Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Anastrophe, it is

| November 14, 2023 1:00 AM

Pleased, she is, when your Mrs. Language Person notes the anastrophe so rare. Delights, she does, when our language so diminished may delight in its creativity, with attention however fleeting.

Anastrophe (pronounced an-as-trophy) is a literary technique in which conventional word order is inverted to embellish or emphasize. Derived from the Greek anastrephein (to turn back), its first known use was around 1550. Writers and poets use anastrophe for meter or rhythm, or to emphasize the reverse-ordered word or phrase.

Just ask Yoda. The little "Star Wars" Jedi Master knew not how to speak any way other.

“Patience you have, young Padawan. The greatest teacher, is failure.”

The anastrophe may be used four ways:

1. Adjective after noun: I have crossed the ocean blue, but not found one as fair as you. They gazed at one another, their passion yet unspoken. The iron hot from the flame I took (this one has two types of anastrophe).

2. Verb before subject: We would again be together, said she, but I believed it not to be. Quiet as babes while sleeping were we.

3. Prepositional inversion: A squirrel in the park, I saw. Across the pond they paddled, eager to reach the bank.

Generally anastrophes invert the normal subject-verb-object order to object-subject-verb (the iron hot … I took) or object-verb-subject (quiet as babes … were we).

Why use it? Beyond lending extra gravity to the inverted words, Yoda exemplified its style. He was hardly the first to use it. Poets have used this device for pattern and rhyme for many centuries.

Famous are Shakespeare’s, such as the Hamlet you may well know:

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be … This above all — to thine own self be true.”

J.R.R. Tolkein fans know, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

And your MLP’s favorite from Edgar Allen Poe: “Deep into that darkness, peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing."

Of the anastrophe has many a speech writer made use:

“Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet.” — Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty or Give me Death.”

“And how stands the city on this winter night?” — Ronald Reagan’s farewell address, 1989.

“The British Empire … will defend to the death their native soil …” said Winston Churchill.

And to close, as George Orwell wrote of his dystopian "1984," “Of pain, you could only wish one thing. That it would stop.”

Thus terminated for today, is your MLP.


A columnist for the Hagadone News Network, is Sholeh Patrick. Email sholeh@cdapress.com.