A   Poem   On   Leaves   Unfolded

P o e m

  1.   The established lordship of the Cross & Crescent
  2.   is as steady as a rock.
  3.   But ...
  4.   There is stone-breaking saxifrage,
  5.   the flower that splits the rock
  6.   that splits the human race.
  7.   Its roots,
  8.   so wee and weak and yet so strong,
  9.   crack the crevices of the exclusive creeds.

  10.   The pastoral fortress of the faithful in power
  11.   is as still as a stone.
  12.   But ...
  13.   There is sweetbarkèd sassafras,
  14.   the tree that grows in the ideal
  15.   that grows in real, unsevered siblinghood.
  16.   Its leaves,
  17.   so unalike and yet so similar,
  18.   unite humanity in the inclusive Norm.

  19.   The hard core of the clay that holds sway by law
  20.   cleaves to the supernal potter's brand of belief.
  21.   But ...
  22.   There are the stone-breaking and the sweetbarkèd,
  23.   the ones that never waived their right
  24.   to come together on common ground,
  25.   to meet and be met in that noble Name.

  26.   The frigid rigid rock is split,
  27.   the crumbling blackened brick broken,
  28.   the battered bulwark cloven open;
  29.   the buds of the new life burst.
  30.   And at break of dawn
  31.   there appear in natural light
  32.   the several leaves of the laureled Saxifrax.

Vinsent Nandi, 47.SML-48.NMY

S o n g

Saxifrax can also be sung. Its lyric quality will be enhanced by repeating the last three lines of each stanza together at the end of the stanza, and in addition the very last line of the poem (so that this line is sung three times).

T h e m e

The general theme is the eventual victory of inclusive thought over exclusivism. The poem concentrates on the evil of state religionism (that is, official political exclusivism on the basis of religion), especially in the numerous countries where the authorities make common cause with, promote or abuse one of the major theocentrist ideologies in the world.

