Benefits of using an English accent when reading Bilbo’s Farewell Poem?

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
When reading JRRT’s poetry, it might be advantageous to consider how the words might have been pronounced by the author.

I noticed, in the class that both Mad Violinist and Prof Olsen pronounced the word ‘been’ (in the fourth line) as ‘bin’, which is common in an American accent. However, to pronounce it ‘bean’ would be much more common in England. (As Corey pointed out.) This would improve the rhyme with ‘seen’ (in the second line).

Likewise, the Professor considered that to make the meter perfectly iambic, one would have to pronounce the word ‘flowers’ (in the third line) with one syllable. Which, he considered possible, but slightly awkward. However, in many English accents, pronouncing ‘flowers’ more like ‘flaars’ would be much more common than it is in an American accent. That pronunciation would also eliminate the sound connection between the 'ow' in 'meadow' and in 'flowers' which was commented on in the class.

In the second verse, ‘were’ and ‘hair’ are a much closer rhyme in an English accent (though not perfect) than they are in most American accents.

So, just a suggestion, but it might be advantageous, when trying to determine the shape of one of JRRT’s poems, to consider an English, rather than an American accent.

Of course, it would be even more illuminating if we could consider JRRT’s precise English accent, when reading his poems. It might be possible to determine from recordings how he pronounced some or all of these words. I have not done so.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
As a Brit it’s really funny to me that his poem might not rhyme lol

It reminds me of learning about Shakespeare Original Pronunciation projects and how much that elevates the word - the rhyme schemes work and the puns become apparent. I HIGHLY recommend looking up Ben Crystal on YouTube
 

Woofbarkyap

New Member
When reading JRRT’s poetry, it might be advantageous to consider how the words might have been pronounced by the author.

I noticed, in the class that both Mad Violinist and Prof Olsen pronounced the word ‘been’ (in the fourth line) as ‘bin’, which is common in an American accent. However, to pronounce it ‘bean’ would be much more common in England. (As Corey pointed out.) This would improve the rhyme with ‘seen’ (in the second line).

Likewise, the Professor considered that to make the meter perfectly iambic, one would have to pronounce the word ‘flowers’ (in the third line) with one syllable. Which, he considered possible, but slightly awkward. However, in many English accents, pronouncing ‘flowers’ more like ‘flaars’ would be much more common than it is in an American accent. That pronunciation would also eliminate the sound connection between the 'ow' in 'meadow' and in 'flowers' which was commented on in the class.

In the second verse, ‘were’ and ‘hair’ are a much closer rhyme in an English accent (though not perfect) than they are in most American accents.

So, just a suggestion, but it might be advantageous, when trying to determine the shape of one of JRRT’s poems, to consider an English, rather than an American accent.

Of course, it would be even more illuminating if we could consider JRRT’s precise English accent, when reading his poems. It might be possible to determine from recordings how he pronounced some or all of these words. I have not done so.
Thank you, I came here (finally after many years delay) specifically to find out what the problem is rhyming “been” with “seen”. It’s not uncommon in the UK to pronounce “been” as “bin” in street speech or slang but it would never occur to me in normal speech. As for “flowers”, I think it is as often pronounced “flours” as “flau-ers” and this may be more usual than “flaars”, which is upper class and rather rarefied. This is my all time favourite poem btw.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Thank you, I came here (finally after many years delay) specifically to find out what the problem is rhyming “been” with “seen”. It’s not uncommon in the UK to pronounce “been” as “bin” in street speech or slang but it would never occur to me in normal speech. As for “flowers”, I think it is as often pronounced “flours” as “flau-ers” and this may be more usual than “flaars”, which is upper class and rather rarefied. This is my all time favourite poem btw.
Yes, but English accents are becoming less 'upper class' and 'rarified' over time. I suspect that JRRT (an Oxford Don in the 1950's) would more likely have pronounced it as 'flaars'. "Flau-ers' (which is closer to the American accent, but without such a pronounced 'W') would still jar the iambic rhythm by having two syllables, rather than one. Whereas pronunciation as 'flaars' would not.
 
