poetry at time of origin, as distinguished from other forms of literary discourse, based on reduction (transformation) of natural language into the adaptive schedules of poetic usage as variably characterized by schemes of versification, figural transformation and so on. This status may be realized (performed) in shape of book or manuscript, etc., but the underlying immanent formalism is abstract and conceptual, a homeland for deep thought and radical critique. For a full review discussion see Jorge J.E. Gracia, A Theory of Textuality: the Logic and Epistemology (Albany, NY, 1995): on texts and language, pp. 42-4, 70-1, 118-9, etc., on textual meaning as culturally determined, pp. 86-98, 123-7, 135, 140-1, 188-9, 207-9 etc.

(4) It is indifference to the alterative effect of textuality that causes Derek Attridge to write, following the consensus, that "Poems are made out of spoken language" (Poetic Rhythm: An Introduction [Cambridge, 1995], p. 2). I believe this statement to be decisively not true, unless it is also to be believed that tables and chairs are made out of living trees. For implicit historical strain in the reduction of voice to text compare J.H. Prynne, Field Notes: 'The Solitary Reaper' and Others (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 8-11.

(5) Gerald Bruns has proposed a somewhat comparable starting-point: "Poetry is made of language but is not a use of it--that is, poetry is made of words but not of what we use words to produce: meanings, concepts, propositions, descriptions, narratives, expressions of feeling, and so on. ...Poetry is language in excess of the functions of language" (Gerald L. Bruns, The Material of Poetry: Sketches for a Philosophical Poetics [Athens, GA, 2005], p. 7); but then this recognition is confounded with the vocalizations of text-performance: "The poet in this event does not so much use language as interact with uses of it, playing these uses by ear in the literal sense that the poet's position with respect to language is no longer simply that of the speaking subject but also, and perhaps mainly, that of one who listens" (p. 30; compare pp. 49-50 etc). This "literal sense" is instructive by being almost entirely alternative to the argument about "mental ears" that is advanced here.

(6) "Le vers qui de plusiers vocables refait un mot total, neuf, etranger a la langue et comme incantatoire, acheve cet isolement de la parole: niant, d'un train souverain, le hasard demeure aux termes malgre l'artifice de leur retrempe alternee en le sens et la sonorite, et vous cause cette surprise de n'avoir our jamais tel fragment ordinaire d'elocution, en meme temps que la reminiscence de l'objet nomme baigne dans une neuve atmosphere" ("Crise de vers", in Stephane Mallarme, (Euvres completes, ed. Bertrand Marchal [2 vols., Paris, 1998-2003], II, p. 213). "The verse-line of several word-sounds which remakes a total word, new, unknown to the language and as if incan-tatory, achieves this isolation of speech: denying, in a sovereign gesture, the arbitrariness that clings to words despite the artifice of their being alternately plunged in meaning and in sound, and causes you that surprise at not having heard before such an ordinary fragment of speech, at the same time as the remembrance of the named object bathes in a new atmosphere" ("Crise de vers," trans. [entire] by Rosemary Lloyd, in her Mallarme: The Poet and His Circle [Ithaca, N.Y., 1999], p. 233 [here modified]). See also Albert Cook, "'Etendre, simplifier le monde': The Philosophical Purchase of Mallarme," in Robert Greer Cohn (ed.), Mallarme in the Twentieth Century (Cranbury, N.J., 1998), 53-85 (esp. pp. 71-2). On vers see Graham Robb, Unlocking Mallarme (New Haven, CT, 1996), esp. pp. 33-4.

(7) The reduction of natural experience into the domain of textuality may focus upon cognitive and affective aspects as much as on linguistic features: "The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotion at all. And emotions which he has never experienced will serve his turn as well as those familiar to him. Consequently, we must believe that emotion recollected in tranquillity' is an inexact formula. For it is neither emotion, nor recollection, nor, without distortion of meaning, tranquillity. It is a concentration, and a new thing resulting from the concentration, of a very great number of experiences which to the practical and active person would not seem to be experiences at all; it is a concentration which does not happen consciously or of deliberation...."(T.S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent" [1917], in his Selected Essays [3rd enl. ed., London, 1951], p. 21); for discussion see e.g. Richard Bradford, Silence and Sound: Theories of Poetics from the Eighteenth Century (Cranbury, NJ, 1992), pp. 127-31, and Charles I. Armstrong, Figures of Memory: Poetry, Space, and the Past (Houndmills, 2009), pp. 99-101; Eliot's objection to "recollection" in Wordsworth signally fails to observe the full complexity of this process.

(8) "The long and short of the matter is this. We now regulate English verse by the strong and determinate element of stress: its management is what distinguishes verse from prose. The weak and indeterminate element of quantity we subordinate: its management is one of the many things which distinguish, not verse from prose, but good verse from bad" (A.E. Housman, review of W.J. Stone, "On the Use of Classical Metres in English," Classical Review, XIII [1899], here from Collected Poems and Selected Prose, ed. Christopher Ricks [London, 1988], pp. 421-2); see also Charles Olson, "Quantity in Verse, and Shakespeare's Late Plays" (1956) in his Human Universe and Other Essays, ed. Donald Allen (San Francisco, 1965), pp. 81-94, and (e.g.) John Goldsmith, "Harmonic Phonology," in Goldsmith (ed.), The Last Phonological Rule: Reflections on Constraints and Derivations (Chicago, 1993), pp. 21-60 (pp. 54-6).

