Jakobson is rather sparing in his remarks on the nature and provenance of free verse. In ‘The Dominant’ (L in L, p. 42) he argues that contemporary Czech free verse replaces the conventional constituents of the dominant (rhyme, metrical and syllabic pattern) with the ‘mandatory component…of intonational integrity’. What he means is that grammatical parallelism is substituted for its metrical or phonemic counterpart as the organising feature of each line. He maintains a version of this thesis in ‘Linguistics and Poetics’. ‘Except the varieties of the so-called vers libre that are based on conjugate intonations and pauses only, any metre uses the syllable as a unit of measure at least in certain sections of the verse’ (L in L, p. 73). Jakobson does not demonstrate how a pattern constituted of intonational conjugations and pauses can operate as a free verse substitute for metrical regularity but he offers an account of the use of ‘grammetrics’ in Mark Antony’s blank verse challenge to Brutus in the crowd scene of Julius Caesar (L in L, pp. 90-2). His working principle is as follows: blank verse, consisting of metrically regular lines but lacking the regular phonic equivalences of rhyme or internal sound pattern occupies a grey area between the poetic function and its non-poetic counterparts. The enjambed, unrhymed pentameter runs dangerously close to being dominated by the conventions of the syntagm and becoming a form of rhythmic prose. However, the parallelistic sound pattern of rhyme, the cement of the metrical blocks, is replaced by the binding structure of morphological, semantic and grammatical units. For example, the two lines,
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, And I must pause till it come back to me,
involve an interpenetration of metonymy, metaphor and metrical form very similar to the defining characteristic of regular, rhymed verse. The first line is predominantly metaphoric, while carrying metonymic traces of the synecdochic notion of the heart as the essence of emotional and spiritual identity. In the second line this metonymic overlay is thickened: the immediate, literal conno tation of ‘must pause till’ generates the mildly surreal image of Antony waiting for the return of the physical organ. Jakobson’s point is that the disorientating shifts between the metonymic and the metaphoric, the literal and the figurative, are co-ordinated by the division of the extended trope between two pentameters: ‘the trope becomes part of poetic reality’ (p. 91) in the sense that the metrical symmetry or parallelism of the two lines serves to foreground and accentuate the bizarre interweaving of the metonymic-metaphoric elements of the grammatical figure.