Monday, 29 February 2016

Prosody: Guide for the Beginners


Let us recollect once again Wordsworth’s worth-quoting line about poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”. Poetry is an art by which the poet projects his feelings, thoughts and experiences on to an imaginative plane, by weaving some rhythmical words, to stir the emotions and imaginations. Edgar Allan Poe has beautifully defined poetry as “rhythmical creation of beauty.” Again, Watts Dunton has some voice as ‘Poetry seems to acquire not only intellectual life and emotional life but also rhythmical life.” Well, from the above discussion one thing is almost clear that rhythmical charm is the salt of poetry.

What are the basic differences between Poetry and Verse?

We all know that poetry is both imaginative and metrical composition. Poetry may be without rhyme and regular metre as in free verse. “Verse" is writing in which stressed and unstressed syllables are organised into rhythmic patterns. It refers a group of metrical composition, such as iambic verse. It has been rightly described as “a series of rhythmical syllables, divided by pauses and determined in script to occupy a single line.”

What is Prosody?

The word ‘prosody’ comes from ancient Greek, where it was used for a “song sung with instrumental music”. In later times the word was used for the “science of versification” and the “laws of metre”, governing the modulation of the human voice in reading poetry aloud. In modern phonetics, the word ‘prosody’ and its adjectival form ‘prosodic’ are most often used to refer to those properties of speech that cannot be derived from the segmental sequence of phonemes underlying human utterances. Without any hesitation we may justify prosody as “the grammar of verse” (Nesfield).

 It is the study of the rhythm, stress, and intonation. Prosody has two branches-
1)                       Ortheopy (dealing with the quantity and accent of syllables, emphasis, pauses and tones).
2)                       Versification (dealing with the laws of metre).

Prosody, therefore, is concerned with the external framework of verse not with its internal thoughts.

Like music, poetry is attached with the modulation of speech. It is based on two elements- time and tone. While time is expressed by quantity, tone is presented through accent.


The unit of pronunciation is called syllable. A syllable is a sound or a combination of sounds which can be pronounced at a time with single force. It may consist of a full word or a part of a word.  A syllable depends upon a vowel sound no matter how many vowels are there. The number of syllables in a word is equivalent to that of vowel sounds.
  Number of vowel sounds in a word = Number of syllables
Such as, the word ‘soul’ is a monosyllabic in spite of having double vowels, but only one vowel sound. Apparently the very word ‘beautiful’ is a tri-syllabic (beau-ti-ful), although there are five vowels.


Stress is ‘a strong or special exertion of the voice on one word, or one part of the word, so as to distinguish from another.” It is a generic name comprising both emphasis and accent, which are in fact, special type of stress


Accent is the stress or loudness of voice thrown upon a single syllable in pronouncing a word. It helps the particular syllable to stand out from the other syllable.

Example: for-GIVE, LOVE-ing (Accent are given on the capital part of the words)

Emphasis is the stress or loudness of voice deliberately thrown upon an entire word to distinguish it from another.

Example: Him I like, her I hate. Silver and gold I have none. (The italic words are emphasized)


Rhythm is the flow of sound resulting from the stress variations of the spoken language. The very word ‘rhythm’ originates from Greek ‘ruthmos’ which means ‘measured motion’ or ‘flow’.  It may be defined as ‘a recurrence of similar phenomena at the regular intervals of time’.
A word has fallen rhythm when the stress falls at the beginning of it, e.g. beaú – ty. Another way, in the word, in-ter-rúpt, and stress falls at the end to present rising rhythm.

Each accented syllable makes one metrical division of a line of verse. This metrical division is called a foot. “A Foot consists of one accented syllable and one unaccented syllable”. The number of syllable to a foot is generally two: it may, however, be three, but it cannot be less than two or more than three.
I am sharing with you an example: The DAYS / are COLD / the NIGHT/ are LONG

Here, each foot consists of two syllables, first one unaccented and the later one accented. Hence we may say that it is di-syllabic foot.    


The term ‘metre’ comes from Greek ‘metron’ meaning ‘measure’. The arrangement of sounds in poetry into patterns of strong and weak beats is known as meter. In other words, Meter is the rhythmic, recurring pattern of accented and unaccented syllables. It can be used in prose and plays, though it is most commonly found in poetry. A piece of writing may contain several different types of meters, but there is usually a dominant pattern that follows throughout.

