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No! -- Thomas Hood

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--
-- Thomas Hood
My first introduction to Hood was the rather weak and sentimental poem "I
remember, I remember"[1], 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[2].

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."

[1] Unlikely to be run on Minstrels, but you can look it up at
<[broken link]>

[2] 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.

48 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Bill Grange said...

The poem is really a 'clever' play on the 'no' part of November. Otherwise
it shows a distinct lack of observation!

Although November is definitely a time of decay, with often dreary weather,
it can be almost beautiful time of year with leaves in their full autumn
glory, a myriad fungi in the woods, plenty of birds - and even some flowers
holding on.

The poem, frankly, irritates me!

Bill Grange

Caroline said...

maybe he was just in a bad mood that day, and it hppened to be november. I love it. caroline

nasgab said...

I've read a couple of poems and read the comments at the bottom. I've come to the conclusion that no matter who wrote the poem and how well it's been done somebody will lambast it. Sometimes you just have to read it as is. Caroline hit it on the head. Sounded to me like he was a bit meloncholy or depressed and probably just wrote how he felt.

It also probably pepped him up when he read it back. I know I let out a chuckle when I got to the end. By the way, my favorite poem is one I learned about 45 years ago in grade school. It's my favorite because it's easy for me to remember, since I don't have the best memory. It's the shortest poem in the world.


Had em'.


Anonymous said...

I like this poem very much. This was printed in our english literature book too. It bcomes lil confusin as v reach it's end.
But overall -

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Anonymous said...

As a teacher I used it with my students for rhythm, stress patterns, intonation, and breath control as well as practice for consonants, vowels and diphthongs that are so strange to utter for French students;
They did enjoy it a lot as it is so easy to memorize!
it seemed to me far better than the classical: “Where is Brian ?” a leitmotiv for generations of collège and lycée students in the 70′s, 80′s, 90′s, see:


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