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Title: Rhymes and Meters - A Practical Manual for Versifiers
Author: Winslow, Horatio, 1882-1972
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rhymes and Meters - A Practical Manual for Versifiers" ***

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  RHYMES AND
  METERS

  A PRACTICAL MANUAL
  FOR VERSIFIERS

  BY
  HORATIO WINSLOW

  THE EDITOR PUBLISHING COMPANY
  Deposit, N. Y.
  1909



  COPYRIGHT, 1906, BY
  THE EDITOR PUBLISHING COMPANY

  THE OUTING PRESS
  DEPOSIT, N. Y.



PREFACE


Throughout the following pages "verse" stands for any kind of metrical
composition as distinguished from prose. It is not used as a synonym for
"poetry." Though most poetry is in verse form, most verse is not poetry.
The ability to write verse can be acquired; only a poet can write
poetry. At the same time, even a poet must learn to handle his verse
with some degree of skill or his work is apt to fall very flat, and the
mere verse writer who cannot rhyme correctly and fit his lines together
in meter had much better stick to prose.

This book has been compiled with one end in view: to arrange in a
convenient and inexpensive form the fundamentals of verse--enough for
the student who takes up verse as a literary exercise or for the older
verse writer who has fallen into a rut or who is a bit shaky on theory.
It is even hoped that there may be a word of help for some embryo poet.

In construction the plan has been to suggest rather than to explain in
detail and as far as possible to help the reader to help himself. No
verse has been quoted except where the illustration of a point made it
necessary. With the increasing number of libraries it ought to be an
easy matter for any one to refer to most of the lesser verse writers as
well as all the standard poets.



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER I
      VERSE MAKING IN GENERAL                9

  CHAPTER II
      METER                                 17

  CHAPTER III
      RHYME                                 25

  CHAPTER IV
      STANZA FORMS                          31

  CHAPTER V
      SUBTLETIES OF VERSIFICATION           37

  CHAPTER VI
      THE QUATRAIN AND SONNET               45

  CHAPTER VII
      THE BALLADE AND OTHER FRENCH FORMS    53

  CHAPTER VIII
      THE SONG                              67

  CHAPTER IX
      TYPES OF MODERN VERSE                 75

  CHAPTER X
      VERSE TRANSLATION                     85

  CHAPTER XI
      ABOUT READING                         93

  CHAPTER XII
      HINTS FOR BEGINNERS                  101

  APPENDIX
      (a) THE VERSE MARKET                 111

      (b) SUGGESTIONS FOR READING          114



I

VERSE MAKING IN GENERAL



CHAPTER I

VERSE MAKING IN GENERAL


It is scarcely necessary to write a defense of verse making. As a
literary exercise it has been recommended and practiced by every
well-known English writer and as a literary asset it has been of
practical value at one time or another to most of the authors of to-day.
Indirectly it helps one's prose and is an essential to the understanding
of the greatest literature.

The fact that courses in "Poetics" have been established at all the
large universities shows the interest which verse making has aroused in
America. In England the ability to write metrical verse has long been
considered one of the component parts of the education of a university
man.

Looked at from the purely practical side, even though not a single line
be sold, verse making has its value. It strengthens the vocabulary;
teaches niceness in the choice of words; invigorates the imagination and
disciplines the mind far more than a dozen times the amount of prose.

But, though careful verse is much more difficult to write than careful
prose, slipshod verse is not worth the ink that shapes it. In taking up
verse writing the student must solemnly resolve on one thing: to
consider no composition complete until it proves up--until the rhymes
and meter are perfect. This "perfection" is not as unattainable as it
sounds, for the laws of rhyme and meter are as fixed as the laws of the
Medes and the Persians. Any one may not be able to write artistic verse,
but any one can write true verse, and the only way to make a course in
verse writing count is to live up to all the rules; to banish all ideas
of "poetic license"; to write and rewrite till the composition is as
near perfect as lies in one, and finally to lay aside and rewrite again.

After the line scans and the rhymes are proved should come the effort
to put the thought clearly. It is often hard to say what one means in
prose. It is harder in verse. In fact, one of the greatest difficulties
any verse maker can overcome is the tendency to be obscure in his
meaning.

With the surmounting of this obstacle comes simplicity of diction; to
present the thought without superfluous words; to avoid the threadbare
phrases and to put the idea in a new way and yet in plain speech. How
far the verse maker will go in clearness and simplicity depends largely
on his natural good taste and discrimination. The better he is able to
appreciate the work of others the better his own will become, and this
appreciation, though it cannot be created, can be cultivated as well as
good manners. To-day more than ever before good reading is one of the
prime essentials to good writing.

Stevenson has recommended imitation as a road to originality and few
have disagreed with him on this point. It is undoubtedly easier to write
a sonnet if one is familiar with Wordsworth or to write a ballade if
one has read Dobson. At the same time to be of value the imitation must
be done broadly and systematically. The artist does not learn to draw by
copying Gibson heads nor the verse maker to write by diluting Kipling.
An imitation should always be made with the idea of reproducing some one
quality which the imitator wishes to develop in himself; the verse maker
should copy not one style but many, and aim at methods rather than
mannerisms.

For a first step in imitation it is well to select a subject akin to the
original and follow the author's construction and trend of thought as
closely as possible. For instance, there is a sonnet on Milton--write a
companion sonnet on Shakespeare or Dante. Match stanzas to Washington
with similar stanzas to Lincoln or Cromwell or any other character who
can be treated in the same general manner. Gray's "Elegy in a Country
Churchyard" suggests other elegies in other churchyards.

One may even parody a poem--not broadly, line for line in the American
fashion--but in the more delicate Calverley way, which applies the
spirit and meter of the poem to a lighter subject. One must imitate
before one can originate, but haphazard imitation leads nowhere.

In conclusion it may be said that verse making is no mystic art hidden
from the many. It is to be acquired by any one who is willing to work at
it steadily and consistently. First, a start in the right direction, and
then practice--practice--practice.

Nothing "dashed off" or "turned out," but every composition saved from
the wastebasket made--

  Correct in construction,
  Clear in thought,
  Simple in diction.



II

METER



CHAPTER II

METER


A metrical composition is divided into lines, each line containing a
definite number of syllables. These syllables are grouped by twos and
threes into "feet" which, by their makeup, determine the meter or
movement of the line.

Meter in English verse is built up through accent alone, but, though
this principle differs entirely from that of the ancients, who depended
on the length of the syllable, we still cling to the names with which
they distinguished the different feet. It will be discovered that by
combining accented and unaccented syllables into groups of two, three
and four an immense variety of feet can be produced. In fact the Roman
poets made use of about thirty. In English verse we disregard the
four-syllabled foot altogether and make use only of the two and three
syllabled.

Those commonly accepted are:

  Iambus [u][-]      Dactyl [-][u][u]

  Trochee [-][u]     Anapest [u][u][-]

  Spondee [-][-]     Amphimacer [-][u][-]

           Amphibrach [u][-][u]

The dash stands for the accented syllable.

An idea of the use of these meters in verse may be gained from the
following examples:

  IAMBIC

     u   -- |  u ---- |  u   --  | u  - |  u   | -----
  "From low | to high | doth dis | solu | tion | climb

   u    -  |   u  ---- | u   -  |  u -  | u  --
  And sink | from high | to low | along | a scale."


