19 December 2008

Blake's symmetry

Will someone please enlighten me about the pronunciation of William Blake's "symmetry" in "Tiger, tiger, burning bright / In the forests of the night / What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry"? All the other rhymes in that poem are easy to see, except this one with "symmetry." One of the most difficult aspects of English for those not born to the language is pronunciation. That is why poetry in a second language is much more difficult than fiction, since poetry, as Cirilo F. Bautista loves to say, is primarily sound, with sense merely an adjunct.

1 comment:

  1. Sense merely an adjunct of sounbd in poetry? Cirilo Bautista, being the "sense" poet that he has always been, should probably have "pontificated" that in poetry the sounds make sense. Yevtushenko recited his poetry to vast crowds, and the Russians lapped it all up. Poetry was meant to be recited even in Graeco-Roman times -- these were the "raps" of the agoras and the arena. They also had healing functions in Aristotelian estimate. They engendered catharsis in audiences -- the equivalent, of course, of our aesthetic experience in contemporary literary theory and criticism. They were "entertainment." Somewhere along the way, ineptitude in spoken language (corrupted intonations, pronunciations, accentuations etc.) killed the aural/oral tradition of poetry. Second languages as media for poets who have not mastered the
    "adopted and adapted" language contributed to this aberration.

    Come to think of it, my most prized collections in poetry are the recordings of Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot as they read their own poems. Basil Rathbone's Shakespearian readings are a pleasure specially in one's "dottage" (as my children describe my pre-slumber audio-video sessions in my study.)