July 25th, 2006

J.H. Moore on Openings

This one's for avva:

In his Expositional Modes and Temporal Ordering in Fiction, Meir Sternberg, discussing modes of starting narratives, quotes by way of demonstration the opening lines of the poem "The Duke of Benevento" by one Sir John Henry Moore (18th c.) --
I hate the prologue to a story
Worse than the tuning of a fiddle,
Squeaking and dinning;
Hang order and connection,
I love to dash into the middle;
Exclusive of the fame and glory,
There is a comfort on reflection
To think you've done with the beginning.

And so at supper, one fine night,
Hearing a cry of Alla, Alla,
The prince was damnably confounded,
And in a fright,
But more so when he saw himself surrounded
By fifty Turks; and at their head the fierce Abdalla.
My guess is that Sternberg didn't dig him up out of oblivion himself, but that he had encountered Moore in R.S. Crane's The Languages of Criticism and the Structure of Poetry (U. Toronto Press, 1953), which I'm guessing was widely read in the 1970s, when Sternberg wrote his book, some two hundred years after Moore's poem was published.

Disappointingly, the Internet is far from satisfying about the poem or about Moore -- this blog entry would probably be the second place on the net mentioning the two, and the full text, or a decent encyclopedic entry on Moore, are nowhere to be found. Sternberg himself is quoting from The Oxford Book of Eighteenth-Century Verse (ed. David Nichol Smith, Oxford 1936).