Structure and versification in No Worst, There is None

Regularity and counterpoint

The sonnet form seems very regular compared to some. There is a clear octave/sestet division, and the octave is divided neatly but unobtrusively into two quatrains. The metre seems to revert to the traditional iambic pentameter form by and large with few outriders or hurried feet. Line 4, in fact, barely makes five feet, though to compensate, l.6 would seem to have at least six feet if we count the first ‘Woe' as stressed (and the alliteration would seem to ask for it). Only the last sad line has an abundance of spondees:

‘Lífe déath does énd and éach dáy díes in sléep'

The other notable structuring device is the enjambement, which, together with a number of caesurae, gives a rich counterpointing. Lines ll.5,6 and ll.7,8 are good examples, as well as the whole of the sestet. Only in the last line does the rhythm become resolved and unified as some glimpse of peace is attained.

Investigating No Worst
  • For a fuller explanation of counterpointing and the points made in the last paragraph, see the notes on Thou art Indeed Just, Lord.
  • Look at the alliterations.
    • What is the effect of the p/w alliterations in the first two lines?
    • And the f- alliterations later?
      • Would you say they help structure the poem or, rather, emphasise certain words?
  • Overall, would you say that the poem has memorable lines, rather than being memorable in itself?
    • Or would you say it is a remarkably honest depiction of a mind ‘at the end of its tether'?
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