Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rhyming matters

Upon Westminster Bridge

EARTH has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air,
For taxies have a century to appear.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Bill Wordsworth      Composed September 3, 1802     Borrowed from Poets Corner

Over the years I have read couplets with the regularity of clockwork in their rhymes, but with all rhythm lost in the effort to ‘fit in’ the rhyme. Perhaps this is the saddest of all amateur errors, and so often too, the chosen word sticks out like a sore thumb – it’s there because it rhymes.

I came across the Wordsworth above at ‘Poets Corner’, and found I could not find the rhyme-scheme (although it may have one).  However, the metre is near perfect ‘iambic pentametre’, 10 10 10 10. (Blank verse?)  Look Willow, I can’t find my ‘how to do poetry’ book OK?

The point I am making is that the best poets in the world deliberately let their rhymes misfire to avoid boring predictability, and also let the metre go adrift a (very) little in the cause of  meaning and avoiding cliché.

Natural rhyming – where the second word could hardly have been different, makes pleasant reading still, and will survive in poetry like Bach in music – i.e. for ever.

Do you agree?


  1. Does this come across as tortured, I wonder? I like writing rhymes... :)

    A Voyage Of Discovery

    Another box ; a dusty treasure trove
    of keepsakes hoarded over many years:
    a trinket: letter: token of old love
    forgotten, washed away by gentle tears:
    a photograph from childhood, long ago,
    where memory's encapsulated shades
    of black and white, now faded, serve to show
    in frozen movement, little escapades
    among imagined fantasies galore.
    Oh, then, we could be masters of our fate,
    before we knew what life may hold in store,
    before we realised it's soon too late
    to captain yet another ship, to sail
    where calmer waters hopefully prevail.

  2. Dear Bob, I somewhat agree with all that you have written here. One always welcomes a pararhyme or, indeed, an extended line in order to break up what could be seen as monotony. Although in the case of Wordsworth or Keats, for example, of whom I am particularly fond, this could never apply.

    I am still attempting to follow...but no luck yet [see my comment on your previous posting].

  3. Jinksy, I am so proud to have this perfect poem on this humble page. The beautiful phrasing, a flawless sonatina speaks not of itself but of real human sentiments. If you have time please tell me about it.

  4. Poetry and beautiful photography. Nice blog.

  5. 6-word comment, hope that's OK.

  6. How can I thank you for such praise? The poem was inspired by a Blogger who wrote about the numerous boxes in her loft, still unpacked after many years. About to move house yet again, she was attempting to sort some of the tucked away treasures. That was enough to start me off... I chose the poetic form to suit the seriousness of the feelings I was trying to express, but my love of rhyme is what drives me more than anything else. Thank you again for the comment above.

  7. Having read many of Jinky's posts I so love her work. It is often more difficult to create a poem which does not rhyme than one which does.

    Thank you,
    CJ xx

  8. CJ - I would dispute that! I wrote this one even faster than the sonnet...

    The shadow beings follow all our lives.
    Their untold stories, full of silent words,
    trail behind us under cloak of dreams.
    They are never written on life's page,
    because we chose to pen a different tale
    from one they secretly had planned.
    Their umbrous spectres hover ever near
    and fill us with amorphous sense of loss,
    if we should bid them closer to ourselves
    and stand them in a spotlight on our stage.

  9. Don't be in a hurry Jinksy,

    'trail behind' 'They are never' You know what I'm talking about.

    Also some or all of you were not paying attention to the Wordsworth, were you?

  10. I totally agree. Even with songs. I can hear a song that contains a blatantly forced rhyme 100 times on the radio and notice the forced rhyme every single time. Sometimes I become annoyed as I hear this while everyone else around me continues to jam out or not notice.

    I apologize if I got off topic with song lyrics, but I agree completely with the point you made regarding poetry.

  11. It's a bit like shoving the odd minor 7th in a chord - it's almost the right key, but just off enough to keep you interested. Probably why I love the french impressionsists so much - the painters and the composers - they give the impression of something but it remains slightly out of key/focus. With this poem, you get the impression it is rhyming, but it isn't quite.
    Do have to say though, Wordsworth is not loved by yours truly. Had to study his dreaded prologues when i did A levels some time last century when we had a black and white telly. Give me Ted Hughes any day!
    Smiles and grumbles always

  12. I like Wordsworth, must admit and I particularly like Composed on Westminster Bridge. I was drifting through it when you threw me with the taxis Bob! No Routemasters either! Bet it was a wonderful sight back then.

  13. Nice to see you Winifred,long time no see. Before the smoke, but before the sewers? We have no sewers on Corfu, but a properly dug 'vothro' (sess-pit) does not pong at all.

  14. I've come back to puzzle over your cryptic comment to me, somewhere above, but it still leaves me wondering what I missed! LOL :) However, your most recent 'post' made the trip well worthwhile...

  15. Real poets don't go in for cryptizm do they!

    Ah! the marvel of blogging - (but I don't want too many of my friends getting attached to THAT post dammit! No , what I was saying above about 'hurry'.... Well, why don't I just re-work a couple words, while at the same time acknowledging your poetic superiority.

    The shadow beings follow all our lives.
    with untold stories, full of silent words.
    They trail behind us under cloak of dreams,
    but never written on life's dreary page,
    because we chose to pen a different tale
    from one they secretly had planned.
    Their umbrous spectres hover ever near
    and fill us with amorphous sense of loss,
    if we should bid them closer to ourselves
    and stand them in a spotlight on our stage.

    Our Ghosts are many (shameless plug) dear Jinksy, Well, didn't I help Wordsworth along also?


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