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sprung rhythm

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A term invented by G. M. Hopkins to describe his own idiosyncratic poetic metre, as opposed to normal ‘running’ rhythm, the regular alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables. Hopkins maintained that sprung rhythm existed, unrecognized, in Old English poetry and in Shakespeare, Dryden, and Milton (notably in Samson Agonistes). It is distinguished by a metrical foot consisting of a varying number of syallables. The extra, ‘slack’ syllables added to the established patterns are called ‘outrides’ or ‘hangers’. Hopkins demonstrated the natural occurrence of this rhythm in English by pointing out that many nursery rhymes employed it, e.g.

Díng, Dóng, Béll,

Pússy's in the wéll.

He felt strongly that his poetry should be read aloud, but seems to have felt that the words themselves were not enough to suggest the intended rhythms, and frequently added various diacritical markings. Some critics have suggested that sprung rhythm is not a poetic metre at all, properly speaking, merely Hopkins's attempt to force his own personal rhythm into an existing pattern, or recognizable variation of one, and that his sprung rhythm is in fact closer to some kinds of free verse or polyphonic prose.

Subjects: Literature

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