Reason's rhyme resolves in time


The kind of sonnet form that Shakespeare wrote
–a poem of Love, or Time, in fourteen lines
Rhymed the way these are, clear, easy to quote–
Channels strong feelings into deep designs.
Three quatrains neatly fitting limb to joint,
Their lines cut with the sharpness of a prism,
Flash out in colors as they make their point
In what logicians call a syllogism–
(If A, and B, then C)–and so it goes,
Unless the final quatrain starts out "But"
Or "Nevertheless," these groups of lines dispose
Themselves in reasoned sections, tightly shut.
The final couplet's tight and terse and tends
To sum up neatly how the sonnet ends.

~ John Hollander, 28 October 1929 – 17 August 2013
Rhyme's Reason, Yale UP, 0300088329, 1981, p. 19

In your playground I learned to care deeply about form. Thanks, John.

Last 5 posts by David Byron


  1. says

    Thrice put out an album with 4 sonnets on it called The Alchemy Index. Child Of Dust is one of the best and creepy songs around (it ends with the sound of dirt being piled on the listeners grave).

  2. En Passant says

    The soul of wit. Thanks much for the tip.

    A now deceased minor poet friend some years ago wrote a snarky and slapstick villanelle about the villanelle, which piqued my interest in the devilish "metapoetic" genre generally.

    Now thanks to your tip I've found "This form with two refrains in parallel?"

    Hollander's work is elegant as hell.

  3. barry says

    On the other hand the limerick scheme
    is like a short unforgettable meme.
    It's still a craft
    that can make people laugh,
    and you can churn it out by the ream.

  4. En Passant says

    In a limerick, lines one, two and five,
    Get three anapests each for their jive.
    But on lines three and four,
    We find two, and no more.
    By thirteen, at the end we arrive.

    I am soooo outta here!

  5. says

    Now thanks to your tip I've found "This form with two refrains in parallel?"

    Hollander's work is elegant as hell.

    Indeed. :)

  6. En Passant says

    Indeed. :)

    Which ineffable but nigh unmissable characteristic distinguishes poets from poetasters like scholars from schoolboys.

    If it's sin to envy your study with such a master now gone, then peccavi, though I consider it homage.

  7. says

    @En Passant
    I enjoyed studying with many masters, but he wasn't one of them (though we walked past one another many times– that's gotta count for something, right?). From an early age, I learned at the knee of his writings, the playground he projected in verse and prose.