(9) This distinction is much contested. There is a more or less completely adversary, neo-empiricist position which argues that "our mental representations of the form of words are essentially phonetic," that "word forms are stored as memories of psychophysical (auditory and articulatory) experience (not abstract structures of distinctive features)" and that "phonological constituents are statistical regularities over these psychophysical spaces" (Jacques Durand and Bernard Laks [eds.], Phonetics, Phonology, and Cognition [Oxford, 2001], pp. 38, 126, and see John Coleman, "Phonetic Representations in the Mental Lexicon," vol. cit., pp. 96-130). There are problems with this view in an historical, evolutionary perspective, where immediate and remembered articulatory experience is of course mostly lacking. But it could certainly be argued that an extant historical tradition of poetic textuality is a stored database of articulatory practice, and that so-called base features can perhaps be accessed chiefly or even exclusively through the re-performed phonetic surface; see also Juliette Blevins, Evolutionary Phonology: The Emergence of Sound Patterns (Cambridge, 2004): "The association between generalizations which can be derived directly from surface forms and productive phonological rules or constraints is, surely, highly significant. This is reflected in the way that phonological theory has moved steadily closer to modeling surface forms" (p. 312). For my purposes here the exact route-map of such recuperation will matter less than its outcomes.

(10) On abstractness in phonological representation see e.g. David Odden, Introducing Phonology (Cambridge, 2005), Chap. 9, esp. pp. 258-63, 271-4, 297-8. Alternative terminologies are also current: "Phonological representations of words consist of two separate tiers of which one--the skeleton--captures the linear and temporal order of units, while the other--the melody--provides the phonetic substance associated with skeletal positions. Crucially ... there does not have to be a one-to-one correspondence between the units of the melodic and the units of the skeletal subrepresentation: a certain melodic property may be associated with more than one position and, conversely, skeletal positions may have no melody attached to them and thus remain empty. Phonological regularities can hold between units of either of the two tiers or may invoke more complex structures at both levels" (Edmund Gussmann, Phonology: Analysis and Theory [Cambridge, 2002 (2008)], p. 45; compare pp. 26-7; the analytic cogency of distinct "tiers" or "levels" is currently much debated). Further on abstract representation see John C.L. Ingram, Neurolinguistics: An Introduction to Spoken Language Processing and its Disorders (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 377-8.

(11) For comment see Peter Middleton, Distant Reading: Performance, Readership, and Consumption in Contemporary Poetry (Tuscaloosa, AL, 2005), pp. 49-51; but see also John Wilkinson, "Cadence" (1987, revised), in The Lyric Touch: Essays on the Poetry of Excess (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 151-4, and yet also his "Mouthing Off" (2000), pp. 168-75.

(12) "Sound patterns are argued to be learned aspects of language structure, while the feature system, prosodic organization, and their combinatorics, are potentially innate" (Blevins, Evolutionary Phonology, p. 22; compare pp. 91-2). In radical advanced (musical) composition practice this separation can be near-complete: "The form as a sequence of structural lengths bore no precise relation to the material chosen for use in the form. Form and material are taken as separate for the purposes of composition. That form, as a structure indicated on a score, can be derived out of the nature of the sound material is, I think, illusory. So [,] conversely, a piece is not played to exhibit its composed structure. Form as structure is simply ["schlichtweg"] a matter of technique" (Christian Wolff, "On Form," orig. pub. in Die Reihe, 7 [Wien, 1960], reworked & re-printed as "Precise Actions under Variously Indeterminate Conditions: On Form" in his Cues: Writings and Conversations / Hinweise: Schriften & Gesprache [MusikTexte, Koln, 1998] pp. 38-51 [facing English & German] [p. 48]). Thus the composed feature-system is mostly not directly or even inferentially accessible to a listener.

(13) Gerald Bruns has wittily proposed a format of (poetic) language rules and structures in which the rules "do not descend all the way to the bottom", supported by a "passing theory" that's a kind of pragmatic adaptation (The Material of Poetry, pp. 107-9).

(14) It may be appropriate here to indicate two conventions of meaning for "prosody" and "prosodic": in literary (poetic) description the terms refer to patterns and structures of formal versification; in linguistic description the terms refer to "properties 'above' the segment which pertain to syllabification, length, stress, and rhythm"; "prosodic processes are those that pertain to the structure of syllables, stress, and the rhythmic structure of words, and phenomena which relate to the position of segments in a phonological string" (Odden, Introducing Phonology, pp. 336, 228); see also John J. McCarthy and Alan S. Prince, "Prosodic Morphology," in John A. Goldsmith (ed.), The Handbook of Phonological Theory (Oxford, 1995), pp. 318-66; Ingram, Neurolinguistics, pp. 23-4, 26-30). On rhyme, see Michael McKie, "The Origins and Early Development of Rhyme in English Verse", Modern Language Review, 92 (1997), 817-31, and Bradford, Silence and Sound, Chap. 6: "Rhyme" (pp. 133-58); for current interest in poetic prosody as cognitive see Wilkinson, "Following the Poem" (2004), in The Lyric Touch, pp. 195-211 and refs cited in n. 115 (p. 293). For current performance formats including a resurgence in social rhyme see Kevin Fitzgerald (aka DJ Organic, directed by), Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme [film] (U.S.A., 2000), and Doug Pray (directed by), Scratch [film] (U.S.A., 2002).

