A Tragedy in Rhyme
by Oliver Herford
A TRAGEDY IN RHYME
There was a man upon a time
Who could not speak except in rhyme.
He could not voice his smallest wish,
He could not order soup or fish,
He could not hail a passing car,
He could not ask for a cigar,-
And let a rhymeless sentence mar
His speech. He could not vent despair,
Anger, or rage- he could not swear,
He could not even have his say
On common topics of the day.
The dreadful cold- the awful heat,
The rise in coal, the fall in wheat,
He could not rise to give his seat
In crowded car to maiden sweet,
Or buy a paper in the street,-
Except in measured, rhyming feet.
“He must have been a man of means!
In this, the age of magazines!”
I hear you say. Ah, reader, wait
Till you have heard his awful fate.
You will not then expatiate
Upon his fortune.-
Well, one night
A burglar came, and at the sight,
The rhymester took a fearful fright.
The only avenue for flight
Was up the chimney; here he climbed
Until he stuck, and then he rhymed
“Goodness gracious me!
I’m stuck as tight as tight can be!
Oh, dear, I’m in an awful plight.
I cannot budge to left or right,
Or up or down this awful chimney!”
Then he was stuck; had he said “Jimm’ny!”
It would have saved him many a pang.
But no! he could not stoop to slang.
In vain he writhed and racked his brain
For rhymes to “chimney”.
It was plain
He had to rhyme- for should he cease
He must forever hold his peace.
He tried to shout, he tried to call.
The truth fell on him like a pall.
there isn’t any rhyme at all
When they searched the room
They found it silent as a tomb.
For years they advertised in vain.
They never heard from him again.
Classroom tip: This is the perfect poem to read when trying to explain that poems don’t always have to rhyme! For more on rhyme, look in The Literacy Hour.