A pleasanter spot you never spied

When I’m working with my creative writing groups, we consider many things, and often discuss style… and I often wonder where my style comes from, why do I write as I do? Where do those rhythms and cadences come from ? Everyone has them in speech and the written word and it’s interesting to ponder on how each of us has been influenced.

I think one thing which had a real influence was, and please don’t laugh, the Rupert Bear annuals; I had them every year from my first birthday, and must have had them read and reread to me literally hundreds of times, and as I became able to read I would read them to myself. The story of Rupert and his friends is told through illustrations, each with a rhyming couplet beneath and a short piece of prose; my parents always read the verse – I guess it was shorter and quicker to get through before bedtime! That sort of rhyme must have affected me – and certainly when I was given homework at secondary school I found it as easy as anything to write poems if that was what was set – and in fact I often did my friends’ homework too as they struggled with verse!

I was also read other poems and verse, all the old favourites, but one that I loved, and had a beautifully illustrated book, was the Pied Piper of Hamelin… and as I was driving along today, for some reason it popped into my head, and I began to wonder if those long, rhythmic sentences had affected the way I write prose. I don’t mean that I write in a poetic way, but the structure of my sentences, and all the clauses, I wonder if Browning had more of an influence on me than I realised?


Hamelin Town’s in Brunswick, 
By famous Hanover city; 
The river Weser, deep and wide, 
Washes its wall on the southern side; 
A pleasanter spot you never spied; 
But, when begins my ditty, 
Almost five hundred years ago, 
To see the townsfolk suffer so 
From vermin, was a pity. 
They fought the dogs and killed the cats, 
And bit the babies in the cradles, 
And ate the cheeses out of the vats, 
And licked the soup from the cooks’ own ladle’s, 
Split open the kegs of salted sprats, 
Made nests inside men’s Sunday hats, 
And even spoiled the women’s chats 
By drowning their speaking 
With shrieking and squeaking 
In fifty different sharps and flats.
At last the people in a body 
To the town hall came flocking: 
"‘Tis clear," cried they, ‘our Mayor’s a noddy; 
And as for our Corporation--shocking 
To think we buy gowns lined with ermine 
For dolts that can’t or won’t determine 
What’s best to rid us of our vermin! 
You hope, because you’re old and obese, 
To find in the furry civic robe ease? 
Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking 
To find the remedy we’re lacking, 
Or, sure as fate, we’ll send you packing!” 
At this the Mayor and Corporation 
Quaked with a mighty consternation.

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