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Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
I have no problem fitting either been or flowers into the rhyme or rhythm of the poem, have generally read it so in spite of my American accent. Also were and hair come close. I found the professor's reading a little jarring, actually. It just seems natural to me to make things fit.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Actually, he uses both flowers and meadow in the first few seconds here and they have nothing in common. Flowers is more like flours/flaars and the first syllable of meadow is clipped almost to nothing. Tolkien Reading Tom Bombadil’s poem
Excellent research Woofbarkyap,

Listening to JRRT, in the recording you found, I notice that he swallows the 'W' in 'yellow' in the first stanza (though he does not swallow it as much in 'fellow' in the first line). He also swallows the 'W' in 'meadows' in the second stanza and pronounces 'flowers' pretty much like 'flaars'.

In the pronunciation of 'flowers' as 'flaars' I notice, both in JRRT's accent, and in the accents of other English people who I have heard pronounce it in this way, just a hint, the briefest ceasura in the middle of the word, indicating that it once had two syllables, despite now being pronounced with one. That is why I tried to represent the sound as 'flaars', to catch that catch between the two 'A's'.

Listening to JRRT pronouncing 'hair' in stanza 3, and 'were' in stanza 10, he pronounces neither in the way an American accent would, and they come closer to rhyming, (though still not exact).
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I have no problem fitting either been or flowers into the rhyme or rhythm of the poem, have generally read it so in spite of my American accent. Also were and hair come close. I found the professor's reading a little jarring, actually. It just seems natural to me to make things fit.
Hi Rachel,

The poem pushes you to make the sounds of the words fit. But, if you are only used to an American accent, you might pronounce 'been' as 'bean' to rhyme with 'seen', but something might still jar a bit in the back of your mind, as you think you are pronouncing the word 'wrong'. However, if you read it intentionally with an English accent (or, better yet, JRRT's accent). The stanzas will flow much more naturally and without those problems.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
Hi Rachel,

The poem pushes you to make the sounds of the words fit. But, if you are only used to an American accent, you might pronounce 'been' as 'bean' to rhyme with 'seen', but something might still jar a bit in the back of your mind, as you think you are pronouncing the word 'wrong'. However, if you read it intentionally with an English accent (or, better yet, JRRT's accent). The stanzas will flow much more naturally and without those problems.
I would add, JRR Tolkien is a better writing that orator. Hearing him read his own poetry feels rather stitled. It very much has the sound of an Oxford Professor reading poetry designed for the page, funnily enough. I prefer to hear others read his own poems as I think you need a certain level or performative panache to give the words what they are due.
 
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Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I would add, JRR Tolkien is a better writing that orator. Hearing him read his own poetry feels rather stitled. It very much has the sound of an Oxford Professor reading poetry designed for the page, funnily enough. I prefer to hear others read his own poems as I think you need a certain level or performative penance to give the words what they are due.
Hi Rob,

I agree that JRRT is not the best orator. His reputation at Oxford was that his lecturing style was 'mumbling'. However, when trying to understand the shape of his poems, I think it is important to speak the sounds of the words as he would have spoken them. JRRT's poetry was not devised to fit an American pronunciation.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
Hi Rob,

I agree that JRRT is not the best orator. His reputation at Oxford was that his lecturing style was 'mumbling'. However, when trying to understand the shape of his poems, I think it is important to speak the sounds of the words as he would have spoken them. JRRT's poetry was not devised to fit an American pronunciation.
Oh I wasn’t quibbling that. As mentioned, as I Brit, I never really considered pronouncing it in in an American accent lol
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
I agree that JRRT's own pronunciation is important to take into consideration. But not all his poems are to be read in his normal voice! I just heard him singing a not-quite-final version of Sam's Troll song the other day, in the Treason of Isengard class. Hmm.. it's blocked for me from work, but I think it's this one:

https://soundcloud.com/player
Corey commented that he'd never really "got" the rhythm of this poem until he heard the recording. And it's definitely not Oxford posh speak! This is Sam's poem, after all, and he uses a much more rustic dialect.
 
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