Basil Bunting and his Briggflatts

  • Jon Silkin


There is a crux Ted Hughes considers in his essay ‘Myths, Metres, Rhythms’, from his collection Winter Pollen (1994), which arises from the domination of accentual-syllabic metre (such as iambic pentameter), where you count up the lines’ stresses (five) and the syllables (ten). And this same principle of counting stresses and syllables applies to other metres within the accentual-syllabic system. This structure, however, differs from the accentual one where you count the stresses but (within reason) do not total the syllables in the line; nor within reason need you have a fixed number of weaker syllables to balance the stressed ones. You may, for instance, have a line of four stresses, two either side of a caesura (as in Anglo-Saxon verse), and this line be integrated with head-rhyme or alliteration. (And of course, accentual verse and ‘sprung rhythm’ are cognate.) Hughes’s point is that the accentual structure was depressed by the rise and subsequent dominance of the accentual-syllabic line.


Persian Version English Verse Verbal Clue Bare Essential Compound Adjective 
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  2. Basil Bunting, A Note on Briggflatts (Durham, Basil Bunting Archive, 1989).Google Scholar
  3. Basil Bunting, Three Essays, edited and introduced by Richard Caddel (Durham, Basil Bunting Poetry Centre, 1994).Google Scholar
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  9. Donald Davie, ‘God and Basil Bunting’, Poetry Review, Vol. 83, No. 1 (1993), pp. 82–3.Google Scholar

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© Jon Silkin 1997

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  • Jon Silkin

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