a February bat

a february bat

16 responses

    • No, it’s not a typo, though I’m good at those.

      The opening line is a vernacular elision of a longer grammatical form. Formally written, the line would be: “The bat that has come in…”

      However, in vernacular speech, one frequently omits “that has“. I don’t know if this is a peculiarly American convention, but one hears it in the midwest and New England. Technically speaking, it’s probably poor grammar but I don’t know.

  1. Yes, Mr Gillespie, it does not sound right in an otherwise admirable effort.
    If you don’t mind, can I give a suggestion, though the poem cannot and rather should not be corrected now that it has been published?

    • Hi N., after your comment, and out of curiosity, I explored the grammar.

      It may not sound right to you, but it is a recognized form of grammar in the English language. I was wrong to call it poor grammar, but probably correct in calling it vernacular.

      It’s called a reduced object relative passive clause and is classified under zero relative pronoun. Here is how wikipedia describes it:

      English has a type of clause called the reduced object relative passive clause, exemplified by

      “The horse raced past the barn fell” (=”The horse that was raced past the barn fell”)

      Here both the relative pronoun “that” and the passivizing auxiliary verb “was” are omitted. This type of clause can cause confusion on the part of the reader or listener, because the subordinate-clause verb (“raced”) appears in the usual location of the main-clause verb (immediately after the subject of the main clause). However, this confusion cannot arise with an irregular verb having a past participle that differs from the past tense, as in

      “The horse taken past the barn fell” (=”The horse that was taken past the barn fell”)

      I’ve done the same thing in my poem. I’ve used a reduced object relative passive clause to omit “that has”

      “The bat come in” instead of “The bat that has come…”

      You are welcome to give a suggestion, though I’ve always been fond of this grammatical formulation.

  2. Mr Gillespie,
    There is something ineffable about the first line because the examples that you given sound perfectly right to me, evidently as they are and you are too. I will think more about it.
    I was thinking you could just change the tense a bit-The bat comes in.
    This would create conflict with the fourth line of the first stanza,”Flies room to room.”
    One could change it to ,”Flying room to room”.
    “Flying room” is an anapest, isn’t it?

  3. Mr Gillespie,
    Thanks to you, I have juggled three balls at the same time, for the very first time-rhyme, metre and extended metaphor. This would have been impossible without you. I can’t be but excited to know that there are still dozens of posts left to be read and learnt from.
    Take a bow, Mr Gillespie.

  4. Mr Gillespie,
    the said poem is written in Iambic Trimeter, seven stanzas long with five lines per stanza.
    In the near future, when you feel you have enough leisure to read a stranger’s poem, kindly let me know. I would like to know what you think of it, given that I’ve learnt from you.

  5. Hey Mr Gillespie!
    I read the points above about grammar once again and felt that the one about irregular verb was the vital detail, which is where I have problems.
    Let’s take an example-The horse run past the barn fell.
    There can be two cases-The horse that ‘was’ run past the barn fell.
    The horse that ‘has’ ran past the barn fell.

    In the first case, the horse is the object and there are no confusions.
    But, in the second case, the horse is the subject and it gets murky for me, even though it might be grammatically correct.
    The same goes for your example of the horse ‘taken/raced’ past. If one reads even that elided sentence with horse as the object, there are no issues.

    Which is where I feel, the issue with the poem came up.
    Had the line been ‘The bat brought in’, it would have been clear, as it is the object but being the subject of your first line, it causes a small hitch, though not grammatically incorrect. Also, being from India, I had never heard that variety of vernacular English.

    Also, Mr Gillespie, serendipitously, I have discovered that such sentences are referred to as ‘garden paths’, because you can take one of the many garden paths.
    Hope you will enjoy this-
    http://www.fun-with-words.com/ambiguous_garden_path.html

    • Greetings Mr. Pingle!

      You will be pleased to know that I’ve gotten all the information I need to write up Byron’s poem. On to the grammar.

      I love the term “garden paths” and thank you for the link. :-)

      This allows me to clarify some thoughts: The grammar of the poem reflects a certain kind of elision. Without comparing myself to Shakespeare or other poets, you will find that Shakespeare’s later poetry can be extremely elliptical and that the kinds of ambiguous grammar confusing you are all the more common. It’s one of the reasons younger readers have so much trouble with Shakespeare. He regularly uses subject verb object inversions, omits grammatical units altogether, or uses rhetorical techniques like anthimeria to poetically and powerfully shift meanings of words to create new meanings.

      None of this is meant to compare what I’ve done, in terms of accomplishment, to Shakespeare; only to argue that there’s a tradition from which this springs. Consider the following line from Shelley’s poem Ozymandias:

      …Near them, on the sand,
      Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
      And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
      Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
      Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
      The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

      The last line is so elided that no one, to my knowledge, has ever entirely settled it’s meaning. This is poetry. Some readers and critics, I suppose, would consider this a flaw. Me? I consider it the mark of great poetry.

      My own feeling is that the poet’s responsibility is to write a line that is, in the end, comprehensible, but it’s the reader’s responsibility to read the line twice, or three times if necessary. Difficulty is not a flaw.

      The last thing I would write is to remind you of your prior question: Could we have a modern Shakespeare? I think such a poet would take a great deal of criticism for the complexity of his language – at the very least.

    • Good morning, Mr Gillespie!
      I’m delighted as I have done a bit of analysis of his poems and would love to see what I’ve got right and what I missed.

      Of course, Mr Gillespie, the history of elision is long and rich. I was merely trying to share what I thought sated at least my own intriguing. No offence at all, Mr Gillespie. You have the poetic license and yours are the streets of Grammar to drive through any way you want. :-)

      What I find curious is that if we want somebody to write at least as well as Shakespeare, if not better, then that person has to be given the same liberty with the language that Shakespeare enjoyed or as you put it- (grammatical) gamesmanship. B’t one can’t ev’n d’ th’s anym’re, c’n th’y? h’he!

    • No offense taken!- none. I suppose I write as if I have, but the instinct to explain and elucidate (even for the clarity of my own mind) is in-built. This whole blog is a result of that. Your prior comment gave me the opportunity to clarify, for my own sake, my thinking on the place of elision and more unusual forms of grammar in contemporary poetry.

      //…that person has to be given the same liberty with the language…//

      All those liberties were metrical cheats that made writing iambs much, much, much easier. I can’t emphasize that enough. Writing metrical poetry in the 21rst century is a whole different ballgame than in the 16th and 17th (or even 19th). Shakespeare, Donne and Keats had it much easier. And I can’t emphasize that enough. I think that Shakespeare would find our modern vernacular much more of a challenge, and that brings us back to the difficulty and challenge of combining a modern vernacular with meter.

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