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Volume 42, 1909

Third Meeting: 7th July, 1909.

Present: Mr. Edgar R. Waite (President) in the chair, and sixty others. New Members.—Messrs. C. E. Toovey, W. D. Blair, F. T. Agar, J. H. Seager, and Professor Gabbatt.

A large number of donations were received, and laid on the table.

The Secretary referred to the announcement of the death of Mr. J. T. Meeson, a past President and Treasurer of the Institute, and a very active member for many years.

By the direction of the President, it was decided to make due record of his services on the minutes of the Institute.

The President announced that the sum of nearly £35 had been contributed to date for the funds of the Institute, and by private members of the Institute towards the Hector Memorial Fund.

The Pres dent further detailed the steps which were being taken towards securing the more adequate protection of our fauna.

He mentioned that arrangements had been made for holding a conference with the Acclimatisation Society, so as to secure united action in the matter.

Papers.—1. “Sand-dunes,” by Dr. L. Cockayne.

This was illustrated by a very fine series of lantern-slides of sand-dunes of the Dominion and of foreign countries. Many of the pictures from which these slides were made were taken by Dr. Cockayne himself during the course of the work on which he was engaged at the request of the Government, and the Institute is indebted to the Minister of Lands for granting permission to him to lecture on the subject before his official report has been made public.

The lecturer drew attention, first of all, to the large area in the Dominion—no less than 310,000 acres—which was occupied by sand-dunes. He dwelt upon the importance of dealing properly with the area so that it might give the best return to the State, and also that it might be as little a danger as possible to fertile lands. In this connection he detailed instances where good agricultural land was being destroyed by an invasion of sand-dunes.

After this introduction Dr. Cockayne described the formation of sand-ripples, explaining fully the action of wind-vortices, and then led on to the different types of dunes, detailing their formation and destruction.

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He devoted a considerable amount of attention to sand-binding and sand-holding plants, and emphasized the danger of destroying the natural surface-covering by stock and by fire.

He concluded by showing what had been done in other countries in the way of utilising apparently sterile lands by tree-planting, and gave several instances where this had been carried on successfully in New Zealand.

The paper was discussed by Mr. T. W. Adams and Mr. G. M. Thomson, M.P.

2. “The Smallest Basic Unit in the Classification of English Verse,” by Johannes C. Andersen.

The essential difference between prose and poetry was first discussed. This difference is in form rather than in spirit. If a reader were given an unknown poem written straight on as prose he would read it as prose until he perceived a lilt, when he would say “Oh, this is poetry”; and, reading again, would read it quite differently. He would add a rhythm of time to the irregular rhythm of ordinary accent and non-accent. It is this temporal rhythm that forms the essential difference between prose and poetry: floating on this rhythm, even the words of an unknown tongue are musical and pleasing. The smallest basic unit in poetry, then, will be the smallest unit of the temporal rhythm; and, as the time is marked by the accents and stresses, the unit will be the pulsation lying between two stresses. This pulsation may be silent, or it may have floating upon it one, two, or more syllables; but though pulsations may vary in the number of syllables, they vary very little as regards time—they are of comparatively equal length.

The various kinds of stress are discussed. Firstly, the two-syllabled units, known as iamb and trochee. It is shown that the trochee is always preceded by a pause when it appears in iambic verse: this pause can be, and is at times, filled by a syllable, so that it is equal to a syllable, and forms an integral part of the unit. As the vast majority of verse ends on a stress, the unit is taken as the stress and the pulsation preceding it Trochaic verse generally ends on a stress: therefore trochaic verse differs from iambic in the first unit (or foot) only, which unit in iambic verse is composed of two syllables, and in trochaic of a pause and a syllable. Three-syllabled units are likewise shown to spring from one stock, the so-called anapest. The relationship between two-syllabled and three-syllabled units is then discussed. It is pointed out that in old ballads two-syllabled and three-syllabled units are indiscrimmately blended, and it was due to the artificial school of Dryden and Pope that they were, as much as possible, separated and regarded as two distinct measures. Their homogeneity was again demonstrated in later days, notably by Coleridge in “Christabel” and Shelley in “The Sensitive Plant.” It is pointed out that even where they blend, the time-value of the two-syllabled units is equal to the time-value of the three-syllabled; and that the former may always be changed to the latter by the insertion of a syllable, and vice versa by the dropping of a syllable. The four-syllabled unit is then discussed, and examples of occasional five-syllabled units given.

Variations in units are then dealt with, such as suppression of stress, where a unit appears with no stress; duplication of stress, where it appears with two stresses; paused stress, where a stress falling in a certain place causes the creation of a unit composed of a pause and a stressed syllable followed by a unit of three syllables—both equal in time-value. Copious examples from Milton and Shakespeare are used in illustration of the various points wished to be made.

The unit in verse is practically what the cell is in the plant—it is the smallest living unit of growth; and as the cell may vary indefinitely in form, so may the unit. The paper is intended to demonstrate the uniformity underlying the variation of the units in poetry.