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Bees -- Norman Rowland Gale

This week's theme - the pleasures of strong rhythm
(Poem #558) Bees
 You voluble,
 Vehement fellows
 That play on your
 Flying and
 Musical cellos,
 All goldenly
 Girdled you
 Serenade clover,
 Each artist in
 Bass but a
 Bibulous rover!

 You passionate,
 Pastoral bandits,
 Who gave you your
 Roaming and
 Rollicking mandates?
 Come out of my
 Foxglove; come
 Out of my roses
 You bees with the
 Plushy and
 Plausible noses!
-- Norman Rowland Gale
A wonderful poem - feather-light, and with a rippling, cascading series of
dactyls reinforced by the persistent alliteration and the clever double

Dactylics are lovely for this sort of tripping effect - the 'stress,
unstress, unstress' pattern encourages the reader into a rhythmic, flowing
cadence which is, of course, precisely what the poet intends.

Some Notes on the Theme:

This week's theme concerns itself with poems whose most immediately striking
feature is their underlying rhythm. Unlike some poems, which attempt to
blend the regular rhythms of poetry with the natural ones of speech, these
are deliberately 'artificial' sounding, with metres that call the reader's
attention to themselves, and on which the poem depends heavily for its

The intimate interconnection between form and content is something we've
talked about several times in the past. In general, a poem's form tends to
reinforce its content (a notable exception is self-referential humorous
poems, whose content often refers directly to their form), but the effect is
subtle and unobtrusive unless you deliberately choose to focus on it. In
some poems, though (Longfellow's 'Hiawatha' is probably the most famous
example) the form (and, in particular, the metre) stands out quite
independent of the poem's contents, and is often what the reader carries
away as his chief impression of the poem (for instance, I could write a
Hiawatha parody far more easily than I could quote much of the actual

Of course, the other obvious connection is the music-poetry link. We've gone
into detail on this too, and I won't repeat any of it here, but here's an
interesting perspective on poetry-as-sound:

  Speech researchers distinguish a speech mode and a nonspeech mode. In the
  latter, the shape of the perceived sound is similar to the shape of the
  auditory information. In the former, only an abstract phonetic category
  (such as [a] [b] [i]) is perceived; the sound information that carries it
  is shut out of consciousness. I have suggested that there may be a third,
  poetic mode, in which some of the rich precategorial auditory information
  may reach consciousness, strongly affecting the emotional or poetic
  qualities of the speech sounds.
        -- Reuven Tsur, 'Rhyme and Cognitive Poetics'


We've run a Gale poem in the past: poem #284

The paper on Rhyme and Cognitive Poetics:
[broken link]


The 'dactylic' foot has in interesting etymology - it originally referred to
Latin and Greek scansion, where, being syllable- rather than stress-timed, a
dactyl was a 'long, short, short' pattern. The allusion was to the three
joints of the finger, a long one followed by two short ones - dactyl being
the Greek for finger


PostScript: As always, if you'd like to extend the theme with a guest poem,
send it in by Friday and we'll move it to the head of the queue.

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