(15) Concerning poetic discourse-levels and choices within conventions of style and register, deliberate options will determine the surface in terms of diction and textual performance-pitch, including historically back-referenced lexical or idiomatic allusiveness, often in stylistic mutation within a single text-domain. For a classic statement see Erich Auerbach, Literary Language & Its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and the Middle Ages, trans. Ralph Manheim (London, 1965), Chap. 4: "The Western Public and Its Language" (pp. 235-338).

(16) On identification and analysis of "underlying forms" see Odden, Introducing Phonology, pp. 68-93.

(17) The formula suggests Coleridge and his aftermath, but a dialectical stance will ultimately part company with Coleridge's idealizing fusion of difference into unity (Biographia Literaria [1817], ed. James Engell and W. Jackson Bate [2 vols., Princeton, 1983], II, pp. 15-17). David Simpson has argued the political case against such assimilation, perhaps a shade too fiercely but with fitting directness: "Those who understand the strategy whereby Coleridge seeks to compose us and our worlds into organic wholes, based on the covert authority of the clerisy (in social governance) and of God and the will (in our spiritual lives), but do not wish to subscribe to it, could do worse than to cast aside this particular theory of the imagination ..." (David Simpson, "Coleridge and Wordsworth and the Form of Poetry," in Christine Gallant [ed.], Coleridge's Theory of Imagination Today [New York, 1989], pp. 211-225 [p. 224]). On "ideal text" status see Gracia, A Theory of Textuality, pp. 83-6, 97, 221-3: "The ideal text is the product of an interpreter and not of the historical author" (p. 222). Idealized textuality has also come under strong critique in matters of redaction: see Jerome J. McGann, The Textual Condition (Princeton, 1991), esp. Chap. 3: "The Socialization of Texts" (pp. 69-87).

(18) "To read attentively, think correctly, omit no relevant consideration, and repress self-will, are not ordinary accomplishments; yet an emendator needs much besides: just literary perception, congenial intimacy with the author, experience which must have been won by study, and mother wit which he must have brought from his mother's womb" (A.E. Housman, "The Editing of Manilius" [1930], here from Collected Poems and Selected Prose, p. 393). For discussion of philology as prototype for historical linguistics see contributions in Anders Ahlqvist (ed.), Papers from the Fifth International Conference on Historical Linguistics (Amsterdam, 1982); and see also David Greetham, "The Philosophical Discourse of [Textuality]?" (a wide-ranging overview) in Elizabeth Bergmann Loizeau and Neil Fraistat (eds.), Reimagining Textuality: Textual Studies in the Late Age of Print (Madison, WI., 2002), pp. 31-47.

(19) On creolized or immigrant communities see e.g. Peter Muhlhausler, Pidgin and Creole Linguistics (2nd rev. ed., London, 1997); Jeff Siegel, The Emergence of Pidgin and Creole Languages (Oxford, 2008); Pedro Costa (written and directed by), Juventude em Marcha (= Colossal Youth) [film] (Portugal, 2006); special interest attaches to the work of Victor Segalen (1878-1919), exotic traveler and poet: see e.g. Nicolas Bourriaud, "Victor Segalen and the Twenty-First-Century Creole," The Radicant, trans. James Gussen and Lili Porten (New York, 2009), pp. 60-77. On infant-stage language learning see e.g. John L. Locke and Dawn M. Pearson, "Vocal Learning and the Emergence of Phonological Capacity: A Neurobiological Approach" in Charles A. Ferguson et al. (eds.), Phonological Development: Models, Research, Implications (Timonium, MD, 1992), pp. 91-129; Blevins, Evolutionary Phonology, pp. 217-32, 267-9. On the phonology of sign-language for the deaf see e.g. Dianne Brentari, "Sign Language Phonology" in Goldsmith (ed.), Handbook of Phonological Theory, pp. 615-39; Linda Uyechi, The Geometry of Visual Phonology (Stanford, 1996); Werner Herzog (pseud.) (written and directed by), Land des Schweigens und der Dunkelheit (= Land of Silence and Darkness) [film] (West Germany, 1971).

(20) Compare John Wilkinson, "Cadence," in The Lyric Touch, esp. pp. 143-4.

(21) 'Lyrical Ballads' and Other Poems, 1797-1800, ed. James Butler and Karen Green (The Cornell Wordsworth; Ithaca and London, 1992), p. 117; the Cornell editors' comment: "composed in 1798 between possibly July 10 (or more probably July 11) and probably July 13" (p. 116); their text of these lines is identical with that of [William Wordsworth and S.T. Coleridge,] Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems (London, 1798), pp. 203-4.