  TROCHAIC

   ----  u  | --- u   | --  u  | --  u
  "Tell us, | Master, | of thy | wisdom

  --   u  |  ---   u  | ----  u  | ----   u
  Ere the | chains of | darkness | bind thee."


  DACTYLLIC

   ----  u  u  |  -- u  u
  "Take her up | tenderly

   --   u    u  |  --
  Lift her with | care."


  ANAPESTIC

    u  u ----  | u   u  --  |  u  u  ---- |  u
  "If he talks | of his bak | ing or brew | ing

   u  u ----- |  u  u  --- |  u  u ---
  If he comes | to you rid | ing a cob."

A line of spondees is rarely found in our English because a succession
of accented syllables is almost impossible with us and the amphimacer
and amphibrach are seldom more than secondary feet in a dactyllic or
anapestic line. Where more than one combination of syllables is used the
line takes its name from the foot predominating.

As to number, the feet in a single line are practically unlimited though
one rarely comes across a line containing more than eight. Lines of
three and four are more common. Indeed, in some lyrical poems we have
lines made up of a single syllable.

The classic names for lines of varying length are perhaps necessary. The
line of two feet is a dimeter; three--trimeter; four--tetrameter;
five--pentameter; six--hexameter; seven--heptameter and
eight--octameter. Thus Pope's Iliad is written in iambic pentameter, in
lines made up of five iambics; and Longfellow's Hiawatha is trochaic
tetrameter, each line containing four trochees.

It will be noticed that many lines lack the syllable or two necessary
to complete the last foot. For instance:

   -- u  | --  u  | --  u | -- u
  "Airly | Beacon | Airly | Beacon,

  -  u  | ---- u   |  --    u |  ---
  O the | pleasant | sight to | _see_."

and

   --  u   u     | ---   u   u  |  ----
  "Ah but things | more than po | _lite_."

This privilege of ending in the middle of a foot is in no way a poetic
license but lends a flexibility to the use of all meters which would
otherwise be wofully lacking.

Again we find, especially in dactyllic and anapestic lines, a trochee or
spondee thrown in to vary the movement. In this anapestic line the meter
is varied by a spondee:

    u  u  --  |  ---  ----  |  u  u --- | u u  ---
  "Not a drum | _was heard_ | not a fun | eral note."

This insertion of a foot is always allowable if it helps the proper
movement of the line and if it is put in voluntarily. With a beginner
whose ear is none too well trained it is better to try only pure
lines--lines made up of but one kind of foot. In this way the false
extra syllable or foot is sooner found out and corrected.

A first-class exercise is to write verse without rhyme or very much
reason, whose only virtue shall be lines of exact length with meter
regular to the verge of singsongness. As an exercise, too, it is helpful
to take a dozen lines or more of good verse and break them up into feet.
The greatest poets are not necessarily the best for this purpose, owing
to the irregularity of much of their work. It is better for the beginner
to steer clear of Browning and try the simpler and more regular
constructions of Dobson and Praed.



III

RHYME



CHAPTER III

RHYME


The rhyme most commonly used in verse is the single rhyme--the rhyme of
one syllable. A single rhyme is perfect when the rhymed syllables are
accented; when the vowel sounds and the following consonant sounds are
identical and when the preceding consonant sounds are different.

"Less" rhymes with "mess" and "caress" but not with "unless," because in
this last case the preceding consonant sounds are the same. It will
rhyme with "bless" because the "b" and "l" are so joined that the
combined sound differs from the simple "l" of "less." "Less" does not
rhyme with "best" because the "t" makes the concluding consonant sounds
unlike. Nor does it rhyme with "abbess" because the accent in this word
falls on the first syllable.

A double or triple rhyme follows in construction the rules laid down for
the single rhyme. The accents must be alike; the preceding consonants
must differ and the vowels and the remaining syllables of the words be
identical. "Double" goes perfectly with "trouble" and "bubble," while
"charity," "clarity" and "rarity" all rhyme.

The spelling of a word does not affect its rhyming use. It is rhymed as
it is pronounced. "Move" and "prove" do not rhyme with "love"--all the
poets in Christendom to the contrary. Neither does "come" rhyme with
"home." The pronunciation is all in all and that must be decided not by
local usage but by some standard authority.

There are, however, certain words which have one pronunciation in prose
and another in poetry. For instance, "said," "again" and "wind." It is
permissible to take advantage of this special pronunciation and rhyme
them with "raid," "lain" and "blind."

To be strict is better than to be lax in pronunciation and it is
absolutely necessary to rise above provincialism. "Maria" is not a
rhyming companion for "fire" except in dialect verse, though this
pairing sounds natural enough in some localities.

In a piece of verse it is best not to have the same vowel sounds too
close to one another in adjacent rhyming words. Lines ending "fain,"
"made," "pain," "laid" would, of course, be correct, but the similar
vowel sounds cause a lack of variety. An arrangement such as "through,"
"made," "drew," "laid" would be better.

Nothing disgusts the reader of verse more than an imperfect rhyme. If
one is anxious to write well he should make it his business to see that
every rhyme is absolutely right before a manuscript leaves his hands.
Whatever sins may be original with a versifier at least he has no excuse
for an unmetrical line or an untrue rhyme.

To acquire facility in rhyming it is necessary to write much and to try
all styles of endings from the single rhyme to the triple. As good
practice as any will be found in the use of the French forms described
in Chapter VII.

But above all one must avoid the rhyming dictionary. When the verse
maker once gets the habit of referring to its pages there is more hope
for the amateur popular song writer than for him. Better to think half
an hour and get the right word one's self than to tread the primrose
path of the rhyming dictionary. It has one use, nevertheless, which is
perhaps allowable. There are certain words, such as "chimney," "scarf,"
"crimson," "window," "widow," and others which have no rhyme. To
ascertain whether a word belongs to this class or not the dictionary is
useful, though still a trifle dangerous.

Verse makers will rejoice to hear that "month," once a prominent figure
in this non-rhyming company, has fallen from the ranks. A new variety of
butterfly has been named the "monolunth."



IV

STANZA FORMS



CHAPTER IV

STANZA FORMS


Roughly speaking, the stanza in verse corresponds to the paragraph in
prose. It is a fixed division of the composition containing a certain
number of lines arranged in a certain rhyming order. Very often each
stanza contains a distinct and rounded thought, such as is found in a
paragraph, though this plan of construction is not universally followed
by any means. In sharp dramatic verse one must use a simple stanza form
built so that each thought ends with the last word of the last line. But
when the movement is languid the meter and stanza form may be more
intricate and it is sometimes best to let the thought flow from one
stanza to another without even the jerk of the period. The effect to be
produced is everything and should determine not only the stanza to be
used but the details of the treatment as well. The great poet can bend
any meter or stanza form to his use, as witness Thomas Hood with his
galloping stanzas in the "Bridge of Sighs," but an ordinary mortal must
produce his effects more obviously. The greater skill one has the
greater liberties one can take in his choice of materials, just as a
clever after-dinner speaker may say many things which from a less
tactful person would be deemed offensive. Thomas Hood can write his
dirges in dactylics with triple rhymes, but we must model ours on Gray's
"Elegy" or "In Memoriam."

