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Similarity -- Piet Hein

       
(Poem #1303) Similarity
Commutative Law

 No cow's like a horse,
 and no horse like a cow.
 That's one similarity
  anyhow.
-- Piet Hein
Quite apart from its poetic merits, this is a pretty neat paradox. It's
amazing the amount of sheer thoughtprovokingness Hein manages to pack into
what is, on the surface, practically a children's rhyme. Nor is this an
isolated instance - his collection of around 10000 grooks is an astonishing
blend of brilliance and silliness.

I'm reminded somewhat of Stephen Crane, another master of the short,
thought-provoking poem - but there's a significant difference in approach.
Whereas Crane's originality is almost obtrusive, Hein delights in pointing
out things that everyone *knows*, but just never thought of. His
characterisation of a pineapple as "sweet and undefinable" remains the best
description I've ever seen of the fruit, and that's in large part because I
knew exactly what he meant the minute I read it.

Likewise today's poem - it's easy to 'bah' it on the grounds of triviality,
or 'mere wordplay', but if you stop to think about it, it's actually
something that everyone might have known, but no one ever thought about, or,
more precisely, no one ever noticed the neatness of. The poem itself isn't
one of his most quotable, but I loved the idea behind it.

martin

35 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Ian Baillieu said...

A couple of comments posted on this poem have somehow ended
up attached to the comments on #1301. Is there anything can
be done to correct the misplacement?

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