Deborah White presented me with a quotation (from P. W. Joyce)
and a question off-list:
> "Chevilles. What is called in French a cheville – I do not know
> any Irish or English name for it - is a phrase interjected into
> a line of poetry merely to complete either the measure or the rhyme,
> with little or no use besides. The practice of using chevilles was
> very common in old Irish poetry, and a bad practice it was; for many
> a good poem is quite spoiled by the constant and wearisome recurrence
> of these chevilles."
> Do you agree with this?
Joyce is certainly correct in saying what a cheville is and
how frequently they are encountered. I wonder, however, if
his distaste for them is cultrually biased? Chevilles are
not very common in English poetry, so English readers do not
develop a taste for them. To an Irish listener, they must
have seemed much more natural: a frequent and expected feature
of poetry. Like any other ornament, they could be deployed
well (as a subtle counterpoint to the main flow of the poem?)
or badly (disconnected from the poem, or in excess?).
Any thoughts on this?
Better yet, any examples of chevilles that strike you as
actively enhancing the flow and sense of a poem? Or was
Joyce entirely correct?