Still the variety of stanzas is so large that one should be able to fit
almost any verse mood without the necessity of inventing a new form or
turning an old one out of its beaten track. There are little dimeter
couplets like Herrick's:

  "There thou shalt be
  High priest to me."

And there is the three-line stanza in many forms, of which this from
Landor is an example:

  "Children, keep up that harmless play,
  Your kindred angels plainly say
  By God's authority ye may."

And the four-line stanza--its name is legion.

The whole question resolves itself into the suitability of the form to
the matter. The vehicle which carries the thought best is the one to be
selected. The more appropriate the construction of the poem--the rhymes,
the meter and the stanza--the better it will carry out the writer's
intention. Instead of hampering his thought it will assist it.

As a means of becoming acquainted with the wide resources which wait the
verse maker, the student should copy and imitate every stanza form not
familiar to him. In this way he will learn for himself why the
Spenserian stanza used by Keats in his "Eve of St. Agnes" is good for
one sort of narrative and why the ballad stanza used by Coleridge in his
"Ancient Mariner" is good for another; why one sort of stanza sings
merrily and why another is fitted for funeral hymns. Best of all, he
will learn that he does not have to choose among "long meter," "short
meter" and "Hallelujah meter," but that an almost indefinite field lies
open for him.

Also he will discover that it is not necessary to create a new stanza
form in order to write a great poem. The sonnet, at which every poet has
thrummed, still waits for a new master, and the "Recessional," perhaps
the greatest poem of the last quarter century, was written in one of the
simplest and oldest of stanzas.



V

SUBTLETIES OF VERSIFICATION



CHAPTER V

SUBTLETIES OF VERSIFICATION


The more one writes the better he becomes acquainted with what might be
called "the tricks of the trade." These "tricks," "helps," or "devices"
can be explained only in a general way. Most of them each verse maker
must learn for himself, but there are some broader strokes which can be
more easily traced and pointed out and which are governed by fixed
rules.

Perhaps the most noticeable of these is alliteration. By alliteration is
meant the succession of two or more words whose initial sounds are
identical or very similar.

  "The _rich, ripe rose_ as with incense streams"

is a good example.

Through alliteration certain effects are produced which would otherwise
be impossible. Instances will occur to every reader. To quote only one
example:

  "When dandelions fleck the green
  And robins' songs _throb through_ the trees."

In these two lines by William Allen White, the two "th"s, though out of
place in most verse, here express the "throbbing" idea perfectly.

Alliteration at the beginning of accented syllables is very useful in
humorous verse, helping along the rhythm and binding the lines together.

The use of onomatopoetic words, words whose sound signifies the sense,
is so common that we seldom give it a thought. We have the "splash" of
water; the "bang" of a gun; the "crackle" of branches and so on
indefinitely. In verse this idea is carried a step farther. Lines are
constructed not only with the purpose of conveying a given idea, as in
prose, but with the additional end of strengthening this idea and
impressing it on the mind of the reader through the choice and
arrangement of the words.

  "Up a _high hill_ he _heaves_ a _huge_ round stone."

In this the successive "h" sounds suggest the hard breathing and labor
of the ascent.

Browning imitates the sound of galloping in the meter of his ride from
Ghent to Aix.

  "I sprang to the stirrup and Joris and he,
  I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three."

Tennyson is full of such turns as this:

  "Where lay the bones of ancient men,
  Old knights, and over them the sea-wind sang,
  _Shrill, chill_, with flakes of foam."

The two words certainly give a most wonderful impression of the shriek
of the cold sea-wind.

Instances of this sort might be added indefinitely but these are enough
to give the general idea. As a rule the best use of any device of this
purpose is served when it is not too apparent; when it produces the
effect without calling attention to the means.

In a certain sort of languishing verse of the mystical type an effect of
quaintness and dreaminess is produced by emphasizing the last syllables
of words whose accent by right falls on a previous syllable. This is
done by pairing them with pronounced rhymes. For instance, "tears"
rhymes with "barriers," "her" with "well-water" and so on. It must be
understood that, as an attempt to rhyme, this sort of thing is not to be
countenanced, but it is perfectly allowable when it is used to obtain a
certain effect.

Take this stanza from Whitman's "Song of the Broad-Axe," one of the few
specimens we have of his attempts at rhyme and meter. It is a true
barbaric chant whose full-mouthed syllables reproduce in little the
blows of the axe.

  "Weapon shapely, naked, wan,
  Head from the mother's bowels drawn,
  Wooded flesh and metal bone, limb only one and lip only one,
  Gray blue leaf by red-heat grown, helve produced from a little seed sown,
  Resting the grass amid and upon,
  To be leaned and to lean on."

Though our English verse largely disregards the quantity or length of a
syllable, in some lines this must be considered as well as accent. A
light meter and stanza may very easily be spoiled by the introduction of
a too-strong word. For instance, "gnarled," "strength," "thrust," and so
on are very much longer than "may," "well," "the," "for," and many other
of the one-syllabled words. When a line scans correctly but "somehow
sounds wrong," in nine cases out of ten the fault can be traced to a
long syllable that should have been short or a short syllable that
should have been long.



VI

THE QUATRAIN AND SONNET



CHAPTER VI

THE QUATRAIN AND SONNET


_The Quatrain_

In the seventeenth century the quatrain was a favorite tool of the old
English writers who wished to embody a stinging epigram or epitaph in
verse. The works of Robert Herrick contain several, most of them,
unfortunately, not fit for print. Nor was he the only unblushing
exponent of the questionable quatrain.

But times have changed and like everything else the quatrain has grown
respectable. From the disuse and misuse into which it had fallen the
modern magazine editor rescued it and by creating a market revived the
art of quatrain making. To-day sometimes the four lines are descriptive;
again they contain a kindly or clever epigram, or perhaps an unexpected
twist at the end that makes for a joke.

The average quatrain is in iambic pentameter with alternate lines
rhyming. Sometimes the first and fourth lines rhyme and the second and
third, and occasionally one sees a detached Omaric stanza. It all
depends upon the thought and the way it is to be expressed. One thing is
certain, that the quatrain because of its very brevity demands more care
and polishing than a longer piece of verse. The thought must not only be
concise and clearly expressed but the four lines must contain nothing
else.

The following example by Frank Dempster Sherman not only describes this
form of verse but is an excellent quatrain in itself:

  "Hark at the lips of this pink whorl of shell
    And you shall hear the ocean's surge and roar:
  So in the quatrain's measure, written well
    A thousand lines shall all be sung in four."


_The Sonnet_

It is the ambition of many a versifier to be known as a maker of
sonnets. Doubtless this love for the form is prompted not only by its
possibilities but even more by its traditions. Shakespeare, Milton,
Wordsworth and Rossetti, to mention only a few of the celebrated names,
were masters of the sonnet, though it must be said that the version used
by the earlier English writers was not the one we know to-day.
Shakespeare's seventy-third sonnet may serve as a fair example of the
arrangement of the lines in the early Elizabethan period, though even in
his day the present rhyming order was passing gradually into use.

  "That time of year thou may'st in me behold
    When yellow leaves or few or none do hang
  Upon the boughs which shake against the cold,
    Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.
  In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
    As after sunset fadeth in the west,
  Which by and by black night doth take away,
    Death's second self that seals up all in rest.
  In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
    That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
  As the death bed whereon it must expire,
    Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
  This thou perceivest which makes thy love more strong,
  To love that well which thou must leave ere long."