(22) Robert Barnhart distinguishes [-ed.sup.1] and [-ed.sup.2]. The first "an inflectional suffix forming the past tense of many verbs in English. ... The suffix was reduced in Middle English to -d from earlier -ed and -ede, both forms being a development from Old English -de, also noted as -ade, -ede, and -ode." The second ([-ed.sup.2]) "a derivational suffix forming the past participle of many verbs in English ... and used as if from a verb to form adjectives from nouns. ... The suffix appeared in Old English as -d, -ed, -ad, or -od" (Robert Barnhart [ed.], Chambers Dictionary of Etymology [Edinburgh, c. 1999], p. 314, earlier pub. as the Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology [Bronx, N.Y., 1988]); compare also full discussion in OED, ed. 2, s.v. [-ed.sup.1], where the contraction of-ded, -ted after l, n, r to -d, -t (thus accounting for feel > felt) is also noted; and see also Ingram, Neurolinguistics, pp. 183-4. The -ed, -d past-tense affixation may be regarded as a resultant from use of did (Old English dide, dyde), past tense of do (Old English don), a reduplicative of the present stem employed in Proto-Germanic "as suffix to form the past tense of other verbs," being then reduced to -da in Gothic, to -de in Old English, thence to -d (-ed) in English (Barnhart, op. cit., p. 292; OED 2, s.v. do [verb]; see Julius Pokorny, Indogermanisches IndogermanischesEtymologisches Worterbuch (2 vols., Bern, 1959-69), s.v. "2. dhe-" (I, pp. 235-9); Vladimir Orel, A Handbook of Germanic Etymology (Leiden, 2003), s.v. "*donan (str. vb.)," p. 73.

(23) See Pokorny, Worterbuch, s.v. "4. bhel-" etc. (I, p. 122); Orel, Handbook, entries on pp. 50-51.

(24) Pokorny, Worterbuch, s.v. "kerd-, krd, kred-" (I, pp. 579-80); Orel, Handbook, s.v "*xerton (sb.n.)," p. 170. On phonetic variability in historical sound-change development see e.g. Blevins, Evolutionary Phonology, esp. pp. 6-8, 314; and passim.

(25) Definition of past-tense structures (within the IE family) is naturally complex. Operant forms may be categorized as simple anteriors (actions prior to reference time), perfectives (past actions bounded temporally) or completives (actions done fully to completion); all in the variably close context of a present-tense ("here now") relevance frame (adapted from Joan Bybee et al., The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World [Chicago, 1994], Chap. 3: "Anterior, Perfective, and Related Senses," pp. 51-105; the approach here is longitudinal and evolutionary as well as synchronic-descriptive).

(26) Pokorny, Worterbuch, I, pp. 214-17; Orel, Handbook, entries on pp. 409-11.

(27) Pokorny, Worterbuch, s.v. "3. men-," etc. (I, pp. 726-8); Orel, Handbook, s.v. "*mundiz" (p. 275). The intense rhythmic end-stopping of "mind," "sleep" and so on in sonnets by Gerard Manley Hopkins is noted urgently by Susan Stewart in her Poetry and the Fate of the Senses (Chicago, 2002), pp. 90-105, but the analysis locates no more than expressivist motivation and is phonologically innocent.

(28) Pokorny, Worterbuch, s.v. "ghabh-" (I, pp. 407-9); Orel, Handbook, entries on p. 130.

(29) The passive-mood construction of "felt ... felt" warrants also the here passive-recipient aspect of "gift"; in each case the question of initiating agency is occluded. On the "gift" of "blessing" compare The Prelude, 1798-1799, ed. Stephen Parrish (Hassocks, 1977), Second Part, 491 (p. 66), and The Prelude (1805-6): The Thirteen-Book Prelude, ed. Mark L. Reed (2 vols., Ithaca, N.Y., 1991), I, AB Text, II: School Time Continued, 461 (p. 135). For comparative usage-data see Bernard Comrie, "Recipient Person Suppletion in the Verb 'give'," in Mary Ruth Wise et al. (eds.), Language and Life: Essays in Memory of Kenneth L. Pike (Dallas, TX, 2003), pp. 265-281.

(30) For the profound connection between gift and the struggle for blood of sacrifice compare Arnold Schonberg, Moses und Aron (1930-32): Aron: "Volk Israels! / Deine Gotter geb'ich dir wieder / und dich ihnen; wie es dich verlangt" ("People of Israel! Your gods I give back to you, and you to them; as it is demanded of you" [my trans.]) (Moses und Aron; Oper in drei Akten; Textbuch [Mainz, (1957)], II.ii, p. 21, reprised in the incomplete III. i, p. 32). Further on the relation of gift to sacrifice see Walter Burkert, Creation of the Sacred: Tracks of Biology in Early Religions (Cambridge, MA, 1996), Chap. 6: "The Reciprocity of Giving" (pp. 129-55), esp. "Gift and Sacrifice" (pp. 149-52).