S e m a n t i c   a n a l y s i s

  • Saxifrax   (title)
        The present dictionary meaning of saxifrax is simply sassafras, nothing less, nothing more. However, etymologically it is a modification of sasafras under the influence of saxifraga, the term for breakstone. In this poem the name Saxifrax combines the symbolism of the 'stone-breaking' saxifrage, representing the fight against exclusivism, with that of the 'sweetbarked' sassafras, representing the attitude and doctrine of inclusiveness itself.
  • the established lordship   (l.1)
        Literally lordship refers to the authority or power of a lord, to dominion. But Lord is also a significant name for the supreme being in what is or used to be the most powerful religion in the world. In the countries in which this religion is the state ideology its political hegemony is therefore a form of 'lordship' in more than one sense. Moreover, this usurpative dominion which turns people with different convictions into second-rate citizens or even non-citizens is a 'lordly' one: arrogant and haughty.
        The lordship is also 'established' in more than one sense. Firstly, the lords (and, perhaps, ladies) in a system of state-religionism are or belong to the Establishment, the powerful people who control the important organizations and public life in their country. Their lordship is established authority. Secondly, the particular religion in question may itself be established in that it is made into the state religion, regardless of the existence of other theocentrist creeds and regardless of other persons' belief in the primacy of norms and values.
  • the Cross and (the) Crescent   (l.1)
        These two symbols belong to the present major religions in the world, which are to a greater or lesser degree the more or less official state ideologies of many exclusivist countries.
  • as steady as a rock   (l.2)
        There is an implicit connection between the rock and lordship (mentioned in line 1), for one of the several holy books of 'the people of the book' says, "the Lord is my rock". On the face of it lordship, establishment and dictatorship are, certainly in their heyday, 'as steady as a rock', that is, so steady that those in power will not shake or tremble. Yet, do rocks really always remain steady?
  • but   (l.3, l.12 and l.21)
        This word introduces no as the answer to the question above. It is a clear and loud no that strikes one as a butt. (Note the fortis |T| at the end of but(t)!) When singing Saxifrax this word should be said rather than sung.
  • there is stone-breaking saxifrage   (l.4)
        The term saxifrage derives from saxifraga (herba), which means rock-breaking (herb). It refers to breakstone and various plants resembling it. Saxifrage grows in the crevices of rocks and stony places. As a stone is in its natural form a piece of rock, stone-breaking may be considered a synonym of rock-breaking. The former word is used because of its clear verbal connection with 'breakstone' (and because of its aural effects in combination with saxifrage and sweetbarked).
  • the flower that splits the rock   (l.5)
        Breakstone is a saxifragous plant: it splits and furthers the splitting of rocks or stones. On the surface level of interpretation this is the meaning of the present line. On a deeper level, however, the rock is established lordship or the lordship of the religious establishment of lines 1-2. The 'flower' must therefore be something like a new attitude, movement or doctrine that causes or helps to cause the downfall of that lordship, of the exclusivist use of the state for religious purposes and propaganda. Saxifrage is now promoted to a symbol of the new attitude and of the desire to be delivered from the evil represented by the rock in this poem.
  • the rock that splits the human race   (ll.5-6)
        In this context rock is definitely used in the figurative sense of the whole system of religionist dominion. It is a system that tears humanity apart. It is responsible for a denominational cleavage in society: the people of a particular variety of the Cross are distinguished or even separated from all others, the people of a particular variety of the Crescent from all others, 'the people of the book' (those of the Crescent and their predecessors) from all others, and so on and so forth. Throughout history, and still today all over the world, we see how religious exclusivism is the sole or main cause of bloody civil and international wars. And war is the ultimate way of splitting the human race.
  • its roots, so wee and weak and yet so strong   (ll.7-8)
        On the surface level of interpretation the 'roots' are simply those of the saxifrage, which exert their physical-biological strength to break the stone, even tho they are very small ('wee') and weak.
