Archive for the ‘Real Rhymers Rhymes’ Category

Blake’s Mistake

May 5, 2011 32 comments


With all respect to William Blake

I think he made a big mistake

With Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

He didn’t get the rhyming right

Although I strive and really try

I can’t rhyme symmetry with eye!

This week’s Big Tent Poetry prompt is to do a revision. That probably meant a revision of your own work, but I thought I might try something more ambitious. How about “fixing” a 217-year old classic?

I have always loved Blake’s The Tyger (see below), but have struggled with the rhyming in this couplet:

What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

And this one:

What immortal hand or eye

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry

These do not rhyme…no way, no how.  I have read several explanations for this poetic malpractice.  They fall into three categories:

  1. It rhymed just swell in the English vernacular circa 1794
  2. It is a slant, half, or eye rhyme considered acceptable among poets in that milieu
  3. It was done intentionally to add emphasis to those two lines

None of these explanations satisfied me.  So, powered by Google and armed with a six-pack, I decided to investigate this mystery.  The following theory is the product of my research:

Blake, responding to an online prompt and feeling pressure to add content to his blog, was at an impasse. He had a pretty good, but imperfect, piece…there were those nagging couplets.  Try as he might, he couldn’t work it out.  He knew that his fellow bloggers were polite, supportive and unlikely to criticize. Since the clock was ticking (and in 1794 he probably only had dial up) he decided to publish as is. There you have it.

I think 217 years is a long time to go without correcting this egregious error. I can’t believe someone hasn’t done so before. You may think that’s a bit pretentious, but I see it as a public service.  Here you go:


By William Blake (and Versebender)

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye eye or hand
Could frame thy fearful symmetry a majesty so grand?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye eye or hand
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry a majesty so grand?

Much better!


Other Figs

April 19, 2011 33 comments

Published in 1920, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s, First Fig is one of my favorites.  Of course, it was written from the perspective of a poet.  What, I wondered, might it look like if it were written by someone in another occupation.  Below are the original and a few other examples.


ESVM’s Original Version


My candle burns at both ends.

 It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –

It gives a lovely light

Accountant’s Version

My candle burns at both ends

I cannot put it out

Which means that in just half the time

I’ll have to do without

Lawyer’s Version

My candle burns at both ends

My hands are burned to boot

A blatant case of negligence

I think I’ll file a suit

Politician’s Version

My candle burns at both ends

Your taxes pave the way

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –

You both will get to pay

Then I got to thinking:  What might this poem look like in a form other than rhyming, metered verse.  A few examples are found below:

Haiku Version

Candle’s double flame

Flashes bright like summer sun

Short but vibrant life

Free Verse Version

My candle burns at both ends

Two passion-fired infernos

Racing towards consummation

Thrusting forward

Powered by the force of a runaway metaphor

They unite in a rapture of luminescence

Then nothing

The soul-sucking darkness of the eternal void

Friends and foes can only marvel

At the profligate verbiage

Here’s a great contribution courtesy of  lolamouse.  You should check out her blog….always lot’s of great stuff there!

The Existentialist’s Version

My candle burns at both ends
The wax gives no resistance
But, like life, it matters not
To our meaningless existence

Any other interpretations of the classic are welcome. Vb

This post is linked to One Stop Poetry and Big Tent Poetry

Under the Table

April 11, 2011 61 comments












This post is in response to Magpie Tales prompt #61 which is the image above.


Anything I try will pale in comparison to the the great Dorothy Parker.  If you are not familiar with her, give yourself a treat and explore her writings.  In my opinion, the wittiest writer ever.







Here’s one of her pieces that’s fits this prompt perfectly:


I wish I could drink like a lady

I can take one or two at the most

Three and I’m under the table

Four and I’m under the host

Here’s my take:


While minding my manners at dinner

And sipping a merlot or four

My body went suddenly liquid

And I dribbled on to the floor

I don’t think my in-laws are happy

I shudder at what they must think

But since I am already down here

Please pass me the rest of my drink


February 20, 2011 2 comments

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light.

…Edna St. Vincent Millay

I really like this. It communicates beautifully with an economy of words. I have seen it criticized as “not scanning.” I don’t care. You?