(31) Westermann argues for the re-instatement of blessing as fundamental to the biblical theology of God's purposes and practice in relation to man: "From the beginning to the end of the biblical story, God's two ways of dealing with mankind--deliverance and blessing--are found together. They cannot be reduced to a single concept because, for one reason, they are experienced differently. Deliverance is experienced in events that represent God's intervention. Blessing is a continuing activity of God that is either present or not present. It cannot be experienced in an event any more than can growth or motivation or a decline of strength" (Claus Westermann, Blessing: In the Bible and the Life of the Church, trans. Keith Crim from the original German ed. of 1968 [Philadelphia, 1974], pp. 3-4). Summarizing Pedersen's discussion Westermann continues: "As a translation of the Hebrew nephesh, 'soul' is seen as expressing the person's total state of being alive. The soul is a totality, filled with power. This power lets the soul grow and prosper so that it can maintain itself and do its work in the world. This vital power, without which no living being can exist, the Israelites called berakhah, 'blessing.' Blessing is both internal and external--the inner power of the soul and the good fortune that produces that power" (op. cit., p. 18; further on such gifted power ["bestowal"] as natural wisdom, see pp. 37-9, also 43-4, 77). Westermann's study is translated from German and indicates no knowledge of the distinctive etymology and cultural framing of English bless, blessing, which would contradict the contention that blessing "cannot be experienced in an event" (compare pp. 35-6, 52-3, 90).

(32) At this point must be clearly acknowledged that the articulatory buccal constriction of a stopped consonant in English does model the stoppage of breath which is life-concluding, but only by suggestive resemblance; the same phonological coding, if an iterated real effect, would apply even if the corresponding surface-phonetic feature had not been a breath-stop but some other voice-sound characteristic; in languages outside the Germanic family this effect is not found in this form (e.g. romance language past-tense forms are not phonetically end-stopped). And yet language-specific "suggestive resemblances," even where accidental, can be in poetic discourse practice intensely motivated, as the example of rhyme clearly demonstrates. For the reconstructed history of IE voiced/unvoiced root-final and word-final stops, see Kenneth C. Shields, A History of Indo-European Verb Morphology (Amsterdam, 1992), pp. 30-35, 40-44. For overview of recent approaches to motivation, see Gunter Radden and Klaus-Uwe Panther (eds.), Studies in Linguistic Motivation (Berlin, 2004).

(33) For the reinforced fixation of end-stopped features compare also the effect of punctuation: "sweet,"; "blood,"; "heart,"; "trust,"; "gift,"; "mood," (twice); "suspended,"; these end-stops are also pause-stopped, and this suspensive grammatical pausing is also intensely motivated. David Trotter has pointed out to me that the effect can extend even to medial stops: "on, / Until," with comma plus line-break immediately before and comma directly after.

(34) The Prelude (1805-6), I, 1-3; The Thirteen-Book Prelude, ed. Reed, I, p. 107; Reed comments: "Main composition of these lines [1-54] probably began in November 1799 and was finished in early 1800" (p. 107); there is a distinct echo of "Tintern Abby" in lines 19-24: "I breathe again; / Trances of thought and mountings of the mind / Come fast upon me: it is shaken off, / As by miraculous gift 'tis shaken off, / That burthen of my own unnatural self, / The heavy weight of many a weary day" (p. 107); this self-borrowing was part-noted by Jonathan Wordsworth (ed.), The Prelude; The Four Texts (1798, 1799, 1805, 1850) (London, 1995), p. 556, as previously also in The Prelude, or, Growth of a Poet's Mind, ed. Ernest de Selincourt, (Oxford, 1933), p. 246, 2d rev. ed. Helen Darbishire (Oxford, 1959), p. 511.

(35) See e.g. Walter Burkert, Homo Necans; The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth, trans. Peter Bing (Berkeley, 1983), pp. 4-5 and seriatim.

(36) Such enquiry might find evidence for extremely localized motivation, in which an inherently latent phonological effect may be triggered into recognizable operation across a relatively confined passage of text by a small cluster of activating features. Compare also J.H. Prynne, Stars, Tigers and the Shape of Words (London, 1993), esp. pp. 33-5. But bear in mind also the editors warning about Ferdinand de Saussure's obsessive cryptology: "L'erreur de Ferdinand de Saussure (si erreur il y a) aura aussi ete une lecon exemplaire. II nous aura appris combien il est difficile, pour le critique, d'eviter de prendre sa propre trouvaille pour la regie suivie par le poete. Le critique, ayant cru faire une decouverte, se resigne mal a accepter que le poete n'ait pas consciemment ou inconsciemment voulu ce que lanalyse ne fait que supposer" ("The error of Ferdinand de Saussure (if error there be), would also have comprised an exemplary lesson. It would have taught us how difficult it is for the critic to avoid taking his own discovery for the rule followed by the poet. The critic, believing to have made a discovery, resigns himself unwillingly to accept that the poet did not consciously or unconsciously will that which the analysis merely presumes") (Jean Starobinski [ed.], Les Mots sous les Mots; les Anagrammes de Ferdinand de Saussure [Paris, 1971], p. 154 [my trans.]; for "les lois de la mise en oeuvre" see also pp. 20ff; and see also Malcolm Bowie, Mallarme and the Art of Being Difficult [Cambridge, 1978], pp. 65-6). And yet the condition of phonological textuality as here outlined may at least partly dissolve or side-step the stumbling-block question of deliberateness.

(37) We should note that the word act is terminally end-stopped, again by close derivational link to the morphology of past-tense structures, here ensuing from Latin act-, past-participle stem of agere ("do, perform"); see Pokorny, Worterbuch, s.v. 'ag-', (I, p. 4); Orel, Handbook, s.v. "*akanan (st.vb)", p. 11. It's further to be noted that act (verb) is of later date in English than act (sb.) and the verb was likely formed under influence from the noun; an act is also the inscribed and stored record of some public transaction (Latin actum, acta), so that the doing of an act is already its own record.

