The briefest of his lyrics display great subtlety and variety in their sound-patterns, but his more ambitious long poems also deal with patterns of imagery, human behaviour and history. Although Bunting calls Briggflatts "an autobiography", he has sculpted his material into intricate historical and musical shapes, enriching it with profound ambiguities that ensure the central theme emerges only gradually: "Follow the clue patiently and you will understand nothing. Such subjective historicising may seem an imposition, but Northumberland had been "debatable land" ever since the Norman invasion drove the native culture underground, creating a thriving oral tradition epitomised by the border ballads, but destroying any continuous literary tradition. Briggflatts is a kind of artistic confabulation: a cultural memory constructed to fill the gap left by historical repression.
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The poem[ edit ] The poem begins with an epigraph reading: "The spuggies are fledged". The text contains a note explaining that the word means "little sparrows" in a north-east dialect. The first part has a regular structure of 12 stanzas each containing 13 lines. In the following four parts the stanzas vary in length from couplets to quatrains to stanzas of more than 20 lines. The rhyme scheme also changes throughout the poem as the bulk of the text appears in free verse while other lines do contain rhyming patterns.
Bunting believed that the essential element of poetry is the sound, and that if the sound is right, the listener will hear, enjoy and be moved; and that there may be no need for further explanation. It deals in sound - long sounds and short sounds, heavy beats and light beats, the tone relations of the vowels, the relations of consonants to one another which are like instrumental colour in music.
Poetry lies dead on the page until some voice brings it to life, just as music on the stave, is no more than instructions to the player. A skilled musician can imagine the sound, more or less, and a skilled reader can try to hear, mentally, what his eyes see in print: but nothing will satisfy either of them till his ears hear it as real sound in the air. Poetry must be read aloud. Bloodaxe Books, Northhumberland]. Critical response[ edit ] Mark Rudman suggests that "Briggflatts" is an example of how free verse can be seen as an advance on traditional metrical poetry.
He cites the poem to show that free verse can include a rhyme scheme without following other conventions of traditional English poetry. To Rudman, the poem allows the subject to dictate the rhyming words and argues that the "solemn mallet" is allowed to change the patterns of speech in the poetry to meet with the themes discussed in the text.
Return of the native
Briggflatts - Part I - Poem by Basil Bunting