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Metrical Complexity in Christina Rossetti's Verse

Fabb, N.A.J. and Halle, M. (2006) Metrical Complexity in Christina Rossetti's Verse. College Literature, 33 (2). pp. 91-114. ISSN 0093-3139

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Abstract

Bracketed Grid Theory interprets metricality as fundamentally a matter of counting syllables, with rhythm derived from counting. Syllables are grouped into pairs or triplets, which in turn are grouped, thus building a scansion from the line. The article compares the traditional approach to meter with its inventory of feet as building-blocks combined to make a scansion of a line which expresses the rhythms of its performance. It applies this theory to a strict iambic meter and a loose iambic meter, each used by Rossetti, and shows that though the number of syllables in the line varies in the latter it is nevertheless scanned by a counting system. The article shows that in the poem "Up-hill" Rossetti uses a strict meter to mimic the rhythmic effect of a loose meter. The essay formulates a theory of metrical mimicry because it distinguishes between underlying meter and performed rhythm.