Poeta Fit, Non Nascitur
Lewis Carroll, Rhyme? and Reason? (London: Macmillan, 1883): 122-30. B-10 6733 Fisher Rare Book Library.
2How shall I write in rhyme?
3You told me once `the very wish
4Partook of the sublime.'
5The tell me how! Don't put me off
6With your `another time'!"
7The old man smiled to see him,
8To hear his sudden sally;
9He liked the lad to speak his mind
11And thought "There's no hum-drum in him,
12Nor any shilly-shally."
13"And would you be a poet
14Before you've been to school?
15Ah, well! I hardly thought you
16So absolute a fool.
18A very simple rule.
19"For first you write a sentence,
20And then you chop it small;
21Then mix the bits, and sort them out
22Just as they chance to fall:
23The order of the phrases makes
24No difference at all.
25"Then, if you'd be impressive,
26Remember what I say,
27That abstract qualities begin
28With capitals alway:
29The True, the Good, the Beautiful --
30Those are the things that pay!
31"Next, when we are describing
32A shape, or sound, or tint;
33Don't state the matter plainly,
34But put it in a hint;
35And learn to look at all things
36With a sort of mental squint."
37"For instance, if I wished, Sir,
38Of mutton-pies to tell,
39Should I say `dreams of fleecy flocks
40Pent in a wheaten cell'?"
41"Why, yes," the old man said: "that phrase
42Would answer very well.
43"Then fourthly, there are epithets
44That suit with any word --
45As well as Harvey's Reading Sauce
46With fish, or flesh, or bird --
47Of these, `wild,' `lonely,' `weary,' `strange,'
48Are much to be preferred."
49"And will it do, O will it do
50To take them in a lump --
51As `the wild man went his weary way
52To a strange and lonely pump'?"
53"Nay, nay! You must not hastily
54To such conclusions jump.
55"Such epithets, like pepper,
56Give zest to what you write;
57And, if you strew them sparely,
58They whet the appetite:
59But if you lay them on too thick,
60You spoil the matter quite!
61"Last, as to the arrangement:
62Your reader, you should show him,
63Must take what information he
64Can get, and look for no im
65mature disclosure of the drift
66And purpose of your poem.
67"Therefore to test his patience --
68How much he can endure --
69Mention no places, names, or dates,
70And evermore be sure
71Throughout the poem to be found
73"First fix upon the limit
74To which it shall extend:
75Then fill it up with `Padding'
76(Beg some of any friend)
77Your great SENSATION-STANZA
78You place towards the end."
79"And what is a Sensation,
80Grandfather, tell me, pray?
81I think I never heard the word
82So used before to-day:
83Be kind enough to mention one
85And the old man, looking sadly
86Across the garden-lawn,
87Where here and there a dew-drop
88Yet glittered in the dawn,
90And see the `Colleen Bawn.'
91"The word is due to Boucicault --
92The theory is his,
93Where Life becomes a Spasm,
94And History a Whiz:
95If that is not Sensation,
96I don't know what it is,
97"Now try your hand, ere Fancy
98Have lost its present glow --"
99"And then," his grandson added,
100"We'll publish it, you know:
101Green cloth -- gold-lettered at the back --
103Then proudly smiled that old man
104To see the eager lad
105Rush madly for his pen and ink
106And for his blotting-pad --
107But, when he thought of publishing,
108His face grew stern and sad.
1] The title means "A poet is made, not born" (Latin). Back to Line
17] spasmodic: tending towards emotional fits. Back to Line
84] "An example, if you please" (Latin). Back to Line
89] The Adelphi is a London theatre; and The Coleen Bawn; or the Brides of Garryowen (1860) is a play by Boucicault, i.e., Dionysius Lardner (1822-90). Back to Line
102] duodecimo: twelvemo, that is, a book made up of twelve-page gatherings cut from single sheets. Back to Line
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