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Raj Liberhan, Director, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

Raj Liberhan, Director, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

Web Exclusive | Prose is good, verse is better

Web Exclusive | Prose is good, verse is better

New Delhi: An Austrian army awfully arrayed

boldly by battery besieged Belgrade;

cossack commanders cannonading come,

dealing destruction, devastating doom

Raj Liberhan, Director, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

Can we ever forget the memorable story of Charles Dickens’ A tale of Two Cities", when he began to transport us into the French setting in the middle of their revolution with his, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’…..Prose is riveting.

The opening sentence can capture the most fleeting of your glances and hold you spellbound in its imagery. Not only that, it can condition one’s mind into a permanent belief, even if the facts were different.

Who can but remain untouched by the soul stirring impeachment of Warren Hastings by Sir Edmond Burke who seemed to speak for this country I impeach him in the name of millions of Indians whose land and country he has laid waste and desolate’ I impeach him………which jury would not be moved to conviction that indeed the accused is guilty as arraigned.

However, for flights of fancy, nothing like riding on verse. John Keats has few parallels in the ecstasy he conjures about beauty. Thou still unravished bride of quietness!, thou foster child of silence and show time, Sylvan historian, who canst thus express, A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme"………Not only this, but to capture the essence of the state of affairs of man, a poet can say it all in a couplet or a verse while relying on prose we have to create the edifice at some length and even then the idea could remain incomplete.

Makes one wonder if poets are blessed with a divine touch, with their ability to tug at your heart. Even though being a full time poet can be a one-way journey to starvation, while authors of prose can make a living, the glamour and charm of the verse is abiding. Leastways, it is more exciting. Prose is in a way matter of fact, commonplace or a dull expression of thought.

Nonetheless, almost every language is receptive to being structured either way, prose or verse. In the idiom we are familiar with, Sanskrit, Urdu and Persian have an inherently lyrical content and hence its poetry has had lasting influence over civilization’s progress.

Omar Khayyam’s Rubiyats are memorable for each one of them is a pristine gem of the sublime truths of life.

Whether at Naishpur or Babylon,

whether the cup with better or sweet run,

the Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,

the leaves of life keep dropping one by one.

It would take a whole book in prose to knit the cycle of life. It is the rhyme of the prose that makes the emergence of verse possible. Rhythm being the hallmark of nature in all its manifestations and it is what brings harmony. The fundamental truth of life is contained in the sonic sequence of the rhythm.

Arrhythmia is to be feared as much for its physical manifestations of acute discomfort as for its social consequence of being at odds with the societal norms of conduct. By contrast, the vibrations of the rhythm produce a sense of wellbeing that radiates a persona. Even the saddest songs touch the deepest chords of our hearts and sound the sweetest.

But haven’t all these vocations fast become extinct. The personal computer sang the last post of letters and cards carrying tidings amongst loved ones. Text messaging is now taking over. What drdful things! R U Srius! Ys. No metre, no paras, no punctuation, no prose or verse. Just say it as you think.

Yet it is a revolution of the kind which has changed the way people communicate with each other. It is one bloodless revolution that belongs to each one of us across the world. A new idiom has emerged with a universality that is mind blowing and now, the writings of prose and verse will never be the same again.

Hereinafter, we write in bullet points and be rewarded with suitable responses in kind. Will this millennium see a Shakeskpeare, a Byron, a Shelley or a Charles Dickens. Unlikely, but miracles can happen. As they say, the best race has’nt been run yet. No matter, even today, if you get the first word right, more often than not,you will have the last word.

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