Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Prose vs. Verse

Well, I think that I"m going to re-write the Blog that I wrote on Sunday night--I had been very distracted by my mum's surgery that was scheduled for the following day. When I went back and actually read what I had written, I wasn't happy with it. I had tried to write aout the ways that Shakespeare used prose and verse intermittently in his play Henry IV, Part I to emphasize character and plot importance, but I realized that I had totally missed the mark with the way that I was trying to articulate what I had learned (and found very interesting) in one of my classes. But I digress...I think I'll try doing a Blog on the differences between prose and verse and then share with you my favourite examples of each.

In my opinion, prose, simply put, is the normal language that we speak. Prose is also what constitutes a novel or textbook. There is no metrical pattern or rhyming scheme, for example. Prose can be very informal or quite formal, depending on the speaker/writer. Prose is very personal and varies from individual to individual, and consequently, has varied frequently throughout history. The prose that Marlow used will undoubtedly be different from the prose that we use today in the 21st century. The following passage comes from one of my favourite examples of prose:

"In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn't make. Life itself was in him, and this life fives light to everyone. The light shines through the darkness, and the darkeness can never extinguish it." (John, 1:1-5, NLT Bible).

As you can see, the sentences in this quotation flow right after one another. There is no special format to the lines of the passage (ie: it is not formed through stanzas). This passage is written exactly the way it would be read or spoken.

In contrast to prose, however, verse is a more structured literary genre. Loosely put, verse is poetry. It is often broken up into specific lines, which may or may not have a rhyming scheme, there can be an ictic base to verse. In a sense, poetry can be considered to be a kind of 'ordered language'--implying that there are very strict rules which define what is and what is not verse.
Let me now share with you an excert from my favourite poem entitled "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyse:

I
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight, over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding-
Riding-riding-
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
(http://www.cs.pdx.edu/~trent/ochs/lyrics/highwayman-orig.html)

In this excerpt of "The Highwayman", you can easily see a rhyming pattern with lines 'a' and 'b' and lines 'c' and 'f'. Furthermore, it can be seen how verse is broken down into specific lines, regardless of whether or not a sentence is finished (as you can see, the entire first part of this poem is one sentence). And finally, when you are reading this excerpt, it is read differently than the one included above--it has sing-song style about it.

Prose and Verse: two very different literary genres, of which I enjoy both!!!


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What fun! I didn't think anyone had read Alfred Noyes for at least eighty years. When I was a nipper the received idea was that Noyes was Bad Poetry. So I went and read him, obviously. Found him not as bad as all that. True, others have done better what he did -- have you ever read Walter De La Mare's "The Listeners"? -- but he's a nice poety poet, just right when you want nice poety poetry. Like on stormy winter nights when the house (or the apartment) feels just right, and the tea and/or brandy tastes very good.

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