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Re: [lewiscarroll] Re: Rhyme-scheme of the Snark

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  • John Tufail
    Hi Guys! I rather hope that much of this debate has been tongue in cheek! The whole genius of Lewis Carroll is that he NEVER conformed to literary convention
    Message 1 of 45 , Feb 15, 2011
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      Hi Guys!
       
      I rather hope that much of this debate has been tongue in cheek!
       
      The whole genius of Lewis Carroll is that he NEVER conformed to literary convention in either form nor content.  He worked with what was comforttable for him.  In doing so he released  whole generations of writers, thinkers and poets who felt released from the deadening burden of convention.
       
      You criticised:
       
       
       "I said it in Hebrew - I said it in Dutch -
      > I said it in German and Greek:
      > But I wholly forgot (and it vexes me much)
      > That English is what you speak!"
       
      And suggested 'Normally speak' as an alternative
      .
       
      This seems to me to betray a complete misunderstanding of the poem and its meaning. An obsession of form over content.
       
      And actually the abrupt change in metre of the last line works excellently in terms of the edginess of the poem.
       
      Regards
       
      JT
       
       


       
      On Tue, Feb 15, 2011 at 3:35 PM, guy_d_barry <guy.barry@...> wrote:
       



      --- In lewiscarroll@yahoogroups.com, Peter Wesley-Smith <peterws@...> wrote:
      >
      > Guy,
      >
      > Others will no doubt accuse you of pedantry, in the belief that strict adherence to a rhyming scheme risks boredom or appears unimaginative. I will not.

      I think I'm more likely to be accused of invidiousness in daring to try to improve on Carroll's verse!

      I rather like the variety brought about by the general rhyme-scheme in the Snark; there are two distinct types of stanza, which don't occur according to any pre-set pattern, but are simply used as and when the author sees fit (no pun intended!). To detract from this by occasionally throwing in a stanza that doesn't quite work spoils the effect for me very slightly.

      Re your remarks about the rhythm: I entirely agree. There are far more departures from the basic metre than from the rhyme-scheme, and I'm sure most of them could have been avoided. To take your examples:


      > "I said it in Hebrew - I said it in Dutch -
      > I said it in German and Greek:
      > But I wholly forgot (and it vexes me much)
      > That English is what you speak!"

      "That it's English you normally speak!" would have done for the last line.


      > "You may charge me with murder - or want of sense -
      > (We are all of us weak at times):
      > But the slightest approach to a false pretence
      > Was never among my crimes."

      This could be rewritten as:

      "You may charge me with murder - or plain want of sense -
      (We are all of us weak at some time):
      But the slightest approach to deceit or pretence,
      I tell you, was never my crime."

      You mention the first line of the poem, which is problematic; it's not easy to change the verb "cried" because of the rhyme with "tide". This is one case where, as the metre hasn't yet become established, it may be better to leave things as they are.

      You also mention the "seek it with thimbles" verse. The obvious solution there is to add an extra "with" in each case; "with forks and with hope", "with smiles and with soap", though that does destroy the syllepsis (or is it zeugma?) that was presumably Carroll's intention. The question arises, though, why "forks" and "smiles" at all? The methods of pursuit are arbitrary, and there was nothing to stop Carroll from choosing two-syllable words if he wanted to ("with skewers and hope"? "with laughter and soap"?) Admittedly with these well-known lines such a change seems incongruous.


      > Finally, to those who reject the fastidious requirement of strictness in the rhythmic scheme, my own experience in presenting the Second Expedition (a sequel) is relevant:

      Is a copy available? I'd be very interested to see it.


      > When I showed the draft poem to friends, the most common complaint I got was that a beat was missing in "When the foot's in the other shoe". My defence that Carroll himself often committed the same error was not admitted. So perhaps the general public is more demanding of resolute adherence to the rhythm than "experts" are.

      That's interesting. I think you have a point: once you have Carroll's reputation, you can get away with things that aren't permitted to lesser mortals!


    • Guy
      ... Yes, I admit I had to cheat there (I prefer stretching the diphthong out to two syllables, rather than adding an extra one). Of course, you re welcome to
      Message 45 of 45 , Mar 1, 2011
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        --- In lewiscarroll@yahoogroups.com, "Keith" <keith@...> wrote:
        >
        > As a fellow comic verser, I liked the Limerick style snark precis. I only stumbled with the rhythm once...
        >
        > And a threatening railway-share.
        >
        > I can only make this scan by expanding railway to three sylables (rail-a-way) but that's very picky and not much of a detraction.

        Yes, I admit I had to cheat there (I prefer stretching the diphthong out to two syllables, rather than adding an extra one). Of course, you're welcome to suggest an improvement...
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