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Punch, or the London Charivari. Volume 1, July 31, 1841

by Various

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Let me earnestly implore you, good Mr. PUNCH, to give publicity to a new invention in the art of poetry, which I desire only to claim the merit of having discovered. I am perfectly willing to permit others to improve upon it, and to bring it to that perfection of which I am delightedly aware, it is susceptible.

It is sometimes lamented that the taste for poetry is on the decline—that it is no longer relished—that the public will never again purchase it as a luxury. But it must be some consolation to our modern poets to know (as no doubt they do, for it is by this time notorious) that their productions really do a vast deal of service—that they are of a value for which they were never designed. They—I mean many of them—have found their way into the pharmacopoeia, and are constantly prescribed by physicians as soporifics of rare potency. For instance—

“—— not poppy, nor mandragora,

Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world.

Shall ever usher thee to that sweet sleep”

to which a man shall be conducted by a few doses of Robert Montgomery’s Devil’s Elixir, called “Satan,” or by a portion, or rather a potion, of “Oxford.” Apollo, we know, was the god of medicine as well as of poetry. Behold, in this our bard, his two divine functions equally mingled!

But waiving this, of which it was not my intention to speak, let me remark, that the reason why poetry will no longer go down with the public, as poetry, is, that the whole frame-work is worn out. No new rhymes can be got at. When we come to a “mountain,” we are tolerably sure that a “fountain” is not very far off; when we see “sadness,” it leads at once to “madness”—to “borrow” is sure to be followed by “sorrow;” and although it is said, “when poverty comes in at the door, love flies out of the window,”—a saying which seems to imply that poverty may sometimes enter at the chimney or elsewhere—yet I assure you, in poetry, “the poor” always come in, and always go out at “the door.”

My new invention has closed the “door,” for the future, against the vulgar crew of versifiers. A man must be original. He must write common-sense too—hard exactions I know, but it cannot be helped.

I transmit you a specimen. Like all great discoveries, the chief merit of my invention is its simplicity. Lest, however, “the meanest capacity” (which cannot, by the way, be supposed to be addicted to PUNCH) should boggle at it, it may be as well to explain that every letter of the final word of each alternate line must be pronounced as though Dilworth himself presided at the perusal; and that the last letter (or letters) placed in italics will be found to constitute the rhyme. Here, then, we have


On going forth last night, a friend to see,

I met a man by trade a s-n-o-b;

Reeling along the path he held his way.

“Ho! ho!” quoth I, “he’s d-r-u-n-k.”

Then thus to him—“Were it not better, far,

You were a little s-o-b-e-r...?