        On a deeper level the 'roots' are grass roots: the ordinary people who are not in power. Individually each of them is powerless, too weak to fight an unjust system on 'er own. And yet all these ordinary, almost powerless people together are so strong that they can make such a system collapse, if they want to and have the courage. As the roots are those of the saxifrage, the ordinary people are persons who participate in the anti-exclusivist movement.
  • the crevices of the exclusive creeds   (l.9)
        The creeds are, of course, the religions that abuse the state for religious purposes or that have themselves abused by the state for political purposes. They are exclusive in that they play the role of a state ideology; and they are exclusivist in that they exclude nonreligious citizens and citizens of a different religion from equal treatment in the practical and symbolic affairs of the state. They are usually also exclusivist in countless other respects in that they discriminate against or between people and their backgrounds on the basis of factors such as region of the world where they live or come from, descent, language, age, gender, sexuality, marital status and personal or family wealth. The separate parts into which these creeds irrelevantly divide the world and humanity are already to be found as divisions or 'crevices' in their own traditions and doctrinal bodies. The weaknesses which go with these divisions are serious moral ones.
  • the pastoral fortress   (l.10)
        Those who have appropriated exclusive power illegitimately are forced to withdraw to a place strengthened for defense, that is, a fortress. At the same time they may dislike too much emphasis on their defensive position. The emphasis should rather be on the peace which accompanies law and order. When this peace is taken for granted and respected most sheepishly by all subjects, the setting of the fortress becomes wholly pastoral.
        The fortress is also implicitly connected with the rock of line 2, because in the fiction of the Cross 'the Lord is' not only 'my rock' but also 'my fortress'. And so the fortress is once more 'pastoral' in that it concerns religious groups and organizations of which the leaders look upon themselves as shepherds and upon the led as sheep of a flock to be kept in a fold.
  • the faithful in power   (l.10)
        Literally this means those who believe strongly in their faith(s) and who are in power. Normists have faith in the primacy of norms and values and in those norms and values themselves (such as the principle of relevance or the norm of inclusivity), but theocentrists usually equate faith with religious belief or religion. The 'faithful' are then those believing strongly in religion. At the moment they are, indeed, in power in religionist countries.
        There is the additional consideration that 'the faithful in power' may be 'full of their faith in power' or even 'in the all-powerful' or 'Almighty'. Faith in power is a perversion in which power is enjoyed for its own sake. And so is faith in an all-powerful Supreme Being, which elevates power to something 'supreme' or perfect in itself.
  • as still as a stone   (l.11)
        This line has the same meaning as line 2. The parallel occurrence of rock and stone indicates, again, that the two concepts are used interchangeably.
  • there is sweet-barked sassafras   (l.13)
        The peculiar thing about the sassafras is that it has leaves of widely divergent shapes which grow on one and the same tree or shrub. It 'includes', as it were, all these different forms of being. That its bark is 'sweet' relates it in a verbal way to the 'sweet', that is, gentle and lovable character of those who do not live by or support exclusion and exclusiveness.
        The sweet bark of the sassafras contrasts clearly with the saxifragous nature of breakstone.
  • the tree that grows in the ideal   (l.14)
        Sassafras is not a tree which grows on a bare rock. It needs soil; a fertile soil would be ideal.
        Whereas a biological interpretation could go no further than the question of the right natural conditions, the ideal turns out to be inclusiveness on a deeper level. It is in this ideal that sassafras starts to grow as a symbol.
        Sassafras as a symbol of inclusivism must be distinguished from saxifrage as a symbol of anti-exclusivism. Inclusivism is good in itself, anti-exclusivism is a necessary evil to overcome exclusivist attitudes, actions, practises and ideologies.
  • the ideal that grows in real, unsevered siblinghood   (ll.14-15)
        In contexts where people are involved brotherhoods and sisterhoods (as so often found in religious cultures) are institutions based on sexual exclusivism or irrelevantism. For outside the fields of sexuality and procreation only real siblinghood is true community. Such siblinghood is unsevered siblinghood: one in which human beings, let alone persons as persons, are not separated into brothers and sisters, males and females. The ideal of inclusiveness cannot flourish where irrelevant sexual distinctions are not transcended.
