Saturday, September 25, 2004

Rhyme and Reason

Hello all,

So I was reading for my Children's Lit. class (EN 2251), and came across some children's stories in verse. They were by the famous Jean De La Fontaine (although, I hadn't heard of La Fontaine before this class).
I always thought that children's verse should have some obvious rhyme scheme, to keep the child amused and interested. I remember as a child, nursery rhymes were so much fun because of the rhyme and rhythm they had.

But these La Fontaine fables had no regular rhythm at all. In fact, at times, I found it hard to read because the rhyme scheme and metre were either non existant, or inconsistant (although the majority of lines were Alexendrine e.i., having 12 syllables). So I said to myself: "Self, if you, a third year English student, is having trouble with this poem, then how will a child enjoy this poem? A child who is reading not for some academic purpose, but for fun.

I think this would be a good place to give you an example:

The Dove and the Ant
(from Fall 2004 Course Kit for Eng 2251. Course Directer Alison Halsall)

Near a pure rivulet a dove came down and drank;
Then a thirsty ant fell forward, almost sank,
And one might have seen the midget struggling helplessly,
Too frustrated each time, to reach what it desired.
The dove's quick action proved that mercy was not dead
When she bore and loosed a straw from overhead
To act as an earthword whenever her friend tired.
It was a successful ruse.
But a churl by chance had crept up without shoes,
And carried a crossbow to bag birds for his pot.
Venus' bird then tempted its use;
His eye grew bright at the thought of the dainty dove he'd caught
And he was about to bring it down - hard-hearted sot -
When upon the ant pinched his heel; whereupon
The lout turned his head before he shot;
The pigeon had heard and then was gone,
So no supper for churl as a result of his toil.
"No penny, no pigeon possible."

I bet you got tricked by the first two lines, they have a nice, simple rhyme scheme and, I bet you thought the rest of the poem was going to be like this. Nice and simple AA BB CC. But alas! it is not. The third line does not rhyme with the fourth! Overall, I think, a pretty choppy poem.

I know...I'm exgerating; there are some rhyming lines scattered thoughout the piece. I even found an internal rhyme :"His eye grew bright at the thought of the dainty dove he'd caught..."

But, it took me a couple of reads to remember that this is an English translation of a French poem. So, by the currpting nature of translation, the orginal rhyme and rhythm was lost. Bothered by this, I employed the power of google.ca and found the original french version! And lo! it rhymes a heck of lot better than the English translation!

La Colombe et la Fourmi.
(from http://www.jdlf.com/lesfables/livreii/lacolombeetlafourmi)

Le long d'un clair ruisseau buvait une Colombe,
Quand sur l'eau se penchant une Fourmi y tombe.
Et dans cet océan l'on eût vu la Fourmi
S'efforcer, mais en vain, de regagner la rive.
La Colombe aussitôt usa de charité:
Un brin d'herbe dans l'eau par elle étant jeté,
Ce fut un promontoire où la Fourmi arrive.
Elle se sauve; et là-dessus
Passe un certain Croquant qui marchait les pieds nus.
Ce Croquant, par hasard, avait une arbalète.
Dès qu'il voit l'Oiseau de Vénus
Il le croit en son pot, et déjà lui fait fête.
Tandis qu'à le tuer mon Villageois s'apprête,
La Fourmi le pique au talon.
Le Vilain retourne la tête:
La Colombe l'entend, part, et tire de long.
Le soupé du Croquant avec elle s'envole:
Point de Pigeon pour une obole.

See! There is a much better rhyme and rhythm in the orginal french. So I hope you all enjoyed this comparison.

Moral: Always remember, translations are the epitome of entrope.

-Sidd Rawte

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

What is Poetry?

I have often wondered what poetry really is. Yeah, I know generically we talk about rhyme, syllables and the like, but these are technicalities; they do not give us the answer to the $64,000 question.
Some people say that poetry is way of expression; but can't prose be way of expression too? At the end of the day, I feel poetry can be whatever the writer wants it to be. Sure, collectivly, we can make general rules about syllable, rhyme and metre to differentiate between prose and poetry, but I still feel that this is skirting the issue...poetry and prose share a thin line of distinction!
By the way, I am not bashing poetry. I love it. I often make futile attemps at writing it, but I'm just a 'prosey' kind of guy.

-Sidd

P.P.:Don't hate me because I'm 'prosey!'