This fourteen lines, as an examination will discover, might be written
in three four-line stanzas with an additional two lines as an
epigrammatic envoy. In fact it can scarcely be called a sonnet at all,
and the last two lines come out with such force as to offend the ear
accustomed to the more modern form.

The sonnet by Keats, "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," is an
excellent illustration of the change in the rhyming system and emphasis.

  "Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
  Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
  Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne:
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
  Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:

  Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
  Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He stared at the Pacific--and all his men
  Looked at each other with a wild surmise--
  Silent, upon a peak in Darien."

The first eight lines rhyme: a, b, b, a, a, b, b, a; the last six: c, d,
c, d, c, d. Thus the sonnet halts only at one place, the interval
between the eighth and the sixth lines, where the rest is welcome, while
the emphasis, instead of coming out so brazenly at the end, reaches its
climax in the next to the last line, dying away gradually. The order of
the eight lines in the modern sonnet is almost invariably unchanged, but
the sestet is varied as the movement of the thought dictates.

As to sonnet construction little can be said here or, if one wished to
go into detail, so much could be said that it would fill this volume a
dozen times. Keats, Wordsworth and Rossetti, to say nothing of a dozen
or more modern sonneteers, are safe models to follow. One trifling
suggestion seems in order. There are so many really good sonnets now
that a second-rate production is a drug on the market. Except as an
exercise it is altogether superfluous. A first-class sonnet must be
grounded first on an idea and then rewritten and worked over until the
idea has found a fit setting. Commonplaceness either in the idea or its
expression is alike fatal.



VII

THE BALLADE AND OTHER FRENCH FORMS



CHAPTER VII

THE BALLADE AND OTHER FRENCH FORMS


The Anglo Saxons were a hard-drinking race whose bards chanted
interminable battle songs to tables of uncritical, mead-filled heroes.
As a result the English language grew up without many of the finer
points of verse and bare especially of all fixed forms. It was this
latter lack which Austin Dobson sought to supply by imitating in English
the ballade, triolet, villanelle and other verse arrangements at that
time used only by the French and not very generally among them.


_The Ballade_

Of these the ballade is the best known, and Dobson's "Ballade of the
Pompadour's Fan" is subjoined as one of the most popular and most easily
imitated.

  "Chicken skin, delicate, white,
    Painted by Carlo Van Loo,
  Loves in a riot of light,
    Roses and vaporous blue;
  Hark to the dainty frou-frou!
    Picture above if you can
  Eyes that would melt like the dew--
    This was the Pompadour's fan!

  "See how they rise at the sight,
    Thronging the OEil de Boeuf through,
  Courtiers as butterflies bright,
    Beauties that Fragonard drew;
  Talon rouge, falbala, queue,
    Cardinal Duke,--to a man,
  Eager to sigh or to sue,--
    This was the Pompadour's fan.

  "Ah, but things more than polite
    Hung on this toy, voyez vous!
  Matters of state and of might,
    Things that great ministers do.
  Things that maybe overthrew
    Those in whose brains they began;
  Here was the sign and the cue,--
    This was the Pompadour's fan.

              ENVOY

  "Where are the secrets it knew?
    Weavings of plot and of plan?
  But where is the Pompadour, too?
    This was the Pompadour's fan."

It will be noticed that there are but three rhyming sounds, also that
the last line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the
other two and the envoy. The lines rhyme together a, b, a, b, b, c, b,
c, in each stanza and in the envoy b, c, b, c. The most frequent rhyme
occurs fourteen times; the next six and the "c" rhyme five. With the
exception of the refrain there is no repetition of rhymes in the proper
ballade. Even Dobson's use of "cue" and "queue" is, in the strictest
sense, an error.

With its difficult rhymes the ballade is an excellent school in which to
learn smooth-flowing verse. If one is able to write a simple and natural
ballade the ordinary stanza forms will appear ridiculously easy.

But the ballade has two bugbears: the first the refrain which refuses to
come in naturally, and the second the envoy which insists on appearing
as a disjointed after thought. The refrain in a good ballade makes its
bow each time with a slight change in the significance and comes in not
because it has been predestined for the end of the stanza, but because
it is the only combination of words possible to round out the eight
lines.

The envoy contains the gist of the whole matter and at the same time
must be written to be read not as an appendix but as a component part of
the ballade. It must always come out with a ring that leaves the spirit
of the verse stamped on the reader's mind.

For overcoming these two bugbears--practice will conquer the most
recalcitrant refrain and one may often circumvent an envoy by writing it
first. When the sound chosen for the most frequent rhyme has but some
sixteen or seventeen companion words an envoy written in the beginning
will save much pondering later. It is easier to fit the unused rhymes
into an eight-line stanza than into a four-line envoy, especially when
the four lines are called on to sum up the thought of the whole
production and give a clever turn to it as well.


_The Rondeau_

  "'In teacup times!' The style of dress
  Would suit your beauty, I confess.
    Belinda-like the patch you'd wear;
    I picture you with powdered hair,--
  You'd made a splendid shepherdess!

  "And I, no doubt, could well express
  Sir Plume's complete conceitedness,--
  Could poise a clouded cane with care
        'In teacup times.'

  "The parts would fit precisely--yes:
  We should achieve a huge success!
    You should disdain and I despair
    With quite the true Augustan air;
  But ... could I love you more or less,--
        'In teacup times'?"

The rondeau's difficulties lie in its two-rhyme limitation and the
handling of the refrain. This refrain either rounds the stanzas
beautifully or else plays dog in the manger with the sense. In the
common form of the rondeau it is made up of the first four syllables of
the first line and is repeated after the eighth and thirteenth lines.

A simpler form of the rondeau devised or at least introduced by Austin
Dobson is to be found in the "May Book." This gives an idea of the
rondeau's possibilities as a medium for more serious verse.

  "IN ANGEL COURT

  "In Angel Court the sunless air
    Grows faint and sick; to left and right,
    The cowering houses shrink from sight,
  Huddling and hopeless, eyeless, bare.

  "Misnamed, you say, for surely rare
  Must be the Angel shapes that light
          In Angel Court.

  "Nay, the Eternities are there.
    Death by the doorway stands to smite;
    Life in its garrets leaps to light;
  And Love has climbed the crumbling stair
          In Angel Court."

Villon has varied the rondeau so as to use for a refrain a single
syllable. This form, though not so flexible as the others, has its use
and is very apt for obtaining certain effects.


_The Triolet_

In the matter of triolets Austin Dobson is again an authority, though
his experiments in this form are scarcely as successful as his ballades
and rondeaus.

  "TO ROSE"

  AUSTIN DOBSON

  "In the school of Coquettes
    Madam Rose is a scholar:
  O, they fish with all nets
  In the school of Coquettes!
  When her brooch she forgets
    'Tis to show her new collar:
  In the school of Coquettes
    Madam Rose is a scholar."

Here the first line is also the fourth and the seventh, while the second
is duplicated in the last. This is another of the two-rhyme forms.

The triolet seems simple enough, and, for that matter, a certain kind of
triolet can be written by the ream. But to put the eight lines together
in such a way that the refrain comes in freshly each time, is often a
day's work. In a much lighter vein it is permissible to pun in the
repeated lines so that the last repetition comes in with a different
meaning.