  • its leaves, so unalike and yet so similar   (ll.16-17)
        The leaves of the sassafras are unalike in that they have different shapes and forked patterns of veins. Nonetheless, they do not differ from one another in a completely arbitrary way. One can recognize a 'system' in these differences: sassafras leaves are ovate entire ('zero-lobed'), one-lobed, two-lobed or three-lobed. In this respect all the leaves are similar after all.
  • the inclusive Norm   (l.18)
        This phrase is the counterpart of exclusive creeds in line 9. Whereas creeds is plural to refer to the multitude of exclusivist ideologies, Norm is singular to refer to one undivided inclusivistic doctrine. Being based on the primacy of norms and values, rather than on that of one or more gods and/or demons, this doctrine is called "the Norm". The adherents of the inclusive Norm, like humanity in general, vary like sassafras leaves and yet they are united and the same in their respect for 'the inclusive norm' (that is, the norm of inclusivity). Conversely, all people are united and the same in their being respected as equals on the basis of this norm.
  • the clay (l.19) and the supernal potter   (l.20)
        An important tenet of creationist supernaturalism is: "we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand".
  • the hard core . . . that holds sway by law   (l.19)
        Clay may be relatively soft, and it may be less soft. Creationists and other supernaturalists who impose their belief on the whole of society are made of harder clay. The most callous among them constitute the hard core that, in the past, has managed to steal the state and rule the country legally.
  • cleaves to   (l.20)
        No doubt, the self-righteous who consider their regime as steady as a rock have a firm enough belief in the Lordship that is their own lordship. By remaining loyal to their faith they cleave to it. At the same time this faith cleaves society and humanity with laws and state symbols that flout the denominational principles and preferences of minorities or, quite possibly, the majority.
  • brand of belief   (l.20)
        There is inclusivistic-normistic and there is exclusivist-theocentrist belief, but in countries in which the 'supernal potter's' faith, that is, a form of creationist supernaturalism, is the state ideology the official and special type (or 'brand') of belief is definitely exclusivist and theocentrist.
        Brand does not only have the meaning of type or kind; it has the meaning of sword too. The picture which emerges with this interpretation is one of militant believers who remain loyal to their sword of faith, to their use of force or coercion as sanctioned by their belief. This is a very unpleasant image indeed when we think of all those human beings who have been put to the sword because they did not fit the killers' or their leaders' exclusionist ideology. How fresh is the blood which is still being sacrificed to the flaming sword of religious faith today.
  • their right   (l.23)
        Even tho the Establishment (or a majority in a democracy) has the power to make and pass any kind of law, it has as little power to change morality as to change the laws of physics. The hard core of religionists may appeal to the law, or to law and order, but there is always the appeal to morality, to legitimacy and order, and to people's moral instead of legal rights. Those who do not want to associate themselves with a religion or do not want to be associated with a religion have not willingly given up their moral right to be treated as equals by the state and by other citizens.
  • to come together on their common ground   (l.24)
        The surface interpretation of this phrase is that, because of the saxifragous breaking of the rock, a fertile soil is created for the sassafras to grow on, together with saxifrage. This is, perhaps, not very plausible, for the botanical details may not be correct.
        What really counts, however, is the deeper level of interpretation where anti-exclusivists break new ground and pave the way for a change towards inclusiveness. Even if they do not have the legal right to meet one another freely, they have the moral right to come together at any place which they morally own or co-own. The siblings of the inclusive Norm have the same moral rights of personhood as other citizens, religionist, capitalist or communist laws notwithstanding.
  • that noble Name   (l.25)
        Biologically the noble name is saxifrax, the name that combines the words saxifrage and sassafras. Denominationally the noble Name is first and foremost (the) Norm, for it is under this denomination that persons who believe in the primacy of norms and values, and who are loyal to, among others, the norm of inclusivity, meet. The specific symbols of anti-exclusivism and inclusivism which play such an important role in this poem blend together in the name Saxifrax.
