"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Poetry Drills with Stephen Fry ... oh my.

I am currently working my way through The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within, by Stephen Fry. This book wonderfully combines the usually disparate styles of textbook and leisure reading. I'm so glad I found it while browsing the shelves at my local Barnes and Noble.

Lord Byron, Image Credit: NYPL

Every chapter covers specific styles or techniques of poetry and includes an exercise that the reader must try before proceeding further in the book. Stephen is very clear about this from the beginning. You must do each exercise without exception. If you do not, you miss out on the learning and the fun.

Yesterday, per Mr. Fry's instructions, I tried a couple of venerable English forms: Ottavo Rima and Spenserian Stanza. Lord Byron championed these forms in works like Beppo and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (note my blog's name). I am including my exercise output here. Please keep in mind these are not polished pieces, just poetic drills. But I do like them and hope you will too.

Ottavo Rima

(Meter: Iambic Pentameter; Rhyme scheme: abababcc)

Embark upon Ottava with some dread,
The path of old Romantic's laureate.
Lord Byron with this Rima my soul fed,
And with the rhyme scheme Beppo's story set.
With alternating lines of a/b wed,
The octave thrice will wage a hoary bet:
That readers new, like old, are wont to smile
At couplets that with assonance beguile.

Spenserian Stanza

(Meter: Iambic Pentameter except a final line of hexameter; Rhyme scheme: ababbcbcc)

You'll note the rhyme scheme like an unchecked king
Dictating what is said and how it ends--
Enticing poets like poor Frodo's ring,
Exalting craft but gaining no dear friends.
On prim but labored turns this form depends.
It's elegant enough to read like French,
But cannot hide its English bumps and bends.
You'll find that writing in it is no cinch.
It works. That's true, but drops into your themes a wrench.

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