So I started reading Paradise Lost by John Milton. But before I even got to the poem itself, there was this:
“The measure is English Heroic Verse without Rime as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin; Rime being no necessary Adjunct or true Ornament of Poem or good Verse, in longer Works especially, but the Invention of a barbarous Age, to set off wretched matter and lame Meeter; grac’t indeed since by the use of some famous modern Poets, carried away by Custom, but much to thir own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse then else they would have exprest them. Not without cause therefore some both Italian and Spanish Poets of prime note have rejected Rime both in longer and shorter Works, as have also long since our best English Tragedies, as a thing of it self, to all judicious eares, triveal and of no true musical delight: which consists only in apt Numbers, fit quantity of Syllables, and the sense variously drawn out from one Verse into another, not in the jingling sound of like endings, a fault avoyded by the learned Ancients both in Poetry and all good Oratory. This neglect then of Rime so little is to be taken for a defect though it may seem so perhaps to vulgar Readers, that it rather is to be esteem’d an example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recover’d to Heroic Poem from the troublesom and modern bondage of Rimeing.” [All the typos are in the Wikisource text, and I assume are as found in some original. I think they are due to the fact that English spelling had not yet been standardized.]
Clearly, Milton was not a fan of rhyming. Or rimeing.
I think it’s sort of funny that he started out his Biblical epic by kvetching about rhyme and meter. I like to imagine that some poor sap saw a draft of Paradise Lost and asked, “Why doesn’t it rhyme?” And it set Milton off.
I particularly enjoy the “It may seem so perhaps to vulgar Readers” bit. That’s brilliant! I think I’m going to put a disclaimer at the start of all my writing from now on: “Readers, if you don’t like this, it means you’re stupid. It’s a work of genius.”
Paradise Lost may be a great poem, but I think it’s fair to say English rhyme is still going strong in spite of Milton’s objections.
This is what they call a “mood piece”.
One of the perks of upgrading the blog is that I now have the ability to upload audio files. I want to test what I can do with this.
As a first step, I made a recording of me reading the poem I wrote for Halloween 2014. Let me know what you think…
I’m sitting here eating crackers,
I dip ‘em in something bad for my liver.
The branches outside move in the wind;
And I reach for my sword when they quiver.
The Xboxes whir in the night-time
As I wait for the red ring of death.
I don’t suppose anyone knows
How long I can go without breath?
The creatures all over the mansion
Hide in the shadows when I look around.
But I feel their presence upon me,
And twitch upon hearing their mockery sound.
I don’t think the lights will stay on in the storm—
I don’t think we can get pressure on Brady—
I don’t like the fact that there’s ground on the snow—
I’m losing my mind for the love of a lady.
My paranoia has gone to extremes;
I think Wikipedia’s telling the truth.
I think that some monarchist penguin
Is judging me for the sins of my youth.
Mister or Miss, don’t misjudge or dismiss
This missive of awful inanity.
For as bad as it is living like this,
I’ve found I prefer it to sanity!
Roone Howard was the best strategist to ever write a political ad.
He could convince starving men that entitlements were bad;
He could make you self-disenfranchise to prevent voter-fraud;
It is said that he made the Holy Spirit believe there wasn’t a God.
If you employed him, your head would lie easy underneath of its crown;
Because he would lie easy to cut all of your challengers down!
But if you opposed him; then may Heaven have pity on you,
For he’d tell your fam’ly and friends you weren’t anything like who they knew.
Oh, no one likes to hear it said,
But he could paint McCarthy “Red”
If that’s what was needed to serve the empowered.
By stroking feelings barbaric,
Or stressing facts esoteric,
No one persuaded like that Devil, Roone Howard!
One day, his most prominent client, a National candidate, came to see him and ask
Him to set about working on what he reckoned a well-nigh impossible task.
His opponent, it seemed, was lovely and charismatic with a great reputation;
She wore her good deeds and record like armor against character assassination.
She spoke like a Cicero, and was quite incorruptible; her personal life was above suspicion;
While Howard’s client was deficient in every category but that of ruthless ambition.
So old Roone Howard set straight to work on how to stain and destroy and annihilate
The political chances of this candidate with the resume seemingly so inviolate.
For weeks on end did he toil,
Burning each night the midnight oil
As for any shred of a scandal he scoured.
But never even a trace
Of shamefulness or disgrace
Ever met the eye of the clever Roone Howard.
At last, just when all hope seemed utterly lost, Howard hit on an ingenious scheme.
He at once called a meeting to announce the whole plan to his political team.
“’As ours is a business that’s dirty and vile,” this political Clausewitz reasoned,
“A lady this good has no place in it–let it go instead to a man tough and seasoned.
This, gentlemen, I feel is a message which our cynical populace is bound to feel true!”
He proved to be right! In a matter of weeks, the lady in question up and withdrew.
Howard’s man could then run unopposed, and his targeted office he easily won;
Howard was given a government job, and the lady they’d beaten could find herself none.
O, Howard took comfort, I’m sure,
That he’d destroyed someone so pure;
And laughed at her whose votes his campaign devoured.
For even perfection complete
Couldn’t hope to compete
Against the devious mind of that scoundrel, Roone Howard!
(You can see the original here.)