Though intended for the delicately humorous the triolet is sober-going
enough to carry a thread of sentiment. Nothing could be daintier or more
suggestively pathetic than these lines by H. C. Bunner:

  "A pitcher of mignonette,
    In a tenement's highest casement:
  Queer sort of a flower-pot--yet
  That pitcher of mignonette
  Is a garden in heaven set
    To the little sick child in the basement--
  The pitcher of mignonette,
    In the tenement's highest casement."


_The Rondel_

  "READY FOR THE RIDE"

  H. C. BUNNER

  "Through the fresh fairness of the Spring to ride,
    As in the old days when he rode with her,
  With joy of Love that had fond Hope to bride
    One year ago had made her pulses stir.

  "Now shall no wish with any day recur
    (For Love and Death part year and year full wide),
    Through the fresh fairness of the Spring to ride,
  As in the old days when he rode with her.

  "No ghost there lingers of the smile that died
    On the sweet pale lip where his kisses were
  ... Yet still she turns her delicate head aside,
    If she may hear him come with jingling spur
  Through the fresh fairness of the Spring to ride,
    As in the old days when he rode with her."

This variant of the rondeau contains fourteen lines of which the first
two are twice repeated as refrains. But two rhymes are employed.


_The Villanelle_

  "A VILLANELLE AT VERONA"

  AUSTIN DOBSON,

  In the _Century Magazine_

  "A voice in the scented night,
    A step where the rose trees blow,--
  O Love and O Love's delight!

  "Cold star at the blue vault's height,
    What is it that shakes you so?
  A voice in the scented night.

  "She comes in her beauty bright,
    She comes in her young love's glow,
  O Love and O Love's delight!

  "She bends from her casement white,
    And she hears it hushed and low,
  A voice in the scented night.

  "And he climbs by that stairway slight
    Her passionate Romeo:
  O Love and O Love's delight!

  "And it stirs us still in spite
    Of its 'ever so long ago,'
  That voice in the scented night;
  O Love and O Love's delight!"

The second lines of each stanza rhyme and the first and third lines of
the first stanza are alternated as refrains.

The sestina has six six-line stanzas and an envoy: in the stanzas the
final words of each line remain the same throughout, though the order is
changed. In the three-line envoy the six words must appear again and in
an established order. The sestina is a trifle too long to quote, but
one of the best and sanest examples is to be found in Kipling's Seven
Seas--"The Sestina of the Tramp Royal." Swinburne's sestinas though
"poetic" are very cloudy in meaning.

The pantoum, another involved arrangement, is made up of four-line
stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of the first verse are used
as the first and third lines of the second verse, and so on _ad
infinitum_ until the weary author ends by repeating the first and third
lines of the whole production as the second from the last and the last
of the concluding stanza.

There is great good for the beginner in writing these French forms even
if he takes up the work only as an exercise. Their construction is so
certain and fixed that an error is glaring. Though it may be
brow-wrinkling to build a ballade, it is a simple matter to see its
faults.

There is also value in these forms for the advanced student. They embody
suggestions for new stanza forms and fresh verse in general. The use of
the ballade variant may be found in Kipling. When varied the triolet
may give exactly the right ring for some idea which refuses to fit
itself into the conventional molds. When one has served his
apprenticeship he may arrange and rearrange as he sees fit, bending the
stanza to his purpose. Of the forms he is not the slave but the master.



VIII

THE SONG



CHAPTER VIII

THE SONG


A variety of verse which has great vogue now and which has so developed
as to be considered almost as individual as the rondeau or sonnet is the
modern "song."

Formerly the "song" was written to music or at least written that it
might be set to music, but now it must sing itself. It may dress in
sober iambics if it pleases, but there must be a lilt and go to the
words to suggest music. Among the best examples of this form open to the
reader are the songs of Robert Burns. Though written to fit old Scotch
airs the words themselves suggest a melody to any one with the slightest
ear for music. For instance:

  "My luve is like a red, red rose
    That's newly sprung in June:
  My luve is like the melodie
    That's sweetly played in tune.

  "As fair thou art, my bonnie lass,
    So deep in luve am I:
  And I will luve thee still, my dear,
    Till a' the seas gang dry.

  "Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
    And the rocks melt in the sun:
  I will luve thee still, my dear,
    While the sands o' life shall run.

  "And fare thee weel, my only luve!
    And fare thee weel awhile:
  And I will come again, my luve,
    Tho' it were ten thousand mile."

Though not the author of much printed verse Robert Louis Stevenson has
written more than one singing stanza:

  "Bright is the ring of words
    When the right man rings them,
  Fair is the fall of songs
    When the singer sings them.
  Still they are carolled and said--
    On wings they are carried--
  After the singer is dead
    And the maker buried."

Going to the works of W. E. Henley we find much very singable verse. In
the quoted example he has used in the chorus the suggestion of an old
Scotch stanza:

  "Oh Falmouth is a fine town with ships in the bay,
  And I wish from my heart it's there I was to-day:
  I wish from my heart I was far away from here,
  Sitting in my parlor and talking to my dear.
    For it's home, dearie, home--it's home I want to be,
    Our topsails are hoisted and we'll away to sea.
    Oh, the oak and the ash and the bonnie birken tree,
    They're all growing green in the old countree."

Austin Dobson in a longer poem makes use of the following stanza:

  "Across the grass I see her pass;
    She comes with tripping pace,--
  A maid I know, the March winds blow
    Her hair across her face;--
      With a hey, Dolly! ho Dolly!
        Dolly shall be mine,
      Before the spray is white with May
        Or blooms the eglantine."

In all of Kipling the singing quality is dominant. He is to be marked
especially because in his songs he has combined the old meters so as to
give the effect of absolute novelty. The Scotch poets of Burns' time and
before, offer many excellent chances for imitation and study.
Shakespeare's occasional songs are always true. A seldom quoted poem of
Lord Byron's is full of melody:

  "So we'll go no more a roving
    So late into the night,
  Though the heart be still as loving,
    And the moon be still as bright.

  "For the sword outwears its sheath,
    And the soul wears out the breast,
  And the heart must pause to breathe,
    And love itself have rest.

  "Though the night was made for loving
    And the day returns too soon,
  Yet we'll go no more a roving
    By the light of the moon."

Just exactly where the singing quality of a song lies it is hard to
tell. It is not altogether in the open vowels or the meter or the flow
of thought, though dependent on all three. It is impossible to formulate
any rule for the construction of the song except the general laws of
good taste. The only plan is to try and try again until the result
contains something of the singing quality. Very often it is helpful to
fit the words to some air imaginary or otherwise which runs in the head.
The song may be long or short, tell little or a great deal. In practice,
as a rule, it is less than twenty-four lines in length and expresses a
single thought or emotion. Its only two essentials are that it be
graceful and that it sing.



