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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry

English Poetry

 

Tyburn Poems can take one of two very different paths:

  • Tyburn Verse is an invented form found all over the internet. This short verse centers around the 4 words that make up the first 4 lines..

     

    The Tyburn is:

    • a hexastich, a poem in 6 lines.
    • Syllabic, 2-2-2-2-9-9 syllables per line. The 2 syllable lines should be one two syllable word.
    • Rhymed, aaaabb.
    • Repetition, L1 is repeated as the 5th and 6th syllables of L5, L2 is repeated as the 7th and 8th syllables of L5, L3 is repeated as the 5th and 6th syllables of L6 and L4 is repeated as the 7th and 8th syllables of L6.

       

      xa1

      xa2

      xa3

      xa4

      x x x x xa1 xa2 b

      x x x x xa3 xa4 b

      Condemned byJudi Van Gorder

      Contrite

      tonight

      midnight

      finite

      A church bell rings contrite tonight, thrice.

      Tyburn gallows midnight finite price.

  • Tyburn Verse is also a thematic genre of poetry named for the infamous Tyburn gallows outside of 16th century London where a multitude of political prisoners as well as other condemned felons were hanged. The poetry exploits the many executions there. The frame of the verse is at the discretion of the poet. I have to admit, I found this genre much more fascinating to research than the invented form of the same name. Maybe that is why I chose to write the example poem for the invented verse form to also fit this thematic genre.

     

    The history of Tyburn includes such diverse names as Cromwell and Molly Brown. Poems in many forms document this segment of history and even play a role in its traditions. Recitation of the "Neck Verse" actually played a part in saving some of the condemned. Any first time offender could claim "benefit of clergy". Clergy, among the very few literates of the day, were not executed but only branded on first offence. But to prove they were clergy they had to read what became known as the Neck Verse, Psalm 51:1.

    Have mercy on me, O God,

    according to Thy steadfast love;

    according to Thy abundant mercy

    blot out my transgressions.

    At midnight before a prisoner was to be hanged a bell would be rung at St Sepulchre's church near Newgate prison and the bellman would then recite aloud this verse:

    All you that in the condemned hole do lie,

    Prepare you, for tomorrow you shall die;

    Watch all and pray; The hour is drawing near,

    That you before the Almighty must appear.

     

    Examine well yourselves; in time repent,

    That you may not to eternal flames be sent.

    And when St Sepulchre's Bell in the morning tolls,

    The Lord above have mercy on your souls.

    ----------------------------------------- --- Anonymous

    Poet's of the caliber of Shakespeare and Alexander Pope were among the many who produced verse in this genre.

    Act II, Scene iii, Air XXVII---"Green Sleeves" by John Gay 1685-1732

     

    Since lays were ade, for every degree,

    To curb vice in other as well as me

    I wonder we han't better company

    ------------ Upon Tyburn tree.

    But gold from law can take us out the sting;

    And if rich men, like us, were to swing,

    Twould thin the land, such numbers to string

    ------------ Upon Tyburn tree.

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