One demisemikilopoem and counting...
(Poem #251) No!
No sun--no moon! No morn--no noon! No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day-- No sky--no earthly view-- No distance looking blue-- No road--no street--no "t'other side this way"-- No end to any Row-- No indications where the Crescents go-- No top to any steeple-- No recognitions of familiar people-- No courtesies for showing 'em-- No knowing 'em! No traveling at all--no locomotion-- No inkling of the way--no notion-- "No go" by land or ocean-- No mail--no post-- No news from any foreign coast-- No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility-- No company--no nobility-- No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, No comfortable feel in any member-- No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds-- November!
My first introduction to Hood was the rather weak and sentimental poem "I remember, I remember", a poem of the sort that children's anthologists love to include, but which put me off Hood for quite a while. And that was truly a shame, for it was in no way representative of his work, which includes several noteworthy poems - including today's little gem. Unlike most of Hood's work, No! is not strongly metred - the rhythm is discernible but irregular, the poem relying more on the end rhymes than the metrical pattern for punctuation. This gives the poem a nice rambling feel, and makes the last line work all the better - relying on wordplay to wrap up a poem is slightly risky, but when it works it is nicely satisfying. As an aside, Hood had a penchant for puns - the biography notes that 'He was famous for his punning, which appears at times to be almost a reflex action, serving as a defense against painful emotion' - his most famous line probably being the one at the end of 'Faithless Sally Brown'; "They went and told the sexton, and The sexton toll'd the bell."  Unlikely to be run on Minstrels, but you can look it up at <[broken link] http://geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/hood01.html#1>  for another nice example, see 'With a Book', poem #148 - m. Biography and Assessment: b. May 23, 1799, London d. May 3, 1845, London English poet whose humanitarian verses, such as "The Song of the Shirt," served as models for a whole school of social-protest poets, not only in Britain and the U.S. but in Germany and Russia, where he was widely translated. He also is notable as a writer of comic verse, having originated several durable forms for that genre. The son of a bookseller, Hood was apprenticed to an engraver as a young boy. In 1815 he was sent to Dundee for his health's sake (his lifelong illness is thought to have been rheumatic heart disease). On his return to London in 1817 he resumed work as an engraver and then became a "sort of sub-editor" of the London Magazine during its heyday, when its circle of brilliant contributors included Charles Lamb, Thomas De Quincey, and William Hazlitt. In 1827 he published a volume of poems strongly influenced by Keats, The Plea of the Midsummer Fairies. Several of the poems in it suggest that Hood might possibly have become a poet of the first rank. However, the success of his amusing Odes and Addresses to Great People (1825), written in collaboration with his brother-in-law, J.H. Reynolds, virtually obliged him to concentrate on humorous writing for the rest of his life. There is something sinister about Hood's sense of humour, a trait that was to reappear in the "black comedy" of the latter 20th century. His pages are thronged with comic mourners and undertakers, and a corpse is always good for a laugh. He was famous for his punning, which appears at times to be almost a reflex action, serving as a defense against painful emotion. Of his later poems, the grim ballads "The Dream of Eugene Aram, the Murderer" and "The Last Man," "The Song of the Shirt," "The Lay of the Labourer," and "The Bridge of Sighs" are moving protests against social evils of the day--sweated labour, unemployment, and the double sexual standard. -- E.B.