I am the Pedant. I speak for spondees.

What a rotten idea to spend millions destroying
This masterful tale kids spent decades enjoying!

The Onion has a nice tribute to the greatest versifier of the 20th century — although they inadvertently highlight his genius by making some pretty clumsy errors in rhythm. Writing that stuff’s not as easy as it looks, folks.

Seuss is a joy to read. Here’s one of my favorite bits:

What’s more, snapped the Lorax (his dander was up),
Let me say a few words about Gluppity-Glupp.
Your machinery chugs on, day and night without stop
making Gluppity-Glup. Also Schloppity-Schlopp.
And what do you do with this leftover goo?…
I’ll show you. You dirty old Once-ler man, you!

Now that’s tasty.

An early draft of my undergraduate thesis contained a bizarre little digression on the nature of free verse vs. rhyming couplets:

It’s the difference between a Japanese sword routine and a juggling act. A free verse performance may be forceful and affecting, but ultimately it consists of waving words about in the air with no resistance. The couplet form is fundamentally different, incorporating countless small crescendoes and denouements, risks, recoveries, tensions and releases. The inevitability of rhyme, like gravity, can lend force and weight to one’s statements. A couplet, nicely put, is stunning in its audacity: a clever phrase seems more clever, almost inhumanly clever, when executed within such a restricted format.

Ah, I see some similarly-snooty editor at Wikipedia is with me: “Geisel generally maintained this meter quite strictly, until late in his career, when he no longer maintained strict rhythm in all lines. The consistency of his meter was one of his hallmarks; the many imitators and parodists of Geisel are often unable to write in strict anapestic tetrameter, or are unaware that they should, and thus sound clumsy in comparison with the original.”

It’s an outrage, I tell you! A horrible shame!
That these trite, tacky tentpoles should taint his good name!
Might the sacks of cash raked in by film adaptations
At least fund improvements in verse education?


1 Response to “I am the Pedant. I speak for spondees.”

  1. 1 Jonathan April 15, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Excellent post, but while we’re being pedantic, I have to point out that “spondees” is trochaic.

    It reminds me of another piece I read about how absolutely vital correct meter is in parody. The author pointed out that no one will ever write a successful parody of “New York, New York” called “Newark, Newark” despite the similar sounds of the city names and the obvious possibilities of the subject matter.

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Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).


Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.

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