        Altho the word noble is traditionally opposed to the word common occurring in the previous line, the two terms do not stand for any social cleavage here. The relevant distinction is rather one between the knowing on the one hand and the ignorant on the other. Anyone who has good and sufficient denominational knowledge is 'noble' in the etymologically justifiable sense of the word. Noble is the person who has seen and recognized the leaves of the Tree of Knowledge.
  • the frigid rigid rock is split   (l.26)
        Saxifrage splits rocks and rocks break apart faster under frosty conditions. Analogously, anti-exclusivist thought and action will especially shake up an exclusivist system when such a system is cold in manner. And even when not lacking in life, it is so in flexibility.
        Unfriendly to the ones left out or kept under, rigid exclusivist systems are not seldom 'frigid' too in that they have or purport to have a dislike for human sexuality. This sexual frigidity may be reflected in a moral code which, while usually being sexist, hardly reaches beyond the limits of a miserotic micromorality. In religionist countries such a code is or used to be foisted on the whole of society, even tho the wholeness of society lies in a balanced acceptance of male and female sexuality and not in a dogmatic confinement, let alone rejection of it.
  • the crumbling blackened brick   (l.27)
        The brick is blackened because it has been there from a time beyond anyone's memory and never, or only inadequately, cleaned up. It is crumbling because it consists of fragments which do not cohere very well under contemporary conditions. The visual imagery of the blackened brick is similar to that of the rigid rock in the previous line; the visual imagery of the crumbling brick to that of the battered bulwark in the next.
  • the battered bulwark   (l.28)
        The strong walls built for 'the protection of the faith', that is, against the faith(s) of others, are made to collapse, so that the state and country is opened up to its own citizens, including those who refuse to embrace any god or demon, and who are appalled by the lies of supernaturalist and the irrelevances of exclusivist ideology. The 'bulwark' is not only breaking down because of severe attacks from the outside tho: it was already being battered by its own internal inconsistencies and anomalies, and by its own abominable historical record.
  • open   (l.28)
        This is a key word of inclusive thought. (In figurative usage open is related to inclusive, whereas its antonym closed is related to exclusive and exclusivist.)
  • the buds of the new life   (l.29)
        A 'bud' consists of young tightly rolled up foliage and/or floral leaves. The word may further refer to an initial phase or development of something, such as the beginning of life or new life. In this poem the new life is, of course, a life free from discrimination, harassment and the imposition of exclusivist symbols, at any place in the world.
  • and   (l.30)
        This conjunction supersedes the buts of the first three stanzas and is in striking contrast to them. The contrast is strengthened by the use of bud in the previous line. The lenis |D| of bud clearly differentiates it from but with its fortis counterpart.
  • break of dawn   (l.30)
        Dawn is the beginning of a new day, and it is the beginning of a new civilization as defined by its denominational views and ideals. For the break of day or 'break of dawn' to arrive, however, the ancient system may first have to break down or to be broken down.
        (It goes without saying that change and destruction are not good in themselves. The change or destruction of a political, social or other system is necessary if and when it transgresses and continues to transgress against people's personal rights, but this should be done to improve such a system or to replace it with a better one.)
  • natural   (l.31)
        At dawn daylight, that is, natural light, begins to appear. But natural is not only opposed to artificial; more importantly, natural (whether referring to things artificial or not) is opposed to supernatural. In the new era obscurantism and supernaturalism have given way, if not to the reasoned expression of truth, then to the silence of cognitive humility.
  • several   (l.32)
        Here this word is an adjective meaning various or different.
  • the laureled Saxifrax   (l.32)
        Saxifrax is sassafras, a tree or shrub which is 'laureled' in that it belongs to the laurel family.
        Saxifrax is the combined symbol of anti-exclusivism and inclusivism as well, and 'laureled' in that is awarded a token of victory, or even made into one. It is significant that, in the end, it is not a person, human being or god that receives special recognition but a value. For the victory is no other than the one of inclusiveness over exclusivity and exclusion.

