Rhyme vs reason

Restif de la Bretonne goes one step beyond Shakespeare and says that poetry is the language of Gods and beasts, and that reason speaks in prose.

I’m neither a logician nor a Shakespeare scholar, but I think that the following from The comedy of errors means that there can be rhyme without reason, and reason without rhyme, but that the two are not necessarily incompatible:

Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season,
When in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason?

I’ve been reading Restif de la Bretonne’s Le nouvel Abeilard recently, basically because of an interest in the fairy tales (and particularly the first known version of demi-coq) included therein. In it he goes a step further and makes rhyme and reason mutually exclusive:

–Mais, mon Ami, voila déja bien des fois que j’ai envie de te demander, Pourquoi la Rivière, le Coq, le Loup & le Renard ne parlent-ils donc qu’en rimes?
–C’est, ma chère Phylis, que la Poésie est le langage des Dieux & des Bêtes. La Raison ne parle qu’en prose.

Aka Rétif opens with an epigraph from Pope ( “The art of writing, Abeilard, was doubtless invented/By the captive loveress and the agitated lover./Everything lives by the heat of an eloquent letter/Feeling is painted by the fingers of the lover” ), so I suppose this might be another reference to our own poxy dwarf and thence heroic coupler, who in 1714 “in an ungrateful and splenetic fit” wrote

I should be sorry and ashamed to go on jingling to the last step, like a waggoner’s horse, in the same road, and so leave my bells to the next silly animal that will be proud of them. A man makes but a mean figure, in the eyes of reason, who is measuring syllables and coupling rhymes.

The same Monthly review review of some tract called Aesthetische Gespraeche also points to the blind French poet-courtier Houdar de la Motte’s campaign against the use of rhyme in tragedy, without which the French apparently regarded it “not only as unpleasing, but unnatural.” Wikipedia implies that La Motte was struggling against excess rather than against rhyme per se. Anyway, I’m off to sing trad jazz, where the issues are not in doubt.

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