Can’t believe it’s…

Can't believe it's almost October. Isn't it amazing how time speeds up as you get older?

Called Kevin last night at 10:00, all stressed about school and such-like. Even across the country he can still calm me down. You know I'm reading Renaissance poetry right now -- I just read a poem of Shakespeare's that sums up exactly how I felt last night:

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

And then this morning I woke at 6:00, very nervous, knowing I had only till 10:50 to cobble together some sort of thesis statement and chunk of outline (at least I hope that's enough, 'cause that's all I did :-). And I read for an hour, and then wrote for 30 minutes, and by 7:30 had it, and it was fine, it was easy, I still don't know why I was so nervous, gosh what a twit I can be. So I had lots of extra time and used it to stop by the local grammar school and talked them into letting me teach a class (volunteer) on writing and publishing. A project I've been planning on for a while -- I need the teaching experience, and I miss kids. Should be some work, but mostly fun, I hope. We'll see.

Oh, in case you were curious, here's my thesis (rough, so far). If anyone's interested, I'll post the paper as well when I'm finished.

(no title yet)

One of the primary characteristics of Renaissance poetry is that much of it was written with the intent that it be later set to music, occasionally by the poet, but more often by a separate composer entirely. In setting verse to music, varied factors must be taken into account. The poem should not be too complex, for when it is sung, words will not always be clear and may sometimes be missed, so that subtleties of language and clever conceits are dangerous -- if they become blurred, the audience may lose the sense of the poem entirely. Repetition therefore becomes even more important, an effective tool for ensuring that the poet's meaning carries through. It also, in the form of repeated lines such as occurred often in refrains, offered the composer the opportunity to insert variety into the music, without creating too much confusion in the audience. As they had already heard, and presumably had the sense of, the lines, the composer could safely play with the repeated verses to his heart's content, inserting complex phrasings and multiple voices. Poets of the period had to be very aware of the composer's desire to do so, and allow for it, rather than have such complications occur in a less felicitous line, destroying his intent.

Poets and musicians of the time regarded the line as the lyrical unit, so poets would shape their poems appropriately. As the musical cadence fell at the end of a line, so too must the rhyme, and often the sense of the line; enjambment was a rare device. A poet who employed it ran the risk of having a singer lay the weight of the line on its last word, regardless of whether the word in question was an appropriate one on which to stand. Poets had to also consider musical considerations in placing the caesura, to coincide with the cadences. There could be some variation, to avoid monotony, but the caesuras needed to be fairly regular, and indeed, many poets produced extremely regular poetry as a result, often creating lines and stanzas with highly parallel structures.

Crescendoes and decrescendoes must have also be considered in writing Renaissance poetry, as must the singer's tendency to emphasize certain words, the possible insertion by the composer of nonsense syllables as refrain if the poet did not provide something suitable himself, and a host of smaller devices. Poets of the time would have been both consciously and subconsciously aware of the musical form and contemporary conventions of style, and this clearly greatly influenced their work. It is indeed futile to attempt analysis of poetry of the period without taking into account musical influence; music's structure and requirements were constantly in the minds of the poets, even when constructing poems not intended to be set to music, and ignoring that influence risks ignoring much of the poet's intentions.

  • Detailed expansion of different influences of music on poetry, with examples.
  • A. Analysis of poem(s) without taking into account music
  • B. Analysis of same with.
  • Conclusion

Works Consulted

Pattison, Bruce, Music and Poetry of the English Renaissance
Ratcliffe, Stephen, Campion: On Song
Welsford, Enid, The Court Masque: A Study in the Relationship Between Poetry and the Revels

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