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Page 25: Skeltonic Couplet

Page 25 of Patterns of Poetry by Miller Williams is devoted to the Skeltonic couplet. Named for the poet who popularized it, John Skelton (~1460 to 1529), these couplets are generally short and iambic and can go on for as long as you can keep them tumbling down the page. Williams notes that these couplets are sometimes “marked by a deliberately metronomic beat and audacious rhyme.” Audacious! To me that says “limerick” but Williams instead swerves right into their alternative description as didactic couplets because of their use in readers for young children. Example: “In Adam’s fall / We sinned all”)—that’s sin-ned, not sind,by the way. Bummer stuff, there. Over on Daniel Nester’s Teaching Blog, we find much livelier examples:

Examples of Skeltonic Verse in Rap

Five hundred years on, Skeltonic verse is alive and well in performance poetry and hip-hop…

Yes the rhythm, the rebel
Without a pause—I’m lowerin’ my level
The hard rhymer where you never been I’m in me
You want stylin’ you know it’s time again
D the enemy tellin you to hear it
They praised the music this time they play the lyrics
Some say no to the album, the show
Bum rush the sound I made a year ago
I guess you know you guess I’m just a radical
Not a sabbatical—yes, to make it critical
The only part of your body should be parting to
Panther power on the hour from the rebel to you
—from “Rebel Without a Pause” by Public Enemy [0:00-0:43]

 See Public Enemy perform Rebel Without a Pause on Soul Train.

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