IX

TYPES OF MODERN VERSE



CHAPTER IX

TYPES OF MODERN VERSE


_Vers de Société_

Vers de société, "society verse," is a development of the last century;
almost, one might say, of the last twenty-five years. In that time there
has been composed a great volume of this sort of verse upon which a
number of the minor poets have based their claims to remembrance. It is
difficult to define _vers de société_; in fact, the only way it can be
described is through examples. Its characteristics are a gracefulness of
thought and style, a fluency in expression, a vein of delicate humor or
sentiment and a subject which falls within the limits of "polite
conversation." It sparkles or should sparkle with clever turns of
thought and at times even descends to a sort of punning. No attempt is
made to reach the sublime, but serious _vers de société_ is often
written and is the more effective because of its contrasted setting. The
ballade, rondeau and triolet are favorite expressions of this style of
verse, for in general its writers seek difficult stanza forms with
rhymes natural but never hackneyed.

As an exercise its making is both profitable and difficult. On trial, it
will be found no easy matter to write line after line of every-day
English into balanced verse that is not commonplace, but once well done
it is a much easier task to find a market.

Calverley's "Fly Leaves" approach the classic of _vers de société_.
Austin Dobson has worked in a more serious vein. Praed has written some
delightfully easy specimens of the style, while in America John G. Saxe,
Oliver Wendell Holmes and a number of contemporary writers are
responsible for an extensive output ranking well up with England's.


_The Dramatic Interlude_

The serious drama in verse nowadays is a drug on the market as far as
selling power is concerned, unless we except the plays of Stephen
Phillips. There is, however, a sort of dramatic interlude which is not
only marketable but much more easily and pleasantly written; a
composition on the general order of Dobson's "Proverbs in Porcelain." A
study of the "Proverbs" will go further for an understanding of the
subject than pages of explanation.

They are written in iambic tetrameter which is kept from singsongness by
the action of the dialogue. The characters seldom end their speeches at
the end of the line but rather in the middle, and the line is filled out
by the first words of the next speaker.

These little play fragments, built in the form of a delicate comedy, are
not long enough to exhaust either writer or reader and are even to be
met with now and then in our modern magazines. Their value for the verse
maker lies in the premium which they put upon ease and naturalness of
expression, though in addition they present a novel exercise to the
student who is tired of writing his narratives in conventional verse.
The "Proverbs" are suggested not as models to copy absolutely but rather
as the base of variations which the verse maker may devise to suit his
theme.


_Nonsense Verse_

Nonsense verse in its present development is a fairly modern growth. It
began with the limerick which first reached the public under the kindly
patronage of Mother Goose:

  "There was an old man of Bombay,
  Who pulled at a pipe made of clay,
    But a long-legged snipe
    Flew away with the pipe
  Which vexed that old man of Bombay."

With this as a beginning the limerick has spread far and wide. It has
secured a place in modern nonsense verse corresponding to that of the
sonnet in more serious efforts. There are even limerick fiends who
pride themselves on their writing of limericks and others whose
collections of the form total up in the thousands.

It is very seldom that one sees a limerick now with the first and last
lines identical. As a rule the last line differs from the first and ends
in a new rhyme. The following taken from _Life_ represents the
apotheosis of the limerick:

  "A German from over the Rhine
  When asked at what hour he would dine,
      Replied, 'At Five, Seven,
      Eight, Ten and Eleven,
  Four, Six and a Quarter to Nine!'"

Edward Lear, an English writer, began the popularization of the limerick
in his nonsense books about 1850 and since his time it has been
experimented with by many of the cleverest writers now before the
public.

But nonsense verse is not confined to this one form. Passing from the
work of Lear we come to Lewis Carroll's verse in "Alice in Wonderland."
Nothing of its kind better than "Jabberwocky" has ever been written,
and it would be a bold verse maker who would try to improve on "The
Walrus and the Carpenter," or any of the other "Alice poems."

In a different way, though perhaps as amusing, is the Gelett Burgess
style of nonsense verse typified in his noble quatrain to the Purple
Cow:

  "I never saw a purple cow,
    I never hope to see one;
  But this I'll tell you anyhow
    I'd rather see than be one."

Some years ago the college humorous publications originated a
bloodthirsty conceit which touched the doings of Little Willie:

  "Little Willie yesterday
  When the baby went to play
  Filled him full of kerosene.
  Gee! but isn't Willie mean!"

Since then the murderous adventures of "Little Willie" have been
countless.

They are all cannibalistic but rather catchy.

The awful thing about nonsense verse is the very fine line that divides
a masterpiece from utter drivel. Nonsense verse is very good or very
bad. When it plays along the edges it is very pleasing but when it
oversteps it becomes rot.


_The Humorous Ballad_

A step higher in the ladder is the Humorous Ballad. The "Comic Ballad"
we have had with us from the days of Robin Hood, but W. S. Gilbert in
his "Bab Ballads" reached heights before his time unsuspected. By the
use of catchy stanzas and unusual rhymes he made the type a thing of
art. Most readers are familiar with the "Yarn of the Nancy Bell," in
which the solitary sailor sings:

  "Oh, I am the cook and the captain bold
    And the mate of the Nancy brig;
  And the bos'n tight and the midshipmite
    And the crew of the captain's gig."

Since the publication of the "Bab Ballads" a great deal of verse has
been produced along the same general lines. Mr. Wallace Irwin's
"Nautical Ballads of a Landsman" are the most notable additions of
recent years.



X

VERSE TRANSLATION



CHAPTER X

VERSE TRANSLATION


A working knowledge of some foreign language--say French or German--is
often very profitable to the verse maker. With a dictionary and a couple
of text books he can make very good translations of the poetry of the
language--work which may not bring a money return but which as an
exercise is both interesting and valuable. The process is not
complicated, though a good verse translation may be made as hard a task
as any falling to the lot of the literary worker.

Take a poem that strikes the fancy; read it and reread till every word
is clear and then shape the translation into a stanza and meter as near
the original as possible. If there are four three-line stanzas in the
original, build the translation into four three-line stanzas as closely
line for line as the ease of the verse will permit. In translating from
the German the original meter can be followed accent for accent, though
this is impossible with the French, whose syllables are without
emphasis, and would scarcely be advisable with any of the more
complicated Latin meters.

At first it is a good idea to make the English verse rigorously exact in
its meaning--to study every word until the verse not only rhymes and
runs with some degree of naturalness, but also is a correct rendering of
the cold facts. This is not so hard as it seems if one sits down and
thinks the right word out, and it gives opportunity for an excellent
overhauling of the vocabulary.

Any one who has had a high-school course in Latin can experiment with
Virgil, turning it either into couplets like Pope's Iliad or into the
more appropriate meter used by Longfellow in his Evangeline. With a
dictionary and a literal translation it is easy enough to puzzle out
Horace, who is more modern in his thought and who is, in a way, the
ancestor of our present _vers-de-société_ writers. There is also this
advantage in the translation of Horace: One finds a chance to compare
his translation with the work of many others, for Horace has been more
widely translated than any other poet unless we except the Biblical
writers. The fame of Father Prout rests largely on his renderings of
Horace. Austin Dobson has translated several of the odes into the French
forms and many other poets have turned their hand to the task.

Among the Germans, Heine is a favorite with English translators, though
many of his songs from their shortness and delicacy are hard to express
properly. Goethe and Schiller have also been much translated and any
collection of German poetry will show a dozen poems with which one has
become familiar through the English versions.

Among the French it is difficult to specify any particular authors, as
they have not been so widely translated as the Germans. Alfred de
Musset, Théophile Gautier and Paul Verlaine are, perhaps, as well known
as any other of the more modern writers.

