Structure and versification in The Exequy

Simplicity of structure

The verse form is the simplest also, iambic tetrameters in rhyming couplets. Yet, as Marvell shows in some his poems, the form can be used ironically, in a very sophisticated manner. King achieves his simplicity by keeping the feel of the ordinary human voice speaking quietly. Many of the lines are not end-stopped, so the speaking voice can flow naturally. Yet when he wants to achieve a decisive statement, he can switch back to a closed couplet, as in:

Stay for me there; I will not faile
To meet thee in that hollow Vale.

Notice the pause, making a caesura effect, effectively lengthening the line. The monosyllables also achieve this. We cannot hurry the lines. The long vowels also affect the pace: ‘Stay', ‘there' ‘faile', ‘meet', ‘thee', ‘Vale' are all long syllables. All these effects work quietly: there is nowhere where King draws attention to his poetic technique. All we see is a man grieving. This is the art that hides art.

Investigating The Exequy
  • Do you find The Exequy a great poem?
    • Or just a sad one, one of many such?
  • Will you take away any memorable lines or images?
  • What would you say is Metaphysical about the poem?
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