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Dying Speech of an Old Philosopher(1849)

Walter Savage Landor

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife:
MeterI strove with none, for none was worth my strife:
Nature I loved, and, next to Nature, Art:
MeterNature I loved, and, next to Nature, Art:
I warm’d both hands before the fire of Life;
MeterI warm’d both hands before the fire of Life;
It sinks; and I am ready to depart.
MeterIt sinks; and I am ready to depart.

Note on line 4:The noble stoicism of our speaker is enriched rhythmically by just a hint of reluctance to accept the limits of mortality in which his philosophy has trained him. Two hints, really. First, feel how the spondee in line 3 pauses, for a heartbeat, over what remains for him the memory of a creature comfort when life still felt warm. Then drop down in line 4 to the disappointment that flickers in the very strong caesura after the first foot. He’s ready, all right, but staying ready takes all his energy at this point. 4B4V prefers straight, durable iambs in this last line. But a reader who wants to prolong the pathos of leave-taking, or to bring out the hint in the title that the old philosopher’s words constitute a form of prosodically “dying speech,” might well scan the first foot as a spondee, the fourth as a pyrrhic.


Rhyme
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