When I went to University, I had as lecturer a guy called David B. He was a published poet and novelist, and specialised in Australian literature. He also had glasses, a beard, a breathy way of speaking, and a girl told me later that she thought he was a bit of a sleaze. Anyway, I always remember one of the lecturers he gave about one of the earliest Australian poems:
O Kangaroo, O Kangaroo,
Thou spirit of Australia;
That redeems from utter failure,
From perfect desolation,
And warrants the creation
Of this fifth part of earth ...
(From The Kangaroo, by Barron Field)
His take on the poem was this: "The fact that Barron Field can't find any word but 'failure' to rhyme with Australia represents in itself a kind of failure; a failure of traditional poetic forms ..."
There always seemed to me to be something wrong with this. Firstly, what's wrong with traditional poetic forms? If they're good enough for The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner - a poem that's almost cosmic in its extent - then why can't they be good enough for Australia?
Secondly, I felt sure that there were plenty of words that rhymed with Australia. Like .... and, um, like ... actually, it was pretty hard to think of them. But it always stuck in my mind that there should be words that rhyme with Australia.
And years later, I actually did sit down, and try to find words other than 'failure' that rhymed with 'Australia'. As I suspected, there were several:
See? Certainly, some of these words (like Somalia) may not have existed when Barron Field wrote the poem. But that hardly matters: there would have been other words in use then that are not in use now. And the fact that some of these words are, shall we say, 'grammatically creative' hardly matters either; the whole point of a poem is that it's creative.
Rachel gives us another word to add to that list:
Sesquipadalia (Long words)
Sesquipadalian (Given to or characterised by the use of long words)
So, with that in mind, we should be able to offer a different version of Barron Field's poem:
Kangaroo, o Kangaroo,
Thou spirit of Australia
Thou complete and wondrous specimen
Of antipodean Animalia!
Of all the taily creatures
I've never seen a tailier!
Oh yes, you are most worthy
Of all our sesquipadalia:
Yes, Kangaroo, o Kangaroo,
Thou spirit of Australia!
Much better, isn't it?
UPDATE! - Add 'Norman Mailer' and 'Marsupial Mammalia' to the list, please, Mr. Blog Man! Also, I edited out the full name of the Uni lecturer.
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