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II. Couplet The Hudibrastic Couplet / Hudibrastic Verse


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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
The Frame
II. The Couplet

The Hudibrastic couplet is a unit of two humorous or mocking lines ending with rhyme that contributes to the humor. Hudibrastic verse is a series of Hudibrastic couplets that are clever, often impious, witty with a satirical tone. The verse is named for the poem and character Hudibras published in England in 1663 by Samuel Butler. Hudibras is volumes long and I admit to not having read the whole thing, however, Hudibras is a kind of English Don Quixote. The poem mocks the hypocrisy of religion, the incompetence of government, the incongruities of science and of the "over-educated".

The defining features of the Hudibrastic couplet are:

  1. stanzaic, the poem may be written in any number of couplets.
  2. metric or syllabic, primarily iambic tetrameter or octasyllabic. Yet pentameter or hexameter is acceptable as long as the lines are equal length.
  3. rhymed aa bb cc etc. The rhyme is often surprising, polysyllabic, sometimes silly or slightly askew. Feminine endings are also employed, all adding to the humor of the poem. eg lot a news/hypotenuse.
  4. satirical, humorous.

    Hudibras (1st 14 lines)

    When civil dudgeon first grew high,
    And men fell out they knew not why?
    When hard words, jealousies, and fears,
    Set folks together by the ears,
    And made them fight, like mad or drunk,
    For Dame Religion, as for punk;
    Whose honesty they all durst swear for,
    Though not a man of them knew wherefore:
    When Gospel-Trumpeter, surrounded
    With long-ear'd rout, to battle sounded,
    And pulpit, drum ecclesiastick,
    Was beat with fist, instead of a stick;
    Then did Sir Knight abandon dwelling,
    And out he rode a colonelling.

    Here is a portion of hudibrastic verse written by WS Gilbert in hexameter exhibiting the rhyming couplets that add to the humor.

    I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
    I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
    I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical,
    From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
    I'm very well acquainted too with matters mathematical,
    I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
    About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news-
    With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.
    ----------------------------------- ----W.S. Gilbert, 1836-1911

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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