by Willard Espy
Word Ways, 1986


In the July 22 1972 New Yorker magazine there appeared the following sonnet by George Starbuck:

O for a muse of fire, a sack of dough,
Or both! O promissory notes of woe!
One time in Santa Fe, N.M.,
Ol' Winfield Townley Scott and I ... but whoa.
One can exert oneself, ff,
Or architect a heaven like Rimbaud,
Or if that seems, how shall I say, de trop,
One can at least write sonnets, apropos
Of nothing save the do-re-mi-fa-sol
Of poetry itself, is not the row
Of perfect rhymes, the terminal bon mot,
Obesiance enough to the Great O?
"Observe," said Chairman Mao to Premier Chou,
"On voyage à Parnasse pour prendre lex eaux,
On voyage comme poisson,

Darryl Francis complained in the February 1976 Word Ways that three lines (N.M., incog., ff) overstepped poetic license. He supplied a list of thirteen different endings rhyming with say. The verse below is built around these thirteen different endings, though a few of the words are not those of his examples. The trick would, of course, be impossible without using Anglicized French terms.

One afternoon, in mood très gai
Because of playing the gourmet
(I'd taken wine with déjeuner--
A light and lilting Beaujolais
Plus biscuits, cheese and pousse-café),
I dared a blazing sun, à pied,
To pay a little visit chez
Miss Janet, who said "You OK?
You may have had a coup de soleil."
Said I, "I've writ a poem, J,
With no last letter twice in play,
And yet the whole thing rhymes with a."

Note that I had to violate Darryl Francis's strictures once, using J as an initial instead of a word, but as a versifier--not a logologist--this seems to be quite acceptable. I omitted one of his terminal letters (H, found in weigh, sleigh, neigh or inveigh).

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