Excellent article in today's Guardian by Ruth Padel on poetic form: 'Italian poets invented the sonnet, but their counterparts today do not get protested at as, last month at Ledbury, Jo Shapcott, Sean O'Brien and I did (the Poetry Society's president, vice-president and chair, respectively), on the grounds that the society supports the wrong sort of poetry: poetry that does not rhyme.'
… the real rallying flag for the rhyme police is end rhyme in a rhyming scheme. This battle, though, was fought over 400 years ago by cutting-edge practitioners whose blank verse (begun in English around 1540 following Italy's versi sciolti da rima, "verse freed from rhyme", developed roughly 1530) was blazing out of the language.
In 1602, Thomas Campion attacked "the unaptnesse of Rime in Poesie". Bad poets, he said, "rime a man to death". The "popularitie of Rime creates as many Poets as a hot summer flies". Rhyme should be used "sparingly, lest it offend the eare with tedious affectation".
Samuel Daniel wrote furiously back "proving", he said, "that Rhyme is the fittest harmonie of words that comportes with our Language". Campion, this traitor to rhyme, has called "our measures grosse, vulgare, barbarous". If it be so, Daniel snarled sarcastically, "we have lost much labour to no purpose". Ben Jonson weighed in with a satirical poem, "A Fit of Rime against Rime", accusing rhyme of "Wresting words from their true calling, / Propping verse for fear of falling"; of "Jointing syllables, drowning letters, / Fastening vowels as with fetters".
The nub of Campion's protest was laziness and banality. It is fatally easy to rhyme badly. If you rhyme, it had better be fresh, better be good. Otherwise it doesn't just spoil your poem, it betrays rhyme itself.
Milton was against it. Rhyme acts on poets as "a constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse, than else they would have exprest them". Paradise Lost does not end-rhyme, nor much Tennyson, Wordsworth's Prelude and Excursion, or most of Shakespeare's plays. "As soon as lazy thou" (Jonson says to "rime") "wert known / All good poetry hence was flown."
It was an important quarrel, then, which TS Eliot said produced some of England's greatest poetry.
Additional reason for reading her whole article: what connects John Masefield, Thomas Traherne (probably), Robert Frost, Edward Thomas, John Drinkwater, Eleanor Farjeon, W H Auden and Thomas Mann's daughter, Erika? Ledbury.