(38) Compare Carl Darling Buck (ed.), A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages: A Contribution to the History of Ideas (Chicago, 1949), s.v. "mind" (pp. 1198-9).

(39) T.P. Dunning and A.J. Bliss (eds.), The Wanderer (London, 1969), line 27, note ad loc. (pp. 109-10), and esp. pp. 61-5; compare R.F. Leslie (ed.), The Wanderer (Manchester, 1966), pp. 70-1, and see also T.G. Tucker, A Concise Etymological Dictionary of Latin (Halle/Saale, 1931), svv. "memini," "memor" (p. 154). On the textual compositionality of the poem see Carol Braun Pasternack, The Textuality of Old English Poetry (Cambridge, 1995), Chap. 2: "The Polyphony of The Wanderer" (pp. 33-59). Discussion here of the poem's dialogic construction (acknowledging Kristeva) concedes the multiple aspects of contrastive text-modes (pp. 51-2) but stops short of fully recognizing a thought-dialectic between and by means of discrepant components.

(40) These actions to which Wordsworth refers are not at a peak of noble benevolence in the soul, but in the baseline details of daily life, virtuous and unreflective habituation (compare "moral virtue comes about as a result of habit": Aristotle, Nich. Ethics, trans. David Ross, rev. J.L. Ackrill and J.O. Urmson [Oxford, 1980], II.1 [p. 28]) The formation of what is a person, intimated here, is in steep contrast to other models, as in argument about the psychoanalytic development of individuated selfhood: that human love spurs regression to the satisfaction of previously undifferentiated self-identity, but that also "the libidinal, sexual or life instincts ... are best comprised under the name love; their purpose would be to form living substance into even greater unities, so that life may be prolonged and brought to higher development" (Freud, cited by Jonathan Lear, Love and its Place in Nature: A Philosophical Interpretation of Freudian Psychoanalysis [London, 1990], p. 150). Lear comments (paraphrasing Freud): "Whatever its regressive tendencies, love is also a force within us for development into an ever more complex and higher unity" (p. 153). But then: "Because my love affair is with a distinctly existing world, I must be disappointed by it. A distinctly existing world cannot possible satisfy all my wishes. Out of the ensuing frustration and disappointment, I am born" (p. 160). And thus: "Psychic structure, Freud realizes, is created by a dialectic of love and loss" (p. 160, compare also p. 177), and "There is thus established a libidinal dialectic of development" (p. 162). Love is thereby a self-concept, endued with a function similar to Coleridge's imagination, to promote a noble resolving unity, "a certain harmony in the soul" (p. 187) as the good telos even if ultimately delusional, in the sense of what Lear describes as sublimation (p. 179). Validation of autonomy by these procedures can in last resort only be circular and self-fulfilling, because the baseline order of material reality has been preemptively subsumed into the drama of uplifted human purpose.

(41) Thus the tacit phonological trace, shadowing and directing the activism of surface, releases the power of latent thematic presence: "But terms such as 'humanity,' however dislocated and estranged, remain no more than totems if uncarried and unsustained through integrative cadence, tensed against a viscous or obdurate semantics--inconsistent and impure in diction also. The vocabulary for describing cadence is embarrassingly inadequate; I understand cadence as the relation between a particular body of syntactic gestures in the writer's work, and the involuntary but acknowledged participations in the larger and more impersonal careers of death and love, so cadence would both reincorporate and is tensed against the depressive complexities of the local" (Wilkinson, "Cadence," in his The Lyric Touch, p. 146). Cadence is termed integrative because, in the terms being advanced here, it arises within the textual domain subsequent to all the reductions which separate this domain from natural experience, recuperating and reinstating a new utterance manifold that can set in excursive relation the counter-positions of poetic argument: what Wilkinson terms "the poem's ambition" (p. 146): "What I call integrative cadence, at least proposes for poetry an ethical future; so to write is an endless forward cast" (p. 147).

(42) John Milton, The Poems, ed. John Carey and Alastair Fowler (London, 1968), Paradise Lost, ed. Alastair Fowler, IV. 449-91 (pp. 639-41). The passage is discussed in close detail in Bradford, Silence and Sound, pp. 74-9, also in Richard J. DuRocher, Milton and Ovid (Ithaca, NY, 1985), pp. 85-93, and Mark Edmundson, Towards Reading Freud: Self-Creation in Milton, Wordsworth, Emerson, and Sigmund Freud (Princeton, 1990), Chap. 2: "New Thresholds: 'On Narcissism, an Introduction,' 1914" (pp. 55-86); compare also P.H. (Patrick Hume), Annotations on Milton's Paradise Lost ... (London, 1695), pp. 150-1.

(43) "[O]n flours" is modernized by Fowler to "flowers" and emended (on flimsy grounds), from "on" to "of"; Ricks prints "flow'rs" for "flours" but does not tamper with "on" (Christopher Ricks [ed.], John Milton: Paradise Lost [New York, 1968; London, 1989], p.91).

