This week's theme: the ever-popular triple rhyme. Contributions, as always, welcome.
(Poem #1023) The Soldiers of our Queen
DRAGOONS: The soldiers of our Queen Are linked in friendly tether; Upon the battle scene They fight the foe together. There ev'ry mother's son Prepared to fight and fall is; The enemy of one The enemy of all is! The enemy of one The enemy of all is! [On an order from the MAJOR they fall back.] [Enter the COLONEL. All salute.] COLONEL: If you want a receipt for that popular mystery, Known to the world as a Heavy Dragoon, DRAGOONS: [saluting] Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! COLONEL: Take all the remarkable people in history, Rattle them off to a popular tune. DRAGOONS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! COLONEL: The pluck of Lord Nelson on board of the Victory -- Genius of Bismarck devising a plan -- The humour of Fielding (which sounds contradictory) -- Coolness of Paget about to trepan -- The science of Jullien, the eminent musico -- Wit of Macaulay, who wrote of Queen Anne -- The pathos of Paddy, as rendered by Boucicault -- Style of the Bishop of Sodor and Man -- The dash of a D'Orsay, divested of quackery -- Narrative powers of Dickens and Thackeray -- Victor Emmanuel -- peak-haunting Peveril -- Thomas Aquinas, and Doctor Sacheverell -- Tupper and Tennyson -- Daniel Defoe -- Anthony Trollope and Mister Guizot! Ah! DRAGOONS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! COLONEL DRAGOONS Take of these elements all A Heavy Dragoon, that is fusible a Heavy Dragoon, Melt them all down in a A Heavy Dragoon, pipkin or crucible a Heavy Dragoon, Set them to simmer, A Heavy Dragoon and take off the scum, a Heavy Dragoon, And a Heavy Dragoon Is the residuum! is the residuum! COLONEL: If you want a receipt for this soldier-like paragon, Get at the wealth of the Czar (if you can) -- The family pride of a Spaniard from Aragon -- Force of Mephisto pronouncing a ban -- A smack of Lord Waterford, reckless and rollicky -- Swagger of Roderick, heading his clan -- The keen penetration of Paddington Pollaky -- Grace of an Odalisque on a divan -- The genius strategic of Caesar or Hannibal -- Skill of Sir Garnet in thrashing a cannibal -- Flavour of Hamlet -- the Stranger, a touch of him -- Little of Manfred (but not very much of him) -- Beadle of Burlington -- Richardson's show -- Mister Micawber and Madame Tussaud! Ah! DRAGOONS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! COLONEL DRAGOONS Take of these elements all A Heavy Dragoon, that is fusible a Heavy Dragoon, Melt them all down in a A Heavy Dragoon, pipkin or crucible a Heavy Dragoon, Set them to simmer, A Heavy Dragoon and take off the scum, a Heavy Dragoon, And a Heavy Dragoon Is the residuum! is the residuum!
Note: receipt: recipe, formula The triple rhyme, as I'll be the first to admit, is not the most serious of poetic devices. Indeed, the effect is, if not precisely silly, definitely lighthearted, and the focus is as often as not on the cleverness of the rhyme rather than on what it is actually saying. This, combined with the relative difficulty of sustaining a good set of perfect triple rhymes, makes it a rather rarely encountered device; however, when well done the effect is seldom less than delightful. Given the lighthearted air, and the focus on form as much as content, it is almost natural that the chief examples of triple rhymes are in humorous verse and in musicals, both of which lay a greater than usual stress on the sound of the verse. And the two genres combine brilliantly in the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, making it not at all surprising that they contain several excellent triple-rhymed sequences. Gilbert, of course, not only dabbles freely in the form, but handles it with his usual flair throughout. The most famous example is undoubtedly the Major General's song (which achieves the additional feat of imposing triple rhymes on a duple metre), but for the sheer playful pleasure of rhyming, and for the deft way in which it mixes single and triple rhymes, today's song is just as noteworthy. Like 'Modern Major General', 'Soldiers of Our Queen' is really little more than a list of loosely connected lines strung together by sheer force of rhyme and metre - and like the former, it succeeds brilliantly. Especially when combined with Sullivan's music, the song is a joy to read, to sing and to parody. Postscript: 'fusible' doesn't quite rhyme with 'crucible' - does anyone know whether it did in Gilbert's day, or if he was just allowing himself a little give in the rhyme? Links: The Patience homepage at http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/patience/html/patience_home.html has links to MIDI and RealAudio files of the tune An interesting discussion on updating the references in the song: http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/patience/discussion/heavy.html And a slightly twisted take thereon by Tom Holt: http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=%40zetnet.co.uk My own sincere flattery of Gilbert: [broken link] http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=a45b01%241cmnij%241%40ID-121029.news.dfncis.de Nor has the introductory verse escaped its share of attention: http://members.aol.com/gsvloc/soldier.htm George Klawitter on the "scarce, and usually silly" triple rhyme: [broken link] http://www.stedwards.edu/hum/klawitter/poetics/devices.html#masc Some other triply-rhymed pieces of G&S: The Major General's Song: Poem #88 The Sorcerer's Song: Poem #900 -martin