Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tumbling skeltons

If you like to rhyme, skeltonic verse can be fun. The structure is playful and suggests lively movement so is also known as tumbling verse. The lines are short (3-6 words on average) and the rhyme continues as long as you feel it's working. Then it moves onto the next rhyme. One rhyme may last two lines, another a dozen.

(If you need help with rhymes try Rhymer or Rhymezone.)

Here's an example from John Skelton who invented the form back in the 16th century:
from Colin Clout

What can it avail
To drive forth a snail,
Or to make a sail
Of an herring's tail?
To rhyme or to rail
To write or to indict,
Either for delight
Or else for despite?
Or books to compile
Of divers manners style,
Vice to revile
And sin to exile?
To teach or to preach
As reason will reach?

Say this, and say that:
His head is so fat
He wotteth never what
Nor whereof he speaketh;
He crieth and he creaketh,
He prieth and he peeketh,
He chides and he chatters,
He prates and he patters,
He clitters and he clatters,
He meddles and he smatters,
He glozes and he flatters!

Or if he speak plain,
Then he lacketh brain,
He is but a fool;
Let him go to school.
A three-footed stool!
That he may down sit,
For he lacketh wit!
And if that he hit
The nail on the head,
It standeth in no stead;
The devil, they say, is dead,
The devil is dead!

It may well so be,
Or else they would see
Otherwise, and flee
from worldly vanity,
And foul covetousness
And other wretchedness,
Fickle falseness,
Variableness
With unstableness.
And if ye stand in doubt
Who brought this rhyme about,
My name is Colin Clout.
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