In making translations with a view to the artistic side the result is
apt to differ from the exercise which aims only at accuracy. For
practice one should render line for line as nearly as possible. When one
can do this it is allowable to take more liberties and reproduce the
poem, not line for line as it stands, but rather as the author might
have written it had he composed in English; to preserve the meter and
general arrangement but to sacrifice details when necessary to the
spirit of the poem. When the two qualities can be combined and a poem is
translated in such a way that the lines correspond and yet do not crowd
out the poetry the result is a masterpiece. But such things very rarely
happen and require not only hard work but a flash of inspiration and
good luck as well.

Very often a poem can be imitated from its mother tongue. A stanza or
two may be expanded into a ballade in English containing an elaboration
of the original thought. It is perfectly allowable to offer a
composition of this sort for sale provided the source is acknowledged.



XI

ABOUT READING



CHAPTER XI

ABOUT READING


To write good verse one must read good verse. The world has spun too
long for a man to succeed who depends wholly on his own ideas; he must
profit by the work of others. The more poetry and the more kinds of
poetry the verse maker reads the broader his knowledge of the subject
becomes. First it touches his vocabulary, then his rhymes and meters and
lastly his methods.

Though all good literature is helpful in this way, the book which gives
the most enjoyment is very apt to bring the most profit. But it should
not be forgotten that many authors are unpopular because of a hasty
first impression. A rainy day and a disagreeable companion will spoil
the effect of the prettiest scenery in the world, and a bad dinner and a
headache may turn a masterpiece into a lasting abomination. Any poet
whose work has lived must possess some quality which is worth
appreciating if not acquiring. Given a fair trial without prejudice he
will speak for himself.

It is not in the compass of this chapter to list the "Poets Who Should
Be Reverenced." It is better for the verse maker to experiment and
select his patron saints for himself. Yet attention may be called to
certain accepted masters with whose work even the beginner should be
familiar.

At the head of the list stands the Bible. The beauty and simplicity of
its speech fully explain how this book has inspired generation after
generation of poets. Job, Isaiah, the Psalms and the writings of Solomon
are in themselves a treasury of phrase and suggestion.

Shakespeare is to be read for the poetry of his lines and picturesque
word-grouping if for nothing else. For that matter, the songs of all the
Elizabethan dramatists are worthy of study and restudy. They have a lilt
and a lightness which make them live even now when so many literary
fashions have passed away.

The old English ballads, to be found in Percy's Reliques, Allingham's
Ballad Book and most collections of English Literature, are a help
toward understanding the construction of a spirited narrative poem.
Kipling's "Ballad of East and West" shows how effectively this sort of
treatment can be applied to a modern theme.

Robert Herrick is worth while for the grace and delicacy of his poems;
with him might be classed the better efforts of Lovelace and Sir John
Suckling.

Milton's "Paradise Lost" is perhaps the best example we have of
continuous blank verse. It should be read but not imitated, at least not
imitated too much. It is hard to distinguish good blank verse from bad
and it is so easy to write the bad.

Dryden's "Alexander's Feast" deserves a perpetual bookmark for the
remarkable success with which the trend of emotion is interpreted by the
rhythm. "The Bells," by Edgar Allan Poe, is another example of this
treatment and is held by some critics to be equally good.

Pope's verse and that of his age generally is too cleverly artificial to
be of much use to a modern, though his mastery of the epigrammatic
couplet might be profitably noted.

As an exemplification of finished workmanship Gray's "Elegy in a Country
Churchyard" stands alone.

Robert Burns, for the swing of his songs and the flavor of his words,
should be read continually. Much of his Scotch vocabulary might be used,
judiciously, in English verse.

In the "Eve of St. Agnes," Keats has revealed possibilities in the
Spenserian stanza of which Spenser himself was not aware, and the "Ode
to a Nightingale" and the "Ode on a Grecian Urn" have a classic beauty
which can be recognized though not successfully copied.

Of the more modern poets Browning's strange, uncouth phrasing is full of
power; Tennyson's mastery is shown in his exquisite choice of words, and
Swinburne's meters and rhymes are worth close application.

And so one might go on for a dozen pages and still have an incomplete
list. It is not what one reads but how one reads. The books wait on the
shelves and through reading and through reading only can one cultivate
that most necessary though indefinable quality--Good Taste.



XII

HINTS FOR BEGINNERS



CHAPTER XII

HINTS FOR BEGINNERS


For one whose verse runs easily and whose occasional sales are an
encouragement, this last chapter is perhaps unnecessary. Yet there may
come times in routine, monotonous production when even he loses in
interest, and with this loss his work falls off in quality. It is only
through interest and desire that anything has ever been accomplished,
and if these are not sustained the work must stay at a low level. Even
the seasoned writer must look forward to his work if he wishes to
improve.

For the beginner whose airy verse does not trip but rather lumbers, who
is unable to write anything worthy of sale and whose ideas refuse to be
crowded into the right number of feet, it might be an excellent thing
occasionally to drop all thought of pentameters and amphibrachs and go
back to the old-fashioned rhymed alphabet.

  "A is for Ant
      That lives in the ground,
  B is for Bear--
      A terror when found----"

and so on through the twenty-six harmless letters. It is an exercise in
ingenuity if nothing else and if the writer has any skill at drawing it
could be converted into a delightful gift for a five-year-old. Lear, the
author of the Nonsense books, did not think it beneath his dignity to
write six of these alphabets in varying stanza forms.

A little harder, but still not too hard, is the limerick, examples of
which are given in Chapter IX. As a gift, a series of illustrated
limericks on people you know would have the merit of novelty at least.

To see one's productions in print is always an incentive to better work.
The type is cheering even when its legibility reveals several faults
unnoticed in manuscript. Most small newspapers are glad to publish
fairly good verse when the poet is willing to let it go for nothing. Be
sure that rhyme and meter are correct and then send it in and let the
General Public stand from under.

If it is a lack of verse ideas that bothers you, try a drama. Write it
in blank verse and crowd the action with incidental songs. This is not
for publication, of course; not even to show your dearest friend, but
just for practice. Put in a troubadour if you like, or anything else a
romantic imagination may suggest, and let them sing themselves hoarse in
every scene. In this prosaic century you might not be able to write a
stirring love song, but if you become thoroughly identified with the
characters, your troubadour or your fair lady would be bound to get off
something creditable. The plot of the drama is a thing of no
consequence; it may have as much or as little as you choose. Write the
scenes as the mood strikes you and when you have lost interest think of
it only as an exercise.

Tennyson's "Maud" shows how a narrative poem may be treated in a series
of lyrics and suggests imitation. The German poets, as well as some
English writers, have song cycles, a series of poems all bearing on one
central theme. A pedestrian trip; the life of a bird couple; the coming
of winter, and innumerable other subjects lie close at hand suitable for
such treatment. Henley's city types and hospital sketches lead the way
for similar verses of things familiar to you.

Very often a line from a piece of prose or verse sticks in the memory.
Utilize the line by making it the refrain of a ballade or the ending of
some similar verse form. Browning composed his "Childe Roland to the
Dark Tower Came," around that single line taken from a song in "King
Lear." It is possible to go even further and with a stanza--say from
some Elizabethan song--construct about it the completed poem. Rossetti
has done this with one of Ophelia's songs in "Hamlet."

