The Chances of Rhyme: Device and Modernity by Donald Wesling

By Donald Wesling

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16 One would only add, as a post-Modern postscript, that we are still very far from a systematic description of the seemingly infinite variety of the abridging process. After 1795, language comes to be seen as the device both of eloigning and connecting. In the way it contains a rapport within a difference, the Romantic theory of language as enactive secondary modeling system is complementary to those weaker notions, poetry-as-nature and style-as-man. Analyzed into its final terms it is not a facile primitivism, despite those symptomatic wind, water, and plant-growth analogies for mind and style; but rather, at best, a complex tension maintained between cognitive and aesthetic modes, with the text as "a middle quality between a thought and a thing, or .

Such verbal play involves words in the same or different grammatical categories, as when verb rhymes with verb, noun with adjective, and so on; but one ascends a scale to rhyme words pitched at different levels of diction, and last to the height of rhyme words linked by a power of associative fusion in the poet's mind. '")24 Wimsatt defines most clearly the permutations of sound and sense, in their identity and in their difference. Wimsatt's essay does not limit itself altogether to eighteenth-century examples.

26 (Chiasmus is an inversion of the order of words in two corresponding parallel phrases or clauses, or of words when repeated. ") The historical axis of the "reason" essay runs from Chaucer through the transcendent Pope to his disciple Byron. However it does not press further to consider the relation of the device to modern practice. I wrote to Wimsatt to ask why he limited his study to the eighteenth century. In my letter I must have commented on the difficulty of writing on device and modernity, because his reply, dated July 14, 1971, very sharply defended his choice of dealing with the heroic couplet in its highest manifestation: About my study of rhyme being made "easy" .

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