With rhyme & reason


The woods are lovely, dark
and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, the American poet best remembered for this metaphoric gem,
defined poetry succinctly thus: poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.

However, such thoughts need not always be phlegmatic or philosophical. They can be humorous, bawdy, risqué — packed with a ribald punch like the fifth line of a limerick.

To pen a few rhetorical lines that have rhyme and rhythm will be the unbridled urge of young writers. Writing poetry is one thing, getting them recognised and published is another. One such budding poet met the poetry editor of an avant-garde quarterly magazine for submitting his work. The editor, after a cursory perusal, like a senescent accountant checking the column of figures from top to bottom, asked the nervous poet, “Did you write the poem yourself?” When the young man nodded proudly in the affirmative, the poetry editor stood up and shook hands with pseudo-excitement, and exclaimed, “I’m glad to meet you, Edgar Allan Poe. I thought you were dead long ago.”

A poet’s fate is deplorable. Thomas Hood says:
What is a modern poet’s fate?
To write his thought upon a slate;
The critic spits on what is done,
Gives it a wipe — and all is gone.
Alexander Pope said:
Sir, I admit your general rule,
That every poet is a fool.
But you yourself may
serve to show it,
That every fool is not
a poet.

Diners frequenting restaurants would testify that waiters the world over are trained not to meet the eyes of a patron ready to place an order. A disgruntled wit asked the waiter, who took his own time to take order: “Why are you called the waiter when I am doing all the waiting?”

David McCord, the American poet, wrote under the title Epitaph on a Waiter:
By and by
God caught his eye!
Playing with words, Carolyn Wells wrote about A Tooter who Tooted The Flute thus:
A tutor who tooted the flute
Tried to tutor two tooters to toot;
Said the two to the tutor,
“Is it harder to toot, or
To tutor two tooters to toot?”
Not to be outdone, Kenneth Leonhardt, in a poem titled Untitled, played with words thus:
This poem’s title is Untitled —
Not because it is untitled,
But because I am entitled
to entitle it Untitled.

Poets as gifted citizens enjoy poetic license. That some of them are licentious is a different pint of chilled lager. A credited one to anonymous runs thus:
Some kiss hot, some kiss cold,
Some don’t kiss, until they are told.
Some kiss fast, some kiss slow,
Those that don’t kiss, I don’t know.
Who would not have heard the rhyme:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke
his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.

This 18th century nursery rhyme had undergone several changes down the corridor of time. But this anonymous truncated version would take the cake:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jill forgot the pill,
And now they have a daughter!

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