The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

A Fit of Rime Against Rime
By Ben Jonson

Rime, the rack of finest wits,
That expresseth but by fits,
      True Conceipt,

Spoyling Senses of their Treasure,
Cozening Judgement with a measure,
      But false weight.

Wresting words, from their true calling;
Propping Verse, for feare of falling
      To the ground.

Joynting Syllabes, drowning Letters,
Fastening Vowells, as with fetters
      They were bound!

Soone as lazie thou wert knowne,
All good Poetrie hence was flowne,
      And Art banish'd.

For a thousand yeares together,
All Pernassus Greene did wither,
      And wit vanish'd.

Pegasus did flie away,
At the Wells no Muse did stay,
      But bewail'd

So to see the Fountaine drie,
And Apollo's Musique die.
      All light failed!

Starveling rimes did fill the Stage,
Not a Poet in an Age,
      Worth crowning;

Not a worke deserving Bays,
Nor a line deserving praise,
      Pallas frowning.

Greeke was free from Rime's infection,
Happy Greeke, by this protection,
      Was not spoyled.

Whilst the Latin, Queene of Tongues,
Is not yet free from Rimes wrongs,
      But rests foiled.

Scarce the hill againe doth flourish,
Scarce the world a Wit doth nourish,
      To restore

Phoebus to his Crowne againe;
And the Muses to their braine;
      As before.

Vulgar Languages that want
Words, and sweetnesse, and be scant
      Of true measure;

Tyrant Rime hath so abused,
That they long since have refused
      Other ceasure.

He that first invented thee,
May his joynts tormented bee,
      Cramp'd forever;

Still may Syllabes jarre with time,
Still may reason warre with rime,
      Resting never.

May his Sense, when it would meet
The cold tumor in his feet,
      Grow unsounder,

And his Title be long foole,
That, in rearing such a Schoole,
      Was the founder.


From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. "Jonson blames rhyme, that vulgar invention that has ruined true poetry. The ancient Greeks and Romans, as he points out, did not use rhyme, except for a rare comic effect of deliberate, silly jangling," like Milton in Paradise Lost or Shakespeare in the tragedies. "Jonson calls rhyme 'lazy thou' -- and relishing the paradox, he denounces the despised device in rhyming is amusing to find Shakespeare's great contemporary denouncing the poetry of their time as newfangled, and in particular for using rhyme, a technique that in our own time, for some readers, may seem like tradition itself," notes Pinsky. "That comedy of historical perspective is enriched and complicated by Jonson's ability to rhyme so cleverly, and fluently, in his denunciation...Jonson clearly enjoys pointing out how cramping rhyme is, how it conflicts with reason, to the point of war. He also clearly enjoys contradicting that point by using the hated jingle-jangle with apparent ease and athletic grace. His phrase "the cold tumor in his feet" associates actual, physical stumbling with ineffective metrical feet. The poem is a reminder that poetry is physical and must be heard."

Interestingly, Pinsky has written about this poem before, in Slate at the start of poetry month in April 2005. "People sometimes say they are nostalgic for the days when all poems rhyme, or say darkly that 'modern poetry is just prose.' Never mind that Milton and Wordsworth wrote their long ambitious poems without end-rhyme. Nor was rhyme used by ancient Greek or Latin poets (except for occasional comic effect—a deliberate grotesquerie)," Pinsky wrote then. "On the one hand Jonson curses rhyme's inventor ('He that first invented thee,/ May his joynts tormented bee') and addresses rhyme itself with disgust: ('Soone as lazie thou wert knowne,/ All good Poetrie hence was flowne.') He pities Latin for being tortured with rhyme by the neo-Latin poets of his time. On the other hand, as the paradox of his title indicates, Jonson denounces rhyme with some remarkably fluent, jazzy rhyming."

Our original plan for Sunday was to go to the Sully Historic Site to see the Brigade Napoleon demonstrating 200-year-old cavalry skills, but it was raining nearly all day so we ended up just doing local shopping chores. Younger son insisted on stopping in GameStop to see if they would sell him the Happy Feet game two days early (we sincerely hope he realizes that he is getting VERY few Chanukah presents because he is being indulged in all this penguin stuff in advance, but I bet we get whined at in December -- the only thing older son wants is a Wii, and I have absolutely no idea whether that one will even be possible by December). They did not have the Happy Feet game in yet so we were spared for the moment. Penguins of the Antarctic on PBS was some consolation.

We suffered from an afternoon blackout -- not just the neighborhood but the traffic lights, which made getting home from shopping a nightmare -- and I have had a very frustrating evening. Either the ethernet card or the attached modem for the ancient laptop has died, meaning that I don't have a computer I can use facing the television, and considering that this laptop doesn't have a working USB port and does have a broken screen (one section of it won't resolve clearly), it is not worth putting any money into repairing it. But we can't really afford to replace it, meaning I am either going to have to fight my husband every night I want to watch TV for the use of his laptop (fat chance given that his computer has been downloading literally thousands of Grateful Dead and Phish concerts for years and is always on doing so) or I have to use up all my birthday/Chanukah money buying a new laptop which other people are just going to run into the ground anyway, and then I can't get camera stuff or anything else. I wanted to watch Match Point on cable to see if I still resented it for being an inferior copy of Crimes and Midemeanors, but couldn't really see it from where I'm typing this. Am really not happy about this.

Around the time we visited the weekend before last, the city of Chestertown apparently had a competition for local businesses to make scarecrows. Here is a pirate delivering flowers, with a war memorial behind him and a very old church behind that.

It is Chestertown's 300th birthday this year so there are many such festivities. Here, outside a nautical memorabilia store, is a naval officer (whose hair would not pass inspection, I'm afraid).

Here's a more traditional autumn pumpkin-topped scarecrow of the sort people were making at the Agricultural Farm Festival earlier in the fall. Chestertown itself is more a boating than farming town but there is lots of farming nearby on the Delmarva peninsula.

This scarecrow, a reporter holding his camera, stands outside the Kent County News, formerly The Chestertown Spy, established in 1793.

You are "Face with Glasses"

I am amused at least that now that The Noble Collection is selling Lupin's wand, one can easily see that it's even more obviously designed for internal stimulation than Dumbledore's wand. And also amused that the new biography of Katharine Hepburn which I saw in the bookstore today claims that women were the great loves of her life, rather than the occasional dalliances with women hinted at in previous bios, and Spencer Tracy was a beard for her as much as she was for him. I hope Kate "Can't Relate To Lesbians" Mulgrew reads this!

The Redskins officially stink. At least the Bears just beat the Giants. My father has offered to take three of us to the Ravens game next weekend -- this always happens, he gets four tickets so someone has to stay behind with my mother who couldn't care about football -- but since younger son has Hebrew school till noon and older son is hoping his best friend gets a Wii that morning so he can go over and play, I don't know whether any of us will be going. Monday I am having a fun-crazy day, I am seeing dementordelta for lunch and porn shopping and the kids have late afternoon eye doctor appointments and at night there's a middle school magnet meeting for younger son...eeee!

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