A u r a l   a n a l y s i s

 THE e-STA-blished LORD-ship OF the CROSS 'n CRE-scent
 ^^    ^^                    ^^ ^^^ ^^ ^^  ^ ^^  ^^^^
*IS as* STEA-dy *AS* a ROCK.
  ^  ^  ^^        ^  ^ ^^^^
*BUT ...*

*THERE is* STONE-brea-king SA|K-s|i-frage,
           ^     ^    ^^   ^^   ^ ^ ^^
 the FLOW-er *that SPLITS the* ROCK
 ^^^                           ^^^^
 <<<<<<<<<<< *that SPLITS the* HU-man RACE.
*its* ROOTS,
*so* WEE *and* WEAK *and YET so* STRONG,
     ^^^       ^^^           ^   ^
 CRACK the CRE-vi-ces of THE e|k-S|CLU-sive CREEDS.
 ^^        ^^            ^^^       ^^^ ^^^^ ^^
 the PAS-t'ral FOR-tress OF the FAITH-ful in POW-er
 ^^^ ^   ^ ^^^ ^   ^^^   ^^ ^^^ ^     ^^^    ^
  ^  ^  ^^      ^  ^ ^^
*BUT ...*

*THERE is* SWEET-bar-ked SA-ssa-FRAS,
           ^     ^   ^^  ^^ ^^^ ^^^^
 the TREE *that GROWS in* THE   i- DEAL
 ^^^ ^^^^                           ^^^
 <<<<<<<< *that GROWS in* REAL, un-SE-vered SI-bling-HOOD.
                           ^^^     ^     ^^ ^^          ^
*its* LEAVES,
*so* UN-a-LIKE *and YET so* SI-mi-lar,
 ^        ^^            ^   ^^
 u-NITE hu-MA-ni-ty in THE in-CLU-sive NORM.
 ^ ^^   ^^          ^^ ^^^ ^^ ^^^ ^^^^ ^  ^
 << the HARD core OF the CLAY that holds SWAY by LAW
    ^^^ ^    ^           ^^^^ ^^   ^       ^^ ^  ^
 CLEAVES to THE su-PER-nal PO-tter's BRAND of be-LIEF.
 ^^^^              ^       ^         ^        ^  ^^^
*BUT ...*
*THERE* are *the* STONE-BREA-king AND *the* SWEET-BAR-ked,
                  ^     ^    ^^             ^     ^   ^^
*the* |W|ONES that NE-ver WAIVED their RIGHT
 ^^    ^      ^^   ^      ^      ^^
*to* COME to-GE-ther on CO-mmon GROUND,
 ^^  ^    ^^ ^          ^       ^
*to* MEET and be MET in that NO-ble NAME.
     ^  ^        ^ ^         ^      ^ ^^
*the* FRI-gid RI-gid ROCK is SPLIT,
      ^^^ ^^^ ^^ ^^^ ^ ^^ ^     ^^
*the* CRUM-bling BLA-ckened BRICK BRO-ken,
      ^ ^    ^   ^ ^ ^^^^^^ ^^^^^ ^^^ ^^^
*the* BA-ttered BUL-wark CLO-ven O-pen;
      ^^   ^ ^^ ^        ^ ^  ^^ ^  ^^
*the* BUDS *of the* NEW life BURST.
      ^^            ^   ^    ^^  ^
        ^^  ^
 ^^               ^    ^^^ ^   ^
*the* SEV-'ral LEAVES
      ^    ^^^ ^
 >>>>>>>>>> *of the* LAU-reled SA|K-s|i-FRA|KS|.
                     ^   ^^^   ^^ ^ ^     ^ ^^

For explanation of symbols see below

In the standard representation of the poem the graves in lines 13 and 22 indicated already that the last e in sweetbarked has to be pronounced for poetic reasons. (Without further specification this could be an |i| sound or an |a|, that is, schwa.) Had the e been silent as usual, sweetbarked would not have been syllabified as SWEET-BAR-ked (or SWEET-BAR.k.ed) but as SWEET-BARKED.

The aural analysis shows capitals where syllables automatically receive primary or secondary stress. A syllable which is not capitalized receives some stress nevertheless, if it is immediately preceded by and followed by another such syllable in the same line. Hence, ces in (CRE-)vi-ces of and ty in (hu-MA-)ni-ty in are not completely unstressed. A syllable at the end of the line which is not capitalized receives stress as well, if it is preceded by five syllables of which only the third is stressed (thus creating two anapests) or only the second and fourth (thus creating three iambs). Hence, lar in and YET so SI-mi-lar receives some stress. These rules are based on the principle that, in the same line, two primary-stressed syllables or three unstressed syllables do not follow each other immediately (and on the opinion that sequences like STRESS-un-un-STRESS-un-STRESS and STRESS-un-STRESS-un-un-STRESS are too irregular to produce an acceptable rhythm). From this point of view a spondee (or two syllables with primary stress in succession) and a tribrach (or three unstressed syllables in succession) should only be formed when there is a special, substantive reason for doing so.

In SAXIFRAX there are two exceptions to the metrical rules as adopted for general purposes. Firstly, line 22 does not end in three iambs, the last syllable not receiving stress. Because of the pronunciation of the last e in sweetbarked this word has three syllables, like stone-breaking, while the primary stress is on the first syllable in either word. By not stressing ked at the end of the line both words are patterned as dactyles (ignoring the secondary stresses, which are on the same, second syllables anyhow). This departure from the metrical rules in sweetbarked and the parallelism between stone-breaking and sweetbarked makes these words stand out, and rightly so, for they refer to the two central images of the poem.