(44) Compare the first-edition spelling practice of Paradise Lost (London, 1667 [the Scolar Press Facsimile, Menston, 1972]), where the lines quoted are printed thus: "That day I oft remember, when from sleep / I first awak't, and found myself repos'd / Under a shade on flours" (sig. [N.sub.2.sup.[r-v]]); for detailed discussion see R.G. Moyles, The Text of Paradise Lost: A Study in Editorial Procedure (Toronto, 1985), "Spelling Preterites and Past Participles" (pp. 102-106). Milton (or perhaps his compositor) will also employ such forms as "seemd," "returnd," "fixt," "warnd," inconsistent with the use of the apostrophe (Moyles, pp. 106- 111) but, in the view experimentally advanced here, consistent with a phonologically motivated practice.

(45) Barnhart, Dictionary, s.v. (p. 724).

(46) Paradise Lost, ed. Fowler, p. 429; but per contra, B.A. Wright (ed.) Milton: Poems (London, 1956), p. vii, and compare Ricks (ed.) Paradise Lost, p. xxix.

(47) Barnhart, Dictionary, s.v. (p. 385); Pokorny, Worterbuch, s.v. "e. pr-" (I, p. 813); Orel, Handbook, s.v. "*furai (adv.)", p. 119; Tucker, Concise Etymological Dictionary, s.vv. "per" (p. 182), "prior" (p. 194). Other retrospect problems concerning the firstness of the "first parents" became a celebrated conundrum: Sir Thomas Browne described Eve as one "who was not solemnly begotten, but suddenly framed, and anomalously proceeded from Adam"; and yet "the formation of things at first was different from their generation after; and although it had no thing to precede, it was aptly contrived for that which should succeed it" (Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica: Or, Enquiries into Very Many received Tenents, And commonly presumed Truths [London, 1646], Book V, Chap. V: "Of the Picture of Adam and Eve with Navells" [pp. 239-40], pp. 239, 240).

(48) Sacrificial: the consequent necessary mortality is not individually specific, even by typology, but is generic for all mankind and in all ages following; and see also William Empson, Milton's God (rev. ed., London, 1965), pp. 236-53 and ff.

(49) Consider also this contrast within the concept of language performance: "This points to one of the most basic properties of phonology, and clarifies another essential difference between phonetics and phonology. Phonetics studies language sound as a continuous property. A phonological analysis relies on an important idealization of language sound, that the continuous speech signal can be analyzed as a series of discrete segments with constant properties. ... For the purposes of grammar, physical sound contains way too much information to allow us to make meaningful and general statements about language sound, and we require a way to represent just the essentials of language sounds. A phonological representation of an utterance reduces this great mass of phonetic information to a cognitively based minimum, a sequence of discrete segments" (Odden, Introducing Phonology, pp. 14-15).

(50) Compare e.g. Bradford, Silence and Sound, pp. 48-9, 91 -2; also James Longenbach: "Unlike Frost, Moore and Williams sometimes want their formal gestures to feel more calculated than organic: rather than allowing us to take the formal procedures of art for granted, they want us to feel the imposition of pattern on language, and that imposition forces us to ask questions we might profitable ask of any poem, no matter how natural or inevitable its procedures might seem. How can one tell when the effect created by the relationship between syntax and line is driven by necessity? How can one make arbitrariness itself a necessity?" (James Longenbach, The Art of the Poetic Line [Saint Paul, MN, 2008], p. 61). And yet the questions which Longenbach here assigns to the reader (us, we) must reside and be active within the textual domain, its argument not at first with us but with itself.

(51) On the textual constitution of printed and visible page-formats see e.g. Joseph Loewenstein, "Printing and 'The Multitudinous Presse': The Contentious Texts of Jonson's Masques," in Jennifer Brady and W.H. Herendeen (eds.), Ben Jonson's 1616 Folio (Cranbury, NJ, 1991), pp. 168-91; and Rene Riese Hubert, "The Postmodern Line and the Postmodern Page," in Robert Frank and Henry Sayre (eds.), The Line in Postmodern Poetry (Urbana, IL, 1988), pp. 132-51 ("warning ... not to confuse optical and mental space", p. 133).

(52) Compare e.g. Malcolm Bowie, Mallarme and the Art of Being Difficult, pp. 66-89; Ellen Bryant Voigt, "Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song," The Kenyon Review, XXV [2003], 144-63 (esp. pp. 152-3); also Hugh Kenner, "Rhyme; An Unfinished Monograph" (1983), Common Knowledge, 10 [2004], 377-425.

