Hello poets everywhere, and welcome once again to Meeting the Bar here at dVerse. My name is Tony Maude, and it is my privilege to be your host for today’s entertainment.
Bouts-rimés (boo reeMAY) is French for “rhymed ends”. It is the name given to a poetic game in which a list of words that rhyme with one another is given to one or more poets who then make their own poems, all of which use the same rhyming words in the order in which they were given at the end of their lines.
The invention of bouts-rimés is attributed to a minor 17th century French poet named Dulot, of whom very little is known. The story goes that, about the year 1648, Dulot complained that he had been robbed of a number of valuable papers, including three hundred sonnets. Dulot’s audience were surprised to learn that he had written so many, until he explained that they were all blank sonnets. Dulot had written down the rhymes for his sonnets – and nothing else.
It is unclear just how serious Dulot was about this, but the idea caught the imagination of his contemporaries, who set about inventing rhymes of their own, then challenging others to fill in the blank lines. Soon bouts-rimés became the fashion and remained popular throughout the 17th century and into the 18th century.
The fashion was revived in the 19th century, and was known in English as ‘crambo’. Amongst known players were the Rossettis, William Michael, Dante Gabriel and Christina (above), who was considered particularly skilled at the game. Here is one of her bouts-rimés sonnets:
Methinks the ills of life I fain would shun;
But then I must shun life, which is a blank.
Even in my childhood oft my spirit sank,
Thinking of all that had still to be done.
Among my many friends there is not one
Like her with whom I sat upon the bank
Willow-o’ershadowed, from whose lips I drank
A love more pure than streams that sing and run.
But many times that joy has cost a sigh;
And many times I in my heart have sought
For the old comfort and not found it yet.
Surely in that calm day when I shall die
The painful thought will be a blessed thought
And I shall sorrow that I must forget.
In 1864 Alexandre Dumas invited the poets of France to display their skill by composing poems to a set of rhymes that he had selected for this purpose. No fewer than 350 poets took up the challenge, and Dumas published the collected results in a single volume in 1865.
Ron Padgett, in his Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms (2nd Edition), cites the following example of rhymes intended for a bouts-rimés game; tanned, jump, fanned, lump; reading, lawn, misleading, yawn; yo-yo, death, no-no, breath; France and pants. Using these rhymes, Jack Collom produced the following poem:
Getting burnt, evaporated, bleached, or tanned
By the sun ain’t no way to jump.
I’d rather plop in shadow, be fanned
By some geisha girl, and lay around like a proverbial lump.
I’m not that hot for so-called good reading;
I just crave a cool drink on a bluegreen lawn.
I mean, don’t let me be misleading:
Where I’m at is sorta like the center of a yawn.
You know, excitement’s like being a yo-yo—
I don’t wanna beat the subject to death,
And it isn’t that repetition ain’t no no-no,
But the last thing I hope to be is out of breath.
So let somebody else go lost-generate all over France,
Or fly to the moon, discover Africa, some damn hotshot smartypants.
The skill in bout rimés lies not only in writing a poem that uses the rhyming words at the end of each line as required, but in using them in a way that makes sense and seems natural. The stranger the set of rhymes, the harder this is to do.
Today, I’d like to challenge the dVerse community to play bout rimés with the following set of rhymes, which are taken from a sonnet by a contemporary poet:
drive, side, night, lied, wage, saved, made, face, nurse, church, worse, purse, back, that.
As you can see, there are fourteen words, so a fourteen line poem is what we’re after. You might want to stretch yourself and try writing a fully formed sonnet in iambic pentameter (that’s 10 syllables in a line, with the stress on the even-numbered syllables), but you don’t have to … smiles.
You are allowed to use the rhymes as the last syllable of a longer word at your line endings as Jack Collom did; pants in the list of rhymes he was working from appears as smartypants in his poem. So, for example, side might appear in beside, aside, bedside or mountainside; homicide would also be acceptable – not a phrase you’ll hear often … smiles – because the ending sounds exactly the same; made could be replaced with its homophone, maid, or even with dismayed etc.
So, dVerse poets, are you ready to play?
Here’s what to do:
• Write your poem using the rhymes given above and post it to your blog.
• Add a link to your poem via the ‘Mr Linky’ below.
• This opens a new screen where you’ll enter your information, and where you also choose links to read. Once you have pasted your poem’s blog URL and entered your name, click Submit. Don’t worry if you don’t see your name right away.
• If you write more than one poem, it’s OK to link them separately … smiles.
• Read and comment on other people’s work to let them know it’s being read.
• Share your work and that of your fellow poets via your favourite social media platforms.
• Above all – have fun!