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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This item is taken from PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November - December 2004.

Letter from John Lucas
Wistless and Existless

Sir:

Martin Neoloch ( PNR 159) misunderstands me. I wasn't arguing that blank verse is `a native note', I was merely observing that there are those who continue to think that it is, that among these Tony Harrison has claimed that if you stand at a bus-stop you will hear blank verse `naturally' spoken, and that sure enough, if you wait there for a long time a blank-verse sentence eventually comes along. Why, sometimes, three sentences arrive at once. But my essay was partly about metres that are as far away from iambic pentameter as may be but still `speak the language of the heart'. That was why, to come to David Lindley's letter, I referred to Hardy's `The Voice', which is written in dactylic tetrameters. I can see, though, that I should perhaps have spelt this out. Not to have done so may explain his puzzlement at my mentioning the poem. His other point - that `existlessness' is preferable to the `wan wistlessness' which Hardy substituted for it (and I apologise for my inexcusable clumsiness in putting the substitution the wrong way round) - is more substantial. Were it merely an aesthetic consideration then, yes, `existlessness' would be preferable. And certainly `wan' is dull. But I had in mind the point Donald Davie makes in his great essay, `Hardy's Virgilian Purples', that the 1912-13 sequence is concerned with metaphysical rather than psychological issues. This being so, Hardy surely can't speak of the `existlessness' of a woman whose existence he feels in some way continues. Lindley says that `wistlessness' is `academic'. But according to the OED the word `wistless' means `inattentive; unobservant'. Doesn't that give exactly the right frisson? She's there but she doesn't notice him.
JOHN LUCAS
Nottingham

This item is taken from PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November - December 2004.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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