by Groundhog Two Feathers
by Groundhog Two Feathers
Craft work has a long tradition of using rhymes or little poems. They are great memory joggers. Rather than carrying a stack of books, and searching through several pages to find just the right words, a simple little rhyme can be easily memorized and put to use on short notice. Usually remembering just part of the rhyme will bring back recollection of the rest. For example, "Red sun at night,.........", "A stitch in time,.........", "Something old, something new,....". You get the idea. And for this reason, rhymes have also been used in the magic of commercial advertising. Advertisers have had millions of consumers under their spell for years by using rhymes or jingles like this "You'll wonder where the yellow went, ...........".
Most people know what rhyme is. And most of us learned pretty much the same standard set of nursery rhymes when we were children. Rhyme refers to words that sound alike. To use a more technical definition, words that sound alike are called homonyms. But we more commonly use the word 'rhyme' and say that "cat" rhymes with "rat" and "bat" and "mat". But it isn't necessary for the whole word to rhyme, just the last syllable. For example, "secretariat" also rhymes with "cat".
In poetry, there is generally a pattern to the rhyme. For example, one of the simplest patterns is a-b-c-b. What this means is that the second and fourth lines end in syllables that rhyme with each other. The first and third lines don't rhyme with the second and fourth, and they don't rhyme with each other. Other patterns are a bit more complicated, alternating rhyme has a pattern of a-b-a-b, rhyming couplets have this pattern a-a-b-b, and for a limerick, the pattern is a-a-b-b-a. There is one more special case which deserves mention. It is called "blank verse". It doesn't mean that the lines are blank or empty. It just means that there is no rhyming pattern, or in other words, the pattern would be a-b-c-d. John Milton who wrote "Paradise Lost" in 1667 used blank verse to avoid the "troublesome and modern bondage of Rhyming".
Some poems can be very long, for example, ballads. So they are subdivided into stanzas. A stanza usually is a group of four lines, but can be as short as two lines. A two line stanza is called a couplet, three lines a triplet, four lines a quatraine. Here is one that has six lines.
Little Miss Muffet,
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.
In addition to rhyme, poetry usually has a rhythm or a repetative beat like in music. Where music has a certain number of beats to the measure, in poetry, the equivalent of a measure is called a "metrical foot". When strung together, they form a line and the length of a line is named according to how many metrical feet it contains.
Dimeter - two metrical feet.
Trimeter - three
Tetrameter - four
Pentameter - five
Hexameter - six
Heptameter - seven
Octameter - eight
There are different types of metrical foot. They can be two, three or four syllables in length and are given different names according to which of the syllables are stressed or unstressed. Generally, once a certain type of metrical foot is chosen, it is repeated through the rest of the line. Sometimes though, a line reaches a logical end, but the metrical foot is unfinished. When this happens, it is treated like a musical "rest note". Although no notes are played or no syllables are pronounced, the timing continues as if they were there. It is taken as a pause and a chance to take a breath and get ready for the next line. In the examples below, it's shown as "~~~".
Many people have heard of "iambic pentameter". It is prevalent throughout Shakespear's works. It simply means a line containing five iambs.
An iamb (or iambic) refers to two syllables in which the first is unstressed or short and the second is stressed or long. In the examples, stressed syllables are in CAPS.
[ /star LIGHT,/ star BRIGHT,/ ]a
[ /first STAR /i've SEEN /to NIGHT,/ ]a
[ /i WISH/ i MAY/ and WISH/ i MIGHT,/ ]a
[ /re-CEIVE/ the WISH/ i WISH/ to-NIGHT./ ]a
A trochee (or trochaic) refers to two syllables in which the first is stressed (long) and the second is unstressed (short). It is the opposite if iambic.
[ /DOU-ble,/ DOU-ble,/ ]a
[ /TOIL and/ TROU-ble,/ ]a
[ /FI-re/ BURN and,/ ]b
[ /CAUL-dron/ BUB-ble./ ]a
For completeness, there are two other types of metrical feet in the two-syllable category. One is 'spondee' (or spondaic) in which both syllables are stressed.
[ /FEE! FIE!/ ]a spondaic
[ /FOE! FUM!/ ]b
[ /i SMELL / the BLOOD,/]c iambic
[ /of'n ENG-/lish MAN./ ]b
The other is 'pyrrhic' in which both syllables are unstressed. These last two types are not very common. Usually, one of the syllables is stressed more than the other in which case it becomes either iambic or trochaic.
Next, there are metrical feet containing three syllables.
A dactyl (or dactylic) refers to three syllables in which the first is stressed (long) and the other two are unstressed (short).
[ /ROCK a bye /BA -by ~~~,/ ]a
[ /IN the tree /TOP ~~~ ~~~,/ ]b
[ /WHEN the wind/BLOWS, ~~~ the/ ]c
[ /CRA-dle will /ROCK ~~~ ~~~ / ]b
Anapest (or anapestic) is the opposite of dactylic and refers to three syllables in which the first two are unstressed (short) and the last one is stressed (long). Limericks almost always contain anapest and have been loosly defined as "five lines of anapest with a rhyming scheme of a-a-b-b-a". Here is an example of a Limerick.
[ /well there WAS/ a young LA-/dy named WHITE,/ ]a
[ /who could TRA-/vel much FAS-/ter than LIGHT,/]a
[ /then she LEFT/ here one DAY, / ]b
[ /in a REL-/a-tive WAY,/ ]b
[ /and re-TURNED /on the PREV-/i-ous NIGHT./ ]a
Amphibrach (or amphibraic) is also three syllables in length, but in this case, the middle syllable is stressed and the other two are unstressed.
[ /to MAR-ket,/ to MAR-ket,/ ]a
[ /to BUY a /fat PIG and ./ ]b
[ /then HOME a-/gain, HOME a-/ ]c
[ gain-JIG-et-/y JIG ~~~ ./ ]b
And for completeness, there is also 'tribrach' in which all three syllables are unstressed. But like spondaic and pyrrhic, it doesn't seem to get much usage.
In the four-syllable category, there is only one case, but it is really a combination of a trochee followed by an iamb, where the first and last syllables are stressed, and the middle two are unstressed. It is called a 'choriamb'.
And so, there you have it. These are the basic building blocks for writing your own poetry. What you decide to assemble with your building blocks is up to you. Use your wit, wisdom and creativity.
1) choose a topic
2) decide on a rhyming pattern - (a-b-c-b is the simplest) or (a-a-b-b) or (a-b-a-b is a bit more challenging)
3) think up some words that rhyme, appropriate to the topic and put them at the end of the lines.
4) decide on the metrical foot, iambic?, trochaic?, dactylic?, anapestic? Use the examples as templates.
5) play with it, have fun, experiment, add a syllable here or there to fill out the meter, or replace a two syllable word with a one syllable word to shorten the meter.
A magick spell,
without the rhyme,
is like a clock,
that doesn't chime.