Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Dec 20 16:15:33 UTC 2009

Hasn't someone devoted his life to the history of slant rhyme in English
Literature?  I recall some profs who gave the impression tha Emily Dickinson
and Wilfred Owen were the prophets of slant rhyme, and they come late in

Not that it couldn't have existed earlier, but perhaps it was usually
considered to be a forgivable lapse rather than a virtue or a brilliant
variation.  Just guessing.


On Sun, Dec 20, 2009 at 10:34 AM, Charles Doyle <cdoyle at uga.edu> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
> Subject:      rhyme
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> On their final exam, my student were required to discuss this poem by John
> Donne:
> Oh my black soul! now thou art summoned
> By sickness, death's herald, and champion;
> Thou art like a pilgrim which abroad hath done
> Treason, and durst not turn to whence he is fled,
> Or like a thief, which till death's doom be read,
> Wisheth himself delivered from prison;
> But damned and haled to execution,
> Wisheth that still he might be imprisoned.
> Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lack;
> But who shall give thee that grace to begin?
> Oh make thyself with holy mourning black,
> And red with blushing, as thou art with sin;
> Or wash thee in Christ's blood, which hath this might
> That being red, it dyes red souls to white.
> Several of the students commented that the sonnet is anomalous in that the
> first 8 lines are unrhymed--failing to take account of the syllabic "-ed"
> endings (given something like tertiary stress) that facilitate the
> ostensible "summoned/fled/read/imprisoned" rhyme, or the disyllabic "-tion"
> (again with some stress on the last syllable) necessary to rhyme
> "champion/done/prison/execution."
> Surely those were not intended as exact rhymes or even approximate rhymes,
> although they may be "allowable" by the conventions of early-17th-century
> verse. The very tenuousness of the rhymes contributes to the dramatic
> impression of distracted anguish of the part of the persona; he is too
> desperate (and sinful) even to rhyme right! But the workings of grace enable
> "perfect" rhymes in the sestet.
> --CD
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