Blank Verse became the most widely used poetic form in the English language after Chaucer wrote his ‘Canterbury Tales’ at the end of the 13th century. Shakespeare’s plays were mostly written in blank verse and it has been the chosen form of poetic composition in many significant contributions to English Literature by Pope, Milton, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Yeats, and numerous other writers of distinction. This way of writing poetry has been called ‘the very breath of English verse’ and has earned it the title of ‘The Heroic Line’.
A line of poetry written in Blank Verse is called an iambic pentameter. The lines themselves do not rhyme (hence ‘Blank’) but each follows a regular pattern of stresses in the syllables that make up the words. There are five sets of two syllables per line which can be represented as follows:
dee dum / dee dum/ dee dum/ dee dum/ dee dum
Those syllables which are stressed are the ones in bold type and the pattern can be seen in the following of lines from Byron:
His mother was a learned lady, famed
For every branch of every science known
One of the reasons many poets chose, and still choose, to write in blank verse is because it makes the contents easier to remember. My hope is that the contents of a gospel written in this fashion will make it easier to listen to at length, to recall and even perform.
You will notice in the written text of ‘The Poet’s Gospel’ that, rather than compose the parables in Blank Verse, I have rhymed them to distinguish them as stories which Jesus told as part of his message. Such stories were part of a long-standing Hebrew tradition, intended to make complex moral and spiritual messages more understandable. I was intent on distinguishing them from the general narrative.
I hope this introduction will help explain the origin of the subtitle to ‘The Poet’s Gospel’ as a ‘Blank Verse Gospel with Rhymed Parables’.
John Alan Davis