Prose and cons


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Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy written in around 524 AD is one of the earliest medieval works to use a mixture of verse and prose (prosimetrum), – Vatican, BAV, (11th century) 

Prose is everywhere. In the newspapers on the morning table, in the school essays on the teacher’s desk, in the novels we read, in the announcements on public transport, in nearly every piece of writing and verbal performance. But most of all, prose goes unnoticed, because it is everywhere.

Verse, on the other hand, has had the re-verse fortune. Whether printed or uttered, a line of verse makes big eyeballs. You don’t usually expect it anywhere, it’s like religion in a way, you want it private, confined at home or in designated places, not in the street, on the front-page or on everyone’s lips.

Versification seems to come from another world. It feels unnatural (to natural language).  Coding is not in verse, and neither is science. Knowledge is packed and distributed in continuous prose. The metric system of scientific measurement is not spelled out in ancient meter. The kilometre stands in opposition to the hexameter. It doesn’t help saying that the earliest wisdom, history and knowledge were expressed in verse, and what was continuous was not prose, but the career of metrical verse through the ages.

There are hundreds of ways to define the modern age. Here’s mine: the modern age is the age of prose, of the relegation of verse to the edges of culture. Verse is not dead, not at all, a poet is born every 10 minutes, and their verses stir and soothe us in every way. What is gone is the banality of verse, the assumption that the staunch or crippled verse is the best way to confront the mystery of the universe. We’ve been conned out of verse, and now we’re stuck with continuous prose – hoping it goes somewhere good.

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