Line 27 contains the second exception to the metrical rules, for stressed BRICK is immediately followed by the stressed syllable of BRO-ken. Where one would expect four iambs, as in the previous line, the fourth iamb is suddenly turned around and becomes a trochee. But, of course, it occurs precisely where the brick breaks and thus emphasizes in a metrical way the clash that takes place here.

Metrical patterning is a matter of syllabic and higher-level aural effects, but aural effects in general start at the level of single sounds. This has been indicated above by underlining with carets certain letters or pairs of letters which represent one consonant or vowel (monophthong or diphthong). The phonemic aural effects referred to now are the result of the repetition of a sound or group of sounds in the same word, line, sentence, stanza, canto or poem. It goes without saying that the effect is stronger as the textual unit is smaller, the group of sounds larger and the repetition more frequent.

Examples of phonemic repetitions which result in aural effects are: the repetition of |ST| in e-STA-blished (l.1) and STEA-dy (l.2), which is double syllable-initial consonance and alliteration; of |BA| in BUT and BUDS in all four stanzas, and of |A| only in BUDS (l.29) and CRUM-bling (l.27), which is assonance only; of |joo| in u-NITE and hu-MA-ni-ty (l.18), which is the repetition of an entire word-initial syllable, provided the h in human(ity) is not pronounced; of |EI| in CLAY and SWAY (l.19), which is line-internal rime; of |W| in |W|ONES and WAIVED (l.23), which is alliteration; of |T| in SPLIT (l.26), BURST (l.29) and LIGHT (l.31), which is word-final consonance between three stressed monosyllablic words at the end of three lines of the same stanza; of |ral| in NAT-'ral and SEV-'ral (l.32), which is the repetition of an entire word-final syllable; of |AK(s)| in SA|K(-s)| and FRA|KS| (l.32), which is assonance and single or double syllable-final consonance within the one word saxifrax.

Certain aural effects are the result of parallel structures in the poem. This is very clear with regard to the repeated use of BUT in the first three stanzas. It is clear, too, when we compare, for example, the 4th lines in the 1st and 2nd stanzas:

*THERE is* STONE-BREA-king SA|K-s|i-frage
           ^     ^    ^^   ^^   ^ ^ ^^
*THERE is* SWEET-BAR- ked  SA-  ssa-FRAS
           ^     ^    ^^   ^^   ^^^ ^^^^

We find line-internal word-initial consonance between STONE and SAK and between SWEET and SA, and word-internal syllable-initial consonance between SAK and si and between SA and ssa, and word-internal assonance between SA and FRAS, but except for the last all these phonemic repetitions can also be found between the two lines, and in addition many more. For the best effects one may have to choose the most suitable pronunciational variant, however. Thus, ked should be pronounced with |i|, and not |a| (schwa), in order to create syllable-initial consonance and assonance between king and ked, whereas the medial a in sassafras should be pronounced (as a schwa) and not be deleted in order to create a complete phonemic identity between the si of SA|K-s|i-frage and the ssa of SA-ssa-FRAS.

It is obvious that the parallel treatment of 'saxifrage' and 'sassafras' is part of the symbolism developed in SAXIFRAX, and that this symbolism is enhanced by phonemic, syllabic and higher-level aural effects. And yet, such effects do not necessarily create an aural imagery, or if so, then not necessarily in a proper way. The effect of aural imagery does not merely lie in the more or less emphatic use or repetition of a sound but rather in the choice of a particular sound or type of sound, so that the listener (and even the reader) 'hears', as it were, what is being described.