But keep up your interest and work for the love of working. There is
drudgery in the learning of anything, but with verse one can at least
make it interesting drudgery. Never give up; never be satisfied; and
with all English literature to rove in, don't stick in a rut.

Now a general summing up for the verse maker--a summing up that applies
just as much to painting or modeling as it does to verse writing.

Remember always that you are your own master and that your highest
development must always come from yourself. On all matters of taste you
are the court of last resort to decide for the hurt or betterment of
your soul. So it is necessary in the beginning to be just with yourself.
If your verses are not good, throw them away or rewrite them. If they
are good not only when written but after they have been laid aside for a
month; if the rhymes are true and the meter perfect; if the words run
naturally and clearly and embody a real idea, then you may be sure that
you have something worthy of editorial consideration at least. If the
idea is old and put in the form that has endured, lo! these many
generations--"love," "dove," "kiss," "bliss," very probably it will not
be accepted. When it comes back from five magazines be fair enough to
recognize that perhaps the fault lies with you and lay the masterpiece
away for another two months. Then examine it fair-mindedly and try to
see just where it falls short of perfection. But you must be you own
worst or rather best critic. Admit it when you are wrong and when you
are right hold your opinion against all comers.

You must decide whether to write much verse or little. Sometimes
improvement comes best with a great deal of carelessly constructed
stuff. Again a smaller and more carefully regulated output is better. As
a general thing, if your ear is correct and your verse comes easily, the
better way is to write little and write carefully, spending your time on
a few lines. If, however, your rhymes come hard and your expression is
not fluent, try a larger output not so carefully revised.

Analyze and imitate.

Make the mechanical construction correct. Two rhyming words with you
should be either good or bad; you should not recognize half-way rhymes.
If they are not worthy to be classed with the best, throw them out
utterly. Even in your exercises do not tolerate a false rhyme or a line
lacking in syllables.

Do not attempt too hard a thing at first. You will only be disappointed.
Do not write a ballade until you can write a limerick. Work up
gradually.

And you must not become discouraged. If you write day in and day out,
you are bound to improve, though the work of Wednesday be no better than
that of Tuesday or even of Saturday. Progress goes in jumps. Nine times
we fail and on the tenth trial we succeed.

We cannot all be artists but we can all be good workmen. And the better
we are able to handle our materials the better we shall be able, if it
is in us, to produce something worth while.



APPENDIX



APPENDIX


I

MARKET FOR VERSE

There is no market nowadays for the long poem except from writers of
established reputation. As a rule the shorter the verse the better its
chance of acceptance. Verse humorous is easier to dispose of than verse
serious because there is a wider field. _Puck_, _Judge_, _Life_, _Smart
Set_, _Ainslee's_, _Harper's_, _Century_, and an army of others are
always willing to buy really amusing verse.

Serious verse is sold in lesser quantities, but the price is
better--when the production is bought by a high-class publication. The
_Atlantic Monthly_ is always on the lookout for new writers and other
magazines are prompt to recognize what pleases them even in the work of
a newcomer. Perhaps the most standard popular forms of serious verse are
the sonnet and the short love lyric.

Many editors are glad to buy quatrains and even couplets to fill out a
page when a longer form would be rejected. The well-written triolet is
also sure of a hearing for this same reason.

Newspapers pay little or nothing for verse except when a special writer
is put on the staff to supply a column of verse a day. Occasionally some
topical stanza which agrees with the editorial policy will be accepted
from an outsider. It may be pointed out here that very often the humor
or appropriateness of a production will overbalance faults in the rhyme
and meter. In serious verse an exception of this sort will rarely be
found and a thing must stand or fall on its real merits.

There is no sure way to determine the market except by personal
investigation. Read the magazines till you find out where the editor's
preference lies and then try him with something of your own, written not
in imitation but on the same general lines. Do not send out your verse
in a hit-or-miss fashion. Separate the limericks and the love songs and
send them each to their appointed editor.

In spite of the protestations of interested publishers the reading
public does not interest itself in the volume of "collected poems." A
book of this sort is rarely looked at unless it runs very much out of
the ordinary or comes as the product of some well-known author.


II

SUGGESTIONS FOR READING

This is not intended in any way to be an exhaustive list. It merely
suggests the field which each student is bound to explore for himself.


TECHNIQUE OF VERSE.

The Rhymester--Tom Hood. Concise; with rhyming dictionary appendix.

Science of Verse--Sidney Lanier. Worth while for the advanced student.

--The Poetic Principle,

--Philosophy of Compensation,

--Rationale of Verse. Essays by Edgar Allan Poe; to be found in his
collected works. Very interesting as showing the methods and viewpoint
of a great poet.


COLLECTIONS OF POETRY.

Ward's English Poets. Four volumes ranging from Chaucer to Tennyson.

Oxford Book of English Verse. One large volume containing the work of
many of the living writers as well as selections from all the standard
poets.

--Victorian Anthology.

--American Anthology. Both compiled by Edmund Clarence Stedman. Valuable
because they contain examples of the best work of to-day's verse makers.


THE SONNET.

Examples of the sonnet are to be found in almost any collection of
verse. The older magazines, especially the _Atlantic Monthly_, use the
form continually. The best known sonnet series are:

Astrophel and Stella--Sir Philip Sidney.

Sonnets of Shakespeare.

House of Life--Rossetti.

Sonnets from the Portuguese--Elizabeth Barrett Browning.


FRENCH FORMS.

Examples are to be found in the collected poems of Austin Dobson, Andrew
Lang, W. E. Henley and H. C. Bunner, to mention only the more prominent.
The Ballade Book, edited by Gleeson White, Ex Libris Series, contains
examples of all the forms and is probably the most convenient collection
to be had.


THE SONG.

In this connection see Burns, Moore, Tennyson, together with Scotch
collections and the work of W. B. Yeats and other modern Irish writers.
For rhythm and a different sort of "song" see Kipling. The Vagabondia
Series by Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey are worth buying. Occasional
poems, falling under this head, are to be found in almost any volume of
the poets.


VERS DE SOCIÉTÉ.

About the best single book is a volume in the Leisure Hour Series
entitled "Vers de Société." It gives an excellent idea of the field
covered. Among the strongest writers of this style of verse are Austin
Dobson, C. S. Calverley, Andrew Lang, W. M. Praed and H. C. Bunner.
Perhaps the best known English writer of to-day is Owen Seaman, whose
work appears weekly in _Punch_.


NONSENSE VERSE.

Mother Goose.

The Burgess Nonsense Book--Gelett Burgess.

A Nonsense Anthology--Carolyn Wells.

A Parody Anthology--Carolyn Wells.


HUMOROUS BALLADS.

Bab Ballads--W. S. Gilbert.

Grimm Tales Made Gay--Guy Wetmore Carryl.

Nautical Ballads of a Landsman--Wallace Irwin.


TRANSLATIONS.

It is difficult to quote any translator in particular who is worth
while. Most translators are not poets and most poets have not been
translators. The book of solid translation is generally very mediocre
and tiresome. Translations of the greatest foreign poets are to be found
in any fair-sized public library. Longfellow, Swinburne, Rossetti,
Dobson, Lang and a few others have left occasional translations which
are models of the best of this work.





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