“These special words, collected liked jewels by wordsmiths and poets, in journals and notebooks or on scraps of paper for later use” (Hart)
Until now, I was not aware of such a landmark but today is National Thesaurus Day and the anniversary of that great lexicographer’s birth. Apparently, Roget made word lists to combat his depressive moods, beginning to collate them in 1848 and finishing his “Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified” in 1852 with 15,000 words. The word itself derives from Greek thesauros, meaning “storehouse, treasury,”
I, for one, am eternally grateful to Roget and frequent the online Thesaurus when I’m stuck for the mot juste or just want a different sounding word, a more or less syllabic construct. Sylvia Plath used one assiduously – her heavily underlined copy fetched £ 13,750 (US$ 18,620) in 2018 and of it she wrote to a friend: “While at the infirmary, since last Wednesday, all I did was read the Thesaurus and write five poems” (The Letters, vol. 1, 2017, p.859).
Such may be a writer’s reliance on this store house of relative meanings that in his poem “Bricks and Straw” Franklin Pierce Adams packs the first part of the poem with a multitude of synonyms but in the latter half begs the question as to how pre-Thesaurian poets ever wrote without this resource, from Milton and Marlowe to Coleridge and Wordsworth. A worthy consideration and one he concludes with “soft!—could it be that they/ Waited until they had something to say?”
“My desk is cleared of the litter of ages;
Before me glitter the fair white pages;
My fountain pen is clean and filled,
And the noise of the office has long been stilled.
Roget’s Thesaurus is at my hand,
And I’m ready to do some work that’s grand,
Dignified, eminent, great, momentous,
Memorable, worthy of note, portentous,
Beautiful, paramount, vital, prime,
Stirring, eventful, august, sublime.
For this is the way, I have read and heard,
That authors look for the fitting word…”
Billy Collins’ “Thesaurus” is left on the shelf as he playfully eschews the close networks of cloistered words:
“…It means treasury, but it is just a place
where words congregate with their relatives,
a big park where hundreds of family reunions
are always being held,
house, home, abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs,
all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos;
…I would rather see words out on their own, away
from their families and the warehouse of Roget,
wandering the world where they sometimes fall
in love with a completely different word.
Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever
next to each other on the same line inside a poem,
a small chapel where weddings like these,
between perfect strangers, can take place.”
I have recently purchased a copy of Hart’s “Thesaurus of the Senses” (I recommend it, beautifully written and collated solely into words that resonate with the five senses) and from it comes the first part of today’s prompt:-
1. Write a SOUND POEM which includes AT LEAST ONE from EACH of the FIVE HEARING CATEGORY SELECTIONS below: (reference the hearing words you chose in your post).
- bellow; clink; drone; jingle; quiver;
- clamour; dissonant; rip-roaring; tempestuous; vociferous;
- dulcet: honeyed; poetic; sonorous; tonal;
- blabber; cackle; dribble; gurgle; seethe;
- beseech; chant; drawl; embellish; intone
Feel free to dip deeper into your chosen words by elaborating further from the Thesaurus with synonyms and antonyms
2. Simply write about the Thesaurus, as the above poets have – what it means to you; describe it, have fun with it. Let the synonyms flow, or antagonise with antonyms.
There are no restrictions on poetry style or meter but those of you who like Acrostics might want to make a nine liner for THESAURUS.
Publish your poem and if you like add #ThesaurusDay, #NationalThesaurusDay to your post. And so that others can find you, add your poem to the Mr Linky below and go visiting others as that is half the fun/enjoyment/pleasure/joy of our dVerse gatherings.
NB Thursday (20TH) Open Link Night is LIVE – a time to connect names with faces and poems with voices! (more details HERE)