Saturday, December 29, 2007

Improving on W.B. Yeats

Maud Gonne, Beloved by Yeats
"love comes in at the eye"
(Image from Wikipedia)

I've long been troubled by poems that pretend to rhyme. I really dislike eye-rhymes, for they conflict with my ear for the verse (though I might enjoy them if used ironically).

I therefore must object to this otherwise charming little poem published in Responsibilities and Other Poems (1916) by the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats:
A Drinking Song
Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
Look -- or, rather, listen -- does "truth" really rhyme with "mouth"? Do the Irish pronounce "mouth" to rhyme with "vermouth"? Even if they do, does that make it right? I think not. Therefore, I have revised this little poem by Yeats, fixing its rhyme scheme, correcting its punctuation, and adjusting its content ever so slightly to fit today's altered cultural circumstances:
A Boozing Song
Booze comes in at the mouth,
And lust comes in at the ear;
We'll not know north from south
If we grow old on beer.
I lift the glass to my mouth;
I look at you, and I leer.
Definitely improved. And the collection of poems by Yeats can now be re-titled as well: Irresponsibilities and Other Poems. That's also obviously better. Perhaps Gypsy Scholar should initiate a new series: "Improved Poems." Imagine . . . an opportunity to revise all those terrible lines in 'great' poems that you'd really like to love but can't . . . quite . . . yet.

Now, you can, for the Gypsy is open to suggestions.

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At 9:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will come back to this, visitors it seems.

But "beer" and "leer" used in a commentary of Yeats? This proves too fun to... well I have visitors.


At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also happen to detest repeated rhymes, probably as much as you (and I) detest eye rhymes. The double use of "mouth" here is just lazy. But what else rhymes with "mouth" besides "south?" I can't think of any true rhymes off the top of my head. So forgive my own slight revisions to the improved version:

A Boozer's Song

Booze comes in through the lips,
And earwax comes out of my ear;
We won't even mind the drips
If we get wasted on beer.
I take from my glass a few sips,
And find I'm the only one here.

(Notice how I didn't call this an "improved improved version.")

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I hope that you shared my new, improved Yeats with your inconvenient visitors.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Charles, yours is definitely an improvement on Yeats's flawed poem, though I'd suggest altering "earwax" to "wax" -- just for the rhythm.

But see what you think.

As for something that rhymes with "mouth," well, there's always the Southern pronunciation of "drought" as "drouth."

Or "voweth" pronounced as "vow'th" -- if we write an archaic poem.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point about "wax." I think you're right.

I deliberately excluded archaic rhymes, and I'm a Northerner who pronounces "drought" according to the generally accepted rules of American English pronunciation. ;)

(I once knew a woman who used to say "murther." It drove me insane. Almost to the point where I wanted to murther her.)

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Her pronunciation of "murder" is surely murther most foul.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, elliptical I guess. I near ran into a fan. I am bent up, remember?

Yeats should be given some leeway, he didn't attempt to rhyme "visitor" either.

Hard to write perfect iambic pentameter.


At 11:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dangnabbit. I just went for coffee, visitors.

Wascally wabbits! Inquisitors!

(yeah I showed 'em)


At 3:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, you appear to have a plague of visitors. Some Gypsy advice:

If yet you have another visitor,
Just send him down that darkened corridor;
He'll run into your mighty stalking fan,
And such'll end that inconvenient man.

If your visitor, however, should be of the feminine persuasion, then I leave you to your own discretion and trust you to do the right thing.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 4:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the problem with being always fashionably late to these discussions on the Gypsy Scholar: the wits tend to be quick...and then they are gone.

At 4:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, sorry, that was me.


At 5:44 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I really should find the time to write more poems and post them so that my wits will return.

Jeffery Hodges

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