The metre is actually denominated on the basis of the nature of feet and the number in feet in a verse.

                             Nature of feet + Number of feet = Metre

In the same line- The DAYS / are COLD / the NIGHT/ are LONG
So we may say that the line is written in iambic tetra (four) metre.


Rime or rhyme means the recurrence of the similar sound at the closing syllable of different lines in poetry. It is actually the correspondence of the same sound at the terminating syllable or syllables.


Sunday, 28 February 2016

How is the glory of the Past contrasted with their Present plight in A.K. RAmanujan's poem "The Last of the Princes"? OR Comment on the element of pathos in the poem. OR Trace the element of irony in the poem.

 A.K. RAmanujan's poem "The Last of the Princes"

A. K.  Ramanujan’s celebrated poem, “The Last of the Princes” is a tragic commentary on the pathetic pen-picture of present plight of once-powerful princes. The law of history ever walks in its own way. In the ongoing flux of time many vast empires and many mighty emperors come and go. But few princes belonging to the royal dynasty still survive. They lead their lives amidst dire poverty and utter wretchedness. Once they were sitting at the zenith of power, pelf and pomp. But now they have nothing to cheer about. A sense of nostalgia of their ancient majesty pervades them. They now, only boost for their ancestral titles and half-dilapidated buildings. Under the debris of history, they search for a few pebbles of their past princely glory.

The poet takes the most powerful emperor, the Mughal Dynasty to exhibit the pathos in the mind of the readers. After the death of Aurangzeb, the last celebrated prince of the Mughal Dynasty, this mighty empire begun to decline. All the past glory was faded. The empire was divided into small regions. Gradually the British started overpowering on innocent Indians and on the then rulers. Their financial condition became worse. Some of the princes died of bone tuberculosis other of cold climate while they led their life in utter luxury in London. Some of them died of addiction of imported foreign liquor. They got married with the foreign girls. The native rulers considered it a status symbol to have white women as wife. There were quite a few rulers who met heroic death fighting against the British. Ballads have been written in praising their deeds. The princes lost their fathers, brothers, sisters, wives and their children.

Sometimes their charming sisters committed suicide hanging them on the ceiling unable to bear the molestations of some rogues. The women used to keep mynahs and parrots in the harem. Every one of them died and remained as a historical memory. 

But the last of the princes still survives. The poet now nicely paints the physical conditions of them. He inherits long fingers, painting-like face and blind belief in snakes. He constantly coughs and sneezes. Phlegm comes out his mouth. His liver is not functioning well. Sometimes he suffers from loose motion and sometimes constipation. Now he is so poor that he finds it difficult to provide formal education to his daughters, Honey and Bunny. They go to school only on half fees. His wife puts on a pearl nose-ring as a symbol of their past glory.  All her heirlooms except the nose-ring have been sold to make ends meet. His eldest son is forced to take low-paid job as a trainee in the telegraph office. He has already telegraphed his father thrice for money. But his poor father is incapable to provide the demand for his dead-end condition.

An undercurrent of pathos runs through the entire poem. Ramanujan has ironically attacked the snobbish mentality of the last princes, their bad habits, their intoxication to imported wine and wife and their unpatriotic fervor.  

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Give the brief summary of R. K. Narayan’s short story “Father’s Help”

brief summary of R. K. Narayan’s short story “Father’s Help”

In the short story titled “Fathers Help” the famous Indian English writer R.K Narayan unravels the inner psyche of school going child. Through the fabrication of false stories regarding his teacher and his subsequent attempts to justify his ends by Swaminathan, the protagonist of the story hold the main theme. This short story highlights the need of understanding between parents and children, and the significance of ideal teacher pupil relationship.              

In the beginning of the story we find Swamy the protagonist of the story plays truant and lies his mother that he has headache. As he showed reluctance to go to school his mother asked him if he had any important lessons that day. In reply Swamy opined that the geography teacher had been teaching the same lesson for over a year now and arithmetic period meant for the whole period the students were going to be punished. His generous mother permitted him to stay at home. Though he could fool his mother, by the entry of his stubborn father, his fate took another turn. When he realised that he couldn't adjust the situation with his headache, he changed his tactics. He told his father that he would be punished by his teacher if he went late to school.       

To substantiate his argument, he gave a lurid account of falsehood regarding his teacher Samuel that he would beat children until he saw blood and made them smear it on their forehead like a vermillion marking. Hearing all this, his adamant father forced Swamy to school with a letter addressed the head master.    

