Content is Chief, Form is Chaff?

The form of a poem or story (as opposed to its content) is not merely ornamental or window-dressing, nor is it merely “fleshing out” the content. It has its own life within the text, and forms as simple as the note arrangements of classical music or the rhyming pattern (or lack thereof) of a piece of poetry can better expose the need that the production of the work fills. Take-for a ready example-the lines of the Devil in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. When Satan speaks, the parameters of the rhyming schemes seem to melt away, replaced by whatever the character seems to want to say instead of what the syllable count allows. The flow of the poem is thus disrupted greatly by his presence. He ends every line with a violent or intense word, appropriately as he speaks of “dripping poison” into other’s lives to make up for his own bitterness at his inability to experience “sweet interchange.” In this way, the formlessness of those verses showcase the character’s desire for chaos and destruction, in this case of the poem structure, and his intense hatred for all things orderly and peaceful with the enjambment of each line.

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