Aural imagery is found at several places in the poem. Thus, there is the repetition of |KR| in CROSS and CRE-scent in the first line of the first stanza, and in CRACK, CRE-vi-ces and CREEDS in the last line of the same stanza (l.9). The first of the phonemes in CR is |K|, which is a plosive or 'stop', that is, an obstruent formed by creating a complete closure at some point in the speech track. The fortis plosive |K|, is found in all syllables with primary stress in line 9 and in the second half of line 1 (not counting the article and preposition). Line 18, the last line of the second stanza, on the other hand, is replete with nasals, which are sonorants, consonants with a relatively free escape of the airstream. The nasals in question are stressed |N| in u-NITE and NORM, unstressed |n| in hu-MA-ni-ty, in and in-CLU-sive, and stressed |M| in hu-MA-ni-ty. Altho the |K| in CLU remains, the prefixes which differentiate e|k-S|CLU-sive and in-CLU-sive have |k| and |n| respectively. Between the last lines of the first and second stanzas there is hardly a repetition of sounds now. And for a reason: by emphasizing the plosives in the former line, and the nasals in the latter, one begins to hear the difference between the obstructiveness of 'the exclusive creeds' and the sonority (so-NO.r.i.t.y!) of 'the inclusive Norm'.

The |K| sound of the last line of the first stanza is repeated in the third stanza in the |KL| of CLAY (l.19) and CLEAVES (l.20), and in the |K| of CORE (l.19). (It must be admitted tho that it also occurs in the COME and CO-mmon of line 24, where it is not part of the aural imagery.) Furthermore, the |K| sound is repeated in the last stanza where the |K| or even |KR| returns in CRUM-bling (l.27) and CLO-ven (l.28). But at many places in lines 27 to 30 it has been replaced with the |B| sound, another plosive and as such also an obstruent.

The |N| and |M| sounds of the last line of the second stanza are repeated in line 25, the last line of the third stanza, as part of the aural imagery and not so much to create phonemic aural effects. The aural effects of repetition are primarily found within the lines themselves (in line 25 between MEET and MET and between NOBLE and NAME). Nonetheless, the resemblance between the very last word of the second stanza and the very last word of the third stanza is too remarkable to be coincidental: NORM and NAME. Again, the structure of the poem, its metrical pattern, and the effects of the repetition of sounds and of the aural imagery are closely related to its content.

See also the graphic version accompanying this document (with sound files).



An aural analysis must show at least the division of a text into syllables, the location of stressed syllables, and the repetition of syllables or single sounds. For convenience's sake this is done here while staying as close as possible to ordinary orthography. Capitals have been made to indicate a syllable which receives primary or secondary stress in a polysyllabic word or a monosyllabic word which receives stress in the sentence. (Where unstressed, an orthographical capital is replaced with its small-letter counterpart.) Note that aural effects such as assonance and word-initial or word-final consonance may depend on dialectal and personal variations in pronunciation. The variant chosen is meant to have the best effect, and need not be the most frequently occurring one.
  The meaning of the special symbols is:
a sound used in the same or an adjacent word, line, sentence or other structural unit in such a way that its repetition creates a certain aural effect (assonance if a vowel, consonance if a consonant)
*W* a word or group of words repeated in its entirety
|y| phonemic symbol(s) used to indicate one or two sounds not represented separately in the standard spelling, such as |ks| or |gz| for x
 ' one or two sounds of the strong form or careful pronunciation which are not to be pronounced, such as deletion of the schwa or of other sounds in standard contractions
 - sharp syllable boundary, possibly after syllabic disambiguation (see .z.)
 = sharp syllable boundary corresponding with a hyphen in the spelling
.z. a syllable overlap with fuzzy boundaries where the choice between onset disambiguation (-z) or coda disambiguation (z-) does not seem to matter
<<< a new line with normal margin in the standard presentation
>>> continuation of the previous line in the standard presentation (in the aural analysis the words or syllables are arranged in such a way that the correspondence between sound and/or stress patterns shows better)

©MVVM, 47-67 ASWW

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