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Rhyme and Reason

PUBLISHED: April 21, 2008

With the lumbering forth of National Poetry Month (the cruelest, Eliot noted), it’s probably inevitable that the question be resurrected: “Why don’t poems rhyme anymore”? John Lundberg, a VQR contributor, wrestles with this question anew, because George Gibson, president of the Queen’s English Society, recently told The Guardian, “For centuries word-things, called poems, have been made according to primary and defining craft principles of, first, measure, and second, alliteration and rhyme. Word-things not made according to those principles are not poems.”

So we’re going to need a new term to describe the “word-things”:

William Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament
Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus
William Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Ben Jonson’s Volpone
John Milton’s Paradise Lost
Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno
William Wordsworth’s Prelude
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s best poems (“Frost at Midnight,” “The Lime-Tree Bower my Prison”)
William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass
Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses

Up until now, I’d been under the apparently-mistaken impression that these were among the most important poems of the English language.

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