Saturday, January 14, 2006

Eight Words Other Than 'Failure' That Rhyme With Australia

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.


Cairo The Boxer said...

Nice blog name. Will you vote for me?

rascuache said...

No it is not better

Australia is a Failure at the moment

I'm getting political, i'll leave it there

Aunty Marianne said...

Much more positive. You're a fantastic country, much more interesting than say, Belgium, starting with the weather and working on up. And the kangaroo fascinates those of us not used to marsupial locomotion. I can't wait to visit, as soon as I have enough moolaah for the ticket and a month to spare!

So no, not a failure. You want to see a failed country? Think Zimbabwe.

Tim said...

You left "Norman Mailer" off your list. It's not an exact rhyme, but I'm sure you could work it it somewhere.

TimT said...

Will you vote for me?

Only if you quit chewing on my slippers and don't chew your fleas when I have guests round.

Raschuache, we may have to disagree on that one.
That poem by Barron Field is interesting, btw, in that it is one of the earliest - probably the earliest - example of the Aussie 'cultural cringe'. If you study Australian poetry at all, one of the themes that keep on cropping up is the love/hate relationship that people have with the country. It's a bit of a dumb idea, really, because there's lots of other strands in Australian poetry. I happen to think that the BEST Australian poetry is not even consciously 'Australian' - check out some A.D. Hope.

Barron Field's an interesting guy, as well - he was a friend of Charles Lamb, and he was one of the first people ever to make an attempt at notating Aboriginal music. (There was only one other attempt made at the same period, a dreadful drawing-room ballad called 'La Corroboree', written by some French guy.)

Thanks for that, Aunty Marianne. Here in Melbourne, the weather's actually quite cool compared to the rest of Australia, and that suits me fine (for instance, it's the height of summer at the moment, and there are grey clouds overhead, and there's a cool breeze wafting through the house)!

Tim, Norman Mailer has been added to the list. 'Failure' doesn't rhyme properly with Australia, anyway!

Nicholas said...


TimT said...

Ah - yes! Good one! Also Glossolalia, and undoubtedly a number of other 'Lalia's' as well.

Including this one - Laila Ono, Bookstore Diva!

Gav said...

Erm, sorry to dig this one up from years ago, but I couldn't let the fact go that you've missed derailleur from your list!

You know, the thing that changes the gears on your push bike!

Anonymous said...

umm Paraphenalia? or even better genetalia.. haha

Email: timhtrain - at -

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