In Which I Learn a Newish Thing, Possibly Again


So I was over at reading about Gerard Manley Hopkins, the great Jesuit poet, and one of the interesting facts about him that was mentioned was this rhythm he invented. According to Encyclopedia Brittanica:

Sprung rhythm, an irregular system of prosody developed by the 19th-century English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. It is based on the number of stressed syllables in a line and permits an indeterminate number of unstressed syllables. In sprung rhythm, a foot may be composed of from one to four syllables. (In regular English metres, a foot consists of two or three syllables.) Because stressed syllables often occur sequentially in this patterning rather than in alternation with unstressed syllables, the rhythm is said to be “sprung.” Hopkins claimed to be only the theoretician, not the inventor, of sprung rhythm. He saw it as the rhythm of common English speech and the basis of such early English poems as Langland’s Piers Plowman and nursery rhymes such as: Ding dong, bell,/Pussys in the well.

Sprung rhythm is a bridge between regular metre and free verse. An example of Hopkins’ use of it, from “Spring and fall to a Young Child,” is: Margaret are you grieving/Over Goldengrove unleaving?

I think this is what I have been doing without knowing it when I say that I am using a loose version of iambic pentameter in the poetry project I have been working on. Gosh, and here I thought I had invented something. Who knew?

Sprung Rhythm. Encyclopedia Brittanica. 2015. Web. 20 April 2015.

One comment on “In Which I Learn a Newish Thing, Possibly Again

  1. PJS says:

    Don’t forget about inscape and instress!


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