[LMB] Levels of Bafflement

Margaret Devere margaret at devere.net
Fri Jan 12 22:03:16 GMT 2018

John Lennard writes:


What neither has is Miles's "and surprising", which led me to consider his
(or rather Lois's) phrase afresh and notice its prosody.

"We have advanced to new and surprising levels of bafflement," Miles told

It begins in unambiguous iambs (ti-TUMS)-- we HAVE / adVANCED / to NEW --
which is duple rising rhythm, and it ends in equally unambiguous dactyls
(TUM-ti-tis) -- LEVels of / BAFflement / MILES told her -- which is triple
falling rhythm ; in-between we have either (and surPRISing), a pyrrhic and a
trochee, ti-ti / TUM-ti, or a third paeon (ti-ti-TUM-ti, depending on how
Greek or Roman you're feeling), or (AND surPRISing), two trochees -- and in
any case a prosodic surprise that approximates duple falling rhythm, and so
perfectly mediates between duple rising and triple falling.

Which is to say that prosodic analysis supports both how good and how funny
it is.

Lois may, like Miles and Benedict, not have been born under a rhyming
planet, but there was a prosodic one up there somewhere, dancing in its
sphere, and when I'm next reading I shall try to be more alert for the
prosodic shapes enhancing her prose.


But I've always heard the stress on the "We," not on the "have"

WE have adVANCED (skip a beat) to NEW and surPRISing (skip a beat) LEVels of

Dactylic all the way.

Disclaimer: I know very little about this, esp. in comparison to John. But
that's how I hear it.


P.S. One of my favoritest lines of many favorites.

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