(53) The semantic connection between "bless" and "blood" by the link of consecration through mortal sacrifice is in fact virtually unique to English; most other IE word-forms are from roots with the sense "speak well of? or "make the sign of the cross" (thus invoking divine favour). Compare on the Vulgate vocabulary J.K. Aitken, The Semantics of Blessing and Cursing in Ancient Hebrew (Louvain, 2007), p. 36. But the IE pedigrees for words with the sense "blood" and the sense "sacrifice" are very close: Old English blod ("blood"), Old Norse blot ("sacrifice, worship"); see Pokorny, Worterbuch, s.v. 'bhlagh-men-' (I, p. 154); Orel, Handbook, pp. 50-1. It is also contentious to speak of "innocent" blood, since in cultic sacrifice the purgation of contamination and transgression within a community, in propitiation of divine anger, presumes collective or at least arbitrary but non-optional vicarious guilt (the "Antigone" question). "As religious reality claims precedence over mundane reality, frightful dealings with death and killing gain overwhelming importance in the form of funerary and sacrificial rituals"; "Here the magical interpretation avoids the realization of self-incurred guilt and projects the cause to malign aggression coming from without, even if the cure the innocent victim has to undergo may be circumstantial, unpleasant, and costly" (Burkert, Creation of the Sacred, pp. 32, 120). And further, the comment by Rene Girard: "One must note the fact that, in sacrifice, before the victim is sacrificed, he, she, or it is made to appear guilty" (Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly [ed.], Violent Origins: Walter Burkert, Rene Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation [Stanford, 1987], p. 182; on sacrifice and gift see pp. 166-7).

(54) Acrobatic displays or sociological rivalries expressed in style contests are sometimes the quite flimsy basis for assertion of "a dialectic perspective"; see e.g. Catherine M. Cameron, Dialectics in the Art: The Rise of Experimen-talism in American Music (Westport, CT, 1996), pp. 122-3. For a more truly substantive musical dialectic compare the finale to Bellini's Norma (1831): "The opera culminates in Norma's recovery of all her most noble and fully human attributes: love--romantic, maternal, filial; self-sacrifice and courage. And in manifesting these qualities Norma simultaneously redeems Pollione and Oroveso, enabling them too to become fully human. The tragic irony of the scene resides in the fact that this moment, transcendental in terms of Norma's humanity, coincides with her utmost humiliation as high priestess: the stripping other priestly coronet, the black veil, the funeral pyre, the commination. ... The metrical organization of this scene is more complex than anything else in the opera ..."(David Kimbell, Vincenzo Bellini,"Norma" [Cambridge, 1998], p. 64; see also pp. 40-1). To be considered here is: "It is very likely that at an early stage of its composition Paradise Lost was conceived not as an epic but as a tragedy," and "the whole poem can be seen as tragic, because of our knowledge of the fateful conclusion" (Paradise Lost, ed. Fowler, pp. 419, 422).

(55) Compare Noam Chomsky's view: "Preserving 'historical memory' unsullied by apologetics is no less important for the permanent victors, who can be called to account only by their own citizens. That is particularly true when the institutional roots of past practices persist. Those who want to understand today's world will take note of Britain's actions from the days when it created modern Iraq for its own convenience, ensuring Iraq's dependency. And they will not overlook Britain's practices until the regime it imposed and supported was overthrown in 1958" (Noam Chomsky, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy [New York, 2007], p. 142; on Christian Fundamentalism in American politics see pp. 223-4). For a more placatory view compare Edmundson, Towards Reading Freud, p. 165.

(56) Not thus to focus even when the issue is recognized is to slide away into opposition rather than commit to dialectic: "Here [in George Oppen's encounter with Jacques Maritain] we can trace an emergent poetics committed to acknowledging the world's materiality but at the same time to making the act of creative perception a defence against what Maritain had called the 'subject as matter, marked with the opacity and voracity of matter, like the I of the egoist' (106)" (Peter Nicholls, George Oppen and The Fate of Modernism [Oxford, 2007], p. 43; the whole of Chap. 2 [pp. 30-61] bears around this issue). Tim Woods identifies a comparable oscillation of focus: "It is as if the language-metaphor best exemplifies the unsettling of the self between subject and object" (The Poetics of the Limit: Ethics and Politics in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry [New York, 2002], Chap, 7: "'Things at the limits of reason: George Op-pen's Materialist Ethics" [pp. 215-33], p. 219); this unsettling may be a site of acute ethical discomfort, but it also develops aspects of a comfortable occupancy ("tentativeness" and "hesitation" [pp. 223-4] are also rhetorical habitats, as they too often were in Robert Creeley's work). For needle-point irony concerning such comforts, be reminded of Chaucer's "character" of the Prioresse ("Amor vincit omnia") in his "General Prologue" to The Canterbury Tales, 118-62 (L.D. Benson [ed.], The Riverside Chaucer [3rd ed., Boston, 1987], pp. 25-6). For pre-Socratic counter-values compare this comment on Parmenides, frag. 8: "Justice and True Trust operate on coming-to-be and perishing in order to deny them" (Scott Austin, "Parmenidean Dialectic" in his Parmenides and the History of Dialectic: Three Essays [Las Vegas, 2007], p.11).

(57) Compare e.g., J.H. Prynne, "Huts," Textual Practice, 22 (2008), 613-33 (esp. pp. 628-31); Ellen F. Fitzpatrick (ed.), Muckraking: Three Landmark Articles (New York, 1994); James Scully, Line Break: Poetry as Social Practice (Seattle, 1988; Willimantic, CT, 2005), esp. pp. 128-69, somewhat revised from The Line in Postmodern Poetry, pp. 97-131; Amiri Baraka, Ed Dorn & the Western World (Austin, TX, 2008).
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Title Annotation:University of Chicago, April 2009
Author:Prynne, J. H.
Publication:Chicago Review
Article Type:Speech
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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