On his way to school, Swamy felt that he was the worst perjurer on earth. Apart from the hearsays there was no knowledge of Samuel cruelties within his mind. To justify what has been written in the letter he wanted Samuel to do something. So that he decided to deliver the letter at the end of the day.           

When Swamy reached his class room, Samuel was teaching arithmetic. Beyond all his expectations, Samuel permitted him to enter the class. Thereafter, Swamy was deliberately provoking Samuel, whereas all his efforts were of no use. The arithmetic period came to an end. In the last period of the day, when Samuel came to teach Indian history Swamy played all hi tricks and his skills to the fullest possible extant to enrage Samuel . without being able to tolerate Swamy unwanted questions and yells, Samuel caned him. Being jubilant he rushed to the head master room, but found the room locked. When curiously asked about the head master the peon informed him that the head master would be on leave for a week, asked him to handover the letter to the assistant head master who was Samuel. Hearing this he fled from the place. As soon as he reached home, hearing Swamy excuses, father reproached him calling a coward. Father tore the letter in to pieces commenting you deserve your Samuel.


Saturday, 20 February 2016

Some Impotant Explanations from Spenser's Sonnet No. 75 (Oneday I Wrote Her Name upon the Strand)

Some Impotant Explanations from Spenser's Sonnet No. 75

“Vayne man” sayd she, “That doest in vaine assay,
A mortal thing so to immortalize
For I myself shall lyke to this decay,
And eek my name bee wyped out likewise.”

The above quoted extract from ‘Sonnet No. 75’ is ultimately from Edmund Spenser’s book of verse The Amoretti. The beloved harshly mocks at the lover’s futile efforts to immortalize her name as well as herself. The lover is trying is best to preserve her sweetheart’s name on the sandy shore eternally. The hungry tides come and wash the name away. The lover does the same job number of times but gets the same result. In this way, the waves put the water into all the endeavors made by the lover. On noticing this vain efforts the beloved, in an ironical tone teases her lover’s excessive pride and vanity. The first ‘vayne’ refers to the boastful person who commits stupid things. The second ‘vaine’ suggests the fruitless and useless attempt. Being a woman of flesh and blood she is bound to perish. She is well aware that she has no escape from time’s icy hand. Besides raising a realistic note, her statement is flung at the lover as a sort of challenge. It further brings out the grim problem, the mortal nature of youth and beauty in the world of transitoriness.

“Not so” quod I “let baser things devise
To dy in dust, but you shall live by fame.”

In a taunting tone, the poet’s beloved (Elizabeth Boyle) has laughed at the futile attempt to immortalize the mortal things. The extract quoted above is the fitting reply to the mistress’ scoffing remark. The lover argues that things of inferior quality may devise to die in dust. Things that decay and die are base. This brings to our mind the Scholastic theory of the nature of substances propounded by St. Thomas Aquinas. It says that base metal such as iron decays because of its inferiority, but gold because of  its sterling quality and integrity shines forever. Keeping this theory in mind, the poet lover announces that his lady love’s supreme qualities like pure love, fidelity, beauty, modesty and chastity must not perish in course of time. These exceptional virtues will remain forever.  The lover will immortalize those in his verse. Art has the power and capacity to conquer over tome and death. Her love being made of pure stuff will, therefore, know no destruction.

My verse your virtues rare shall etrnize,
And in the heavens wryte your glorious name,
Where whenas death shall all the world subdew,
Our love shall live and later life renew.

This is the concluding couplet of Spenser’s ‘Sonnet No. 75’ from The Amoretti. The lines are full of Spenser’s robust optimism and self confidence. Though his lady love is doubtful about his endeavor to immortalize mortal creature in the mortal world, the lover bears a strong sense of faith on the wings o poesy. He assert that though he cannot prevent her physical decay, his eternal verse will preserve the rare qualities of his paramour. What more can one expect from her lover? Yes, the lover desires to write her ‘glorious name’ in the heaven so that it may blaze forever in fiery letters. This love is so full of passion that it will put new vigour and vitality in the ‘later life’. Definitely, it will inspire and refresh the minds of the lover and the beloved of the come-up-ages about the true quality of love. These lines clearly reflect the perpetual existence of art and love in the world-of-death. As long as art and love exist, the world too exists. 

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