This week’s topic: Philosophise.
Poetry is often seen as a bit vague, and out there, with allegories and metaphors which sole purpose seems to be to confuse the reader. Not to mention the semi-intellectual drizzle that is often put into rhyme. This week, I’m going to ask you to do exactly that, show me something you’re thinking about, in terms of some abstract concept that may or may not provide deeper insight into whatever. Maybe you’ve got something to say about the relations between humanity and the divine, the holy grail for world peace; or the finer intricacies of the impact of ducks’ quacks on the development of dubstep music. Write something that might pass for insightfulness (or not), and put it into poetry.
This week’s optional requirement: Write something in Heroic Couplets.
In one of the other threads in the CC, Alexander Pope was mentioned. As I'm quite lazy and uninspired at the moment, I thought it would therefore be nice to pay some attention to Heroic Couplets, which Pope quite extensively used in his work. As you might remember, some months ago, we discussed blank verse, a non-rhyming form of poetry with a metric scheme. Heroic couplets aren't much different, in that they (often) adhere to a metric scheme, usually consisting of lines of iambic pentameters (five pairs or unstressed-stressed da-DUM syllables). The difference with heroic couplets lies in the fact that they do rhyme, with an end-rhyming scheme. As the name 'couplets' already implies, poems in heroic couplets are formed through 'chunks' of two lines, that rhyme with each other.
If we for example take a look at one of Pope's more famous poems, 'An Essay on Criticism', you can see that each pair of two lines contains its own example of end-rhyme:
Some few in that, but Numbers err in this, (a)
Ten Censure wrong for one who Writes amiss; (a)
A Fool might once himself alone expose, (b)
Now One in Verse makes many more in Prose. (b)
I personally don't really like Pope, to be quite honest. The language is often quite archaic and formulaic (though it was of course written a long time ago), and his essays often consist of a few hundred pages. Like blank verse, poetry in heroic couplets does not have any set length, which is quite nice to the the degree that it allows you more freedom to write your poetry, but can be a bit long after the first fifty pages or so.
Pope's lines are all quite neat, fully-formed thoughts on a single line, that more or less read as isolated lines. Would you read them out loud, it's quite easy to take a breath after each line. However, as you may know, many (more recent) poems let go of this rigid line-division, and have their text 'spill over' into the following lines, put a period half way through a line, or otherwise try to break up the monotony of Pope's example, and that of many others.
An example of a more recent, influential poet who occasionally wrote stuff in heroic couplets is Wilfred Owen. The poem 'A Terre' breaks with many of the conventions that for example Pope follows in his poem:
We used to say we'd hate to live dead-old, — (a)
Yet now ... I'd willingly be puffy, bald, (a)
And patriotic. Buffers catch from boys (b)
At least the jokes hurled at them. I suppose (b)
Little I'd ever teach a son, but hitting, (c)
Shooting, war, hunting, all the arts of hurting. (c)
As you might have noticed, Owen's poem is quite different from Pope's, in that it sounds much less static, because the sentences don't stop at the end of each line, but 'spill over'. Furthermore, Owen's poem doesn't 'properly' rhyme, but contain (as you might (probably not) remember from week 2) slant rhyme, i.e. words that almost sound similar, but not really quite enough.
Of course Pope and Owen are only two examples of possible ways to write heroic couplets, and many more have been tried (some more like Pope, some more like Owen, some completely different) over the years. As with any form of poetry, I'd advise you to just go with something that sounds good to you. The only thing you need to remember for the purpose of this excercise is:
Heroic Couplets: Rhyming pairs of lines in (mostly) iambic pentameter, with no set length.
Have fun writing!
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Well that post was a bit longer than intended... Anyhow, here's the updated points list. As you've probably noticed by now, I'm not the most organised person, so please correct me if I made any mistakes:
As always, giving feedback is encouraged, but please do so in a reply to the main post, unless an entry is edit-locked, so people can still change them if they want to. Everyone's also free to join these threads. If you do, I'll assume you want to be added to the tag list as well, please let me know if this is not the case.
We are the victims of our sinful rage.
When we watch it exploding from its cage,
We venerate its blasphemous power—
Its wreckage—yet we wretchedly cower
And cry and bleat like sacrificial lambs.
To few, it is the mood of traffic jams.
To many, it is when the soul is bruised
Into a splotchy scarlet and unsoothed
By screeches of a thousand sirens’ song.
To all, it prevails and persists lifelong—
A blistering of infestation that
Will slowly creep along and gnaw fast at
The edges of the being, chew the bone,
And leave the center to decay alone.
And in the end, we’re rotted at the core—
Deprived of ourselves, we are left no more.
True Love, Doth Grant:
When I was twenty-one,
there was a girl whose fun,
was sudden, and much violent -
and through beauty match-ed talent,
was still a whore,
and such a bore.
Though at time's lengthy embrace,
my stupidity lost face -
where lusts borne from on high,
in my car she did sigh,
and admitted her disgust
if ever admit my lust.
She would boot me in the face
and have me share her disgrace,
by lying about my size
and showing off her white thighs,
to her father
who would bother -
to shoot me.
(I like Pope because he can do things I cannot. However, as far as Vogon Poetry goes - I ROCK!)
A single tear fell from her mother's cheek
Her sister hid her eyes and wouldn't peak
Her father sighed with fragile vanity
Pretending he still held his sanity
They say my heart is full of coal and sin
Evil monster like me will never win
My one true fear is their hearts' great desire
Torture my cold soul in eternal fire
I killed her while watched by her only son
It sickens me to think I found it fun
Repeatedly stabbed a pure innocent
Oh God, did it feel so magnificent
I mindlessly fear my sad, bitter end
But I still shall meet Death as an old friend
After all, I met him a time before
When killing my love for being a whore
I toss and turn in prison bed each night
I refuse to own up to my own fright
I don't want to die, please not here nor now
When the guard arrived, sweat poured from my brow
I cried and made my hands into small balls
As they lamented about grace’s falls
Sentenced to murder in the first degree
I greeted the noose and my soul was free
Nevermind, I only used half the syllables I was supposed to!