Thomas Hood on Rhyming

Hood had a remarkable ability to create rhymes. In three pieces he highlighted this skill by suggesting alternatives to end rhyme. The poems derive their humor from emphasizing form over content, craft over inspiration.

Note: Most of the graphics below were not originally associated with the works they accompany. They are meant to illustrate other treatments of the same or similar subjects. Their sources are show in their captions.

"A Plan for Writing Blank Verse in Rhyme," The Comic Annual (London: Charles Tilt, 1832), 56-61.

illustration of a pun

The author of a letter to the editor says that many people can't enjoy poetry without end rhyme; they don't like blank verse. He claims to have "made a discovery": put multiple rhyming words at the end of each line but do not rhyme the ends of lines with each other, Thus, "the lover of rhyme will find in it a prodigality hitherto unknown, [while] the heroic character of blank verse will not suffer in the least.".

Below are six lines of the 34-line sample poem called "A Nocturnal Sketch."

   Anon Night comes, and with her wings brings things
   Such as, with his poetic tongue, Young sung;
   The gas up-blazes with its bright white light,
   And paralytic watchmen prowl, howl, growl,
   About the streets and take up Pall-Mal Sal,
   Who, hasting to her nightly jobs, robs fobs.

The last line of the poem contains seven consecutive rhyming words:

   White ribbons flourish, and a stout shout out,
   That upwards goes, shows Rose knows those bows' woes!

"Rhyme and Reason," The Comic Annual (London, Charles Tilt, 1833), 87-91.

illustration of a pun

John Dryden Grubb writes to the editor about a letter in the previous year's Comic Annual regarding rhyme ("A Plan for Writing Blank Verse in Rhyme"): because "I have seen no regular long poem constructed on its principles, I suppose the scheme did not take with the literary world." He has an idea so good that he "can only regret that such poets as Chaucer and Cottle, Spenser and Hayley, Milton and Pratt, Pope and Pye, Byron and Batterbee, should have died before it was invented" (each pair includes one good and one bad poet). Rather than write a line of poetry and then "be stopped at the end by an impracticable rhyme," you should "try at first what words will chime, before you go farther and fare worse." His "system" is to put the rhyme at the front of the lines. Among other things this will "correct the erroneous notion ... that the great end of poetry is rhyme." He includes a 36-line example poem titled "The Double Knock." Rose Matilda, hearing a knock on the door, sends her maid to answer it. She believes that a male friend has come to take her to the theater, but she is disappointed.

   Glisten'd her eye as the impatient girl
   Listen'd, low bending o'er the topmost stair.
   Vainly, alas! she listens and she bends,
   Plainly she hears this question and reply:
   "Axes your pardon, Sir, but what d'ye want?"
   "Taxes," says he, "and shall not call again!"

"A First Attempt in Rhyme," The Comic Annual, Part II (London: Henry Colburn., 1846), 141-144.

The writer says that upon perusing a lady's album (containing drawings, extracts from literature and so on) he noticed some poems which the lady characterized as her "first attempt in rhyme," but which he calls "a New Species of Poetry -- an intermediate link, as it were, between Blank Verse and Rhyme." The poems are composed of rhymed couplets using homonyms for the end-rhymes. The last ten lines of the 37-line sample poem are:

   For me, a novice strange and new,
   Who ne'er such inspiration knew,
   But weave a verse with travail sore,
   Ordain'd to creep and not to soar,
   A few poor lines alone I write,
   Fulfilling thus a friendly rite,
   Not meant to meet the Critic's eye,
   For oh! to hope from such as I,
   For any thing that's fit to read,
   Were trusting to a broken reed!

See also

Introduction to Thomas Hood