Renaissance English to Eminem

David Wright sees similarities between the English renaissance poet John Skelton (ca.1460-1529) and American rapper Eminem.

I’m one of an increasing number of older music fans who are listening to
Eminem and other rappers – and while I’m not out to proselytize for rap,
I don’t know many poetry people who are interested in his work, or in
other rappers – and least of all those old-school poetry fans who feel
in their heart of hearts that it isn’t really poetry if it doesn’t have
strong metrics or even rhyme. Little do they know we’re in a
renaissance of rhyme right now, and for millions of Americans, this is
poetry.  It doesn’t translate all that well to the
page, but for readers who’ll never go near the music […] I’m an old fan of Middle English lit, and I couldn’t help but be struck by the similarity of this stuff to Skeltonics. (I’m not the
first person to draw this connection – see John Skelton: The Godfather
of Rap
.)

Rob Skelton quotes from his ancestor John Skelton’s poem "The Tunnyng of Elynour Rummyng" to make his own case.

Her lothely lere
Is nothynge clere,
But ugly of chere,
Droupy and drowsy,
Scurvy and lowsy;
Her face all bowsy,
Comely crynkled,
Woundersly wrynkled,
Lyke a rost pygges eare,
Brystled wyth here.

Martin DeMello says he debated whether to put Wright’s comments on The Wondering Minstrels site, since he admits "to not being a fan of rap music (and, in particular, not a fan of Eminem and his ilk, who seem to me to overdo
the use of expletives for a diminishingly-returned shock value)."

Still, David’s commentary was interesting and thought provoking, and I
think what finally tipped the balance was the realisation that I would
have run the Skelton piece for sheer historical value, even though I
didn’t care too much for it either. Also, to be perfectly fair, rap was never intended to be standalone
verse – like many other song genres, it works much better with its
accompanying music, and tends to suffer when printed in isolation. In
particular, there is a certain apparent roughness to the verse rhythms
that in actuality is not so much rough as performance-oriented. Rap may
scan by sheer fiat in places, but it does so very convincingly. And,
more than any other form I’ve seen, it has raised assonance to the
status of a perfectly acceptable substitute for a true rhyme. The
assonance mixes freely with the rhyme, and the both work – no mean feat.

Technorati Tag(s) .

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Renaissance English to Eminem

David Wright sees similarities between the English renaissance poet John Skelton (ca.1460-1529) and American rapper Eminem.

I’m one of an increasing number of older music fans who are listening to
Eminem and other rappers – and while I’m not out to proselytize for rap,
I don’t know many poetry people who are interested in his work, or in
other rappers – and least of all those old-school poetry fans who feel
in their heart of hearts that it isn’t really poetry if it doesn’t have
strong metrics or even rhyme. Little do they know we’re in a
renaissance of rhyme right now, and for millions of Americans, this is
poetry.  It doesn’t translate all that well to the
page, but for readers who’ll never go near the music […] I’m an old fan of Middle English lit, and I couldn’t help but be struck by the similarity of this stuff to Skeltonics. (I’m not the
first person to draw this connection – see John Skelton: The Godfather
of Rap
.)

Rob Skelton quotes from his ancestor John Skelton’s poem "The Tunnyng of Elynour Rummyng" to make his own case.

Her lothely lere
Is nothynge clere,
But ugly of chere,
Droupy and drowsy,
Scurvy and lowsy;
Her face all bowsy,
Comely crynkled,
Woundersly wrynkled,
Lyke a rost pygges eare,
Brystled wyth here.

Martin DeMello says he debated whether to put Wright’s comments on The Wondering Minstrels site, since he admits "to not being a fan of rap music (and, in particular, not a fan of Eminem and his ilk, who seem to me to overdo
the use of expletives for a diminishingly-returned shock value)."

Still, David’s commentary was interesting and thought provoking, and I
think what finally tipped the balance was the realisation that I would
have run the Skelton piece for sheer historical value, even though I
didn’t care too much for it either. Also, to be perfectly fair, rap was never intended to be standalone
verse – like many other song genres, it works much better with its
accompanying music, and tends to suffer when printed in isolation. In
particular, there is a certain apparent roughness to the verse rhythms
that in actuality is not so much rough as performance-oriented. Rap may
scan by sheer fiat in places, but it does so very convincingly. And,
more than any other form I’ve seen, it has raised assonance to the
status of a perfectly acceptable substitute for a true rhyme. The
assonance mixes freely with the rhyme, and the both work – no mean feat.

Technorati Tag(s) .

One response to “Renaissance English to Eminem

  1. Pingback: Music Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s