Saturday, 29 March 2008

On writing a poem, by W H Mallock (part two)

This abridged essay is the continuation and conclusion of the item posted immediately below.

How to write a poem like Matthew Arnold
Take one soulfull of involuntary unbelief previously flavoured with self-satisfied despair. Add one beautiful text of Scripture. Mix well together. As soon as ebullition commences grate in finely a few allusions to the New Testament, the lake of Tiberias, one constellation of stars, half-a-dozen allusions to the nineteenth century, one to Goethe, one to Mont Blanc or Lake Geneva and one, if possible, to some personal bereavement. Flavour with faiths, infinities, passions, finities and yearnings. Conclude with some question that it shall be impossible to answer.
How to write a poem like Browning
Take a coarse view of things in general. In the midst of this place a man and a woman, her and her ankles tastefully arranged on a slice of Italy. Cut an opening across the breast of each until the soul becomes visible. Pour into each breast as much as it will hold of strong wine of love. Cover quickly with obscure classical quotations, allusions to an unknown period in history and a half-destroyed fresco by an early master, varied now and then with the fugues or toccatas of a forgotten composer. If the poem is intelligible remove carefully the necessary particles.
How to write a modern pre-Raphaelite poem
Take fine selected early English containing no words but such as are obsolete and unintelligible. Pour in double the quantity of entirely new English, which must never have been used before. Mix together until they assume a colour different to any tongue ever spoken. Determine the number of stanzas and select a corresponding number of archaic or peculiar words, alloting one of these to each stanza. Pour in other words round them. A favourite [shape] is the following, which is of easy construction. Take three damozels dressed in straight night-gowns. Pull their hairpins out. Let their hair tumble about their shoulders. A few stars may be sprinkled with advantage. Place an aureole about the head of each. Give each a lily in her hand. Bend their necks different ways and set them before a stone wall with an apple tree and flowers. Take a cast of them in the softest part of your brain and pur in your word-composition as above described. This kind of poem is improved by a burden; a few jingling words of archaic character to ornament, inserted between the stanzas. Must be attempted only in a vacant atmosphere, so that no grains of common sense may injure the work in progress.
How to write a narrative poem like Morris
Take sixty pages of the same word mixture as described in the preceeding; and dilute with double the quantity of mild modern Anglo-Saxon. Pour into two vessels of equal size and into one of these empty a mythological story. If this does not put your readers to sleep soon enough, add to it the rest of the language in the remaining vessel.
How to write a satanic poem like the late Lord Byron
Take a couple of fine deadly sins and let them hang before your eyes until they become racy. Then take them down, dissect them, and stew them for some time in a solution of weak remorse; after which they are to be devilled with mock-despair.
How to write a patriotic poem like Swinburne
Take one blaspheming patriot who has been hung or buried for some time, together with the oppressed country belonging to him. Soak in a quantity of rotten sentiment till completely sodden. get ready an indefinite number of Christian kings and priests. Kick these till they are nearly dead. Add copiously broken fragments of the Catholic church. Place in a heap on the oppressed country. Season with coarse expressions. On the top carefully arrange your patriot garnished with laurel and parsley. Surround with artificial hopes for the future never meant to be tasted. This kind of poem is cooked in verbiage, flavoured with Liberty, heightened by the introduction of a few gods and the game of Fortune. The amount of verbiage Liberty is capable of flavouring is infinite.
We regret to offer this work in its incomplete state, the whole of that part treating the most recent section of modern poetry, viz., the blasphemous and the obscene, being entirely wanting. The whole of the first edition was seized by the police and is in the hands of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. We trust that this loss will have little effect as indecency and profanity are things in which external instruction is a luxury rather than a necessity. Our readers who are in need of special training in these subjects will find excellent professors in any public-house during the late hours of the evening where the whole sum and substance is delievered nightly needing only a little dressing to turn it into excellent verse.

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