The Commuter Challenge

1 May 2013

The May 2013 Challenge

by CC @ 14:46

The May 2013 Commuter Challenge is to write an ottava rima poem using as much archaic, obsolete, and dated terminology as possible. Really go for it — don’t limit yourself to “ere” and “betwixt”; use words like “sweven” and “eft” (or even “mimeograph”, if you want to go that route). For extra credit, make it an ottava rima poem of two or more stanzas.

The ottava rima stanza is eight lines (usually iambic pentameter) with three alternate rhymes and one double rhyme, in the a-b-a-b-a-b-c-c pattern.

The Results

Brian Raiter
Horse stoute, forwhi loffest tho haye?
Bi cause ’tis swete and yt maketh me wight.
Lille shene, forwhi loffest tho Maye?
Bi cause the beys then come to me a-right.
Swalwe blithe, forwhi loffest tho daye?
Bi cause the welkin is ful fair and bright.
Meighan dere, forwhi escheuen tho mee?
Ich am ywis moore swete than cherlish Lee.
Ryan Finholm
Upon entreat, the resin coffer had
its rig drawn yare: swith endlong and alee.
The lodestone swinked divers adamant brads
thro pawls agin a girdle ebony
to figure vellum with dabs myriad
hued into writhen runes, yea verily.
A backarapper din would thus ensue;
if not, then shift effseven might just do.


  1. For this one, I did my best to write a poem in the archaic English of roughly Chaucerian times. Having never studied Chaucerian English before, I had to give myself a bit of an internet crash course, and I freely admit that I may have landed a bit wide of the mark. In any case, here is my translation of my entry to modern English (or, at worst, a transcription of the intended meaning):

    Sturdy horse, why do you love hay?
    Because it’s sweet, and it makes me strong.
    Beautiful lily, why do you love May?
    Because the bees then come to me direct.
    Joyful swallow, why do you love day?
    Because the heavens are all clear and bright.
    Dearest Meghan, why do you avoid me?
    I’m certainly more sweet than stupid Lee.

    by Brian — 1 June 2013 @ 00:34

  2. I think Brian hit the spirit of this challenge better than I did. I got the idea to write my poem about dot matrix printers pretty early in the month. I thought it would be neat to use terminology that is a few centuries out of date to write about a technology that is only about 20 years out of date. In the beginning of May I wrote down a bunch of brainstorming ideas that I never used (reference Gutenberg, squid ink, quills, monks illuminating manuscripts), but I didn’t get around to any actual work on the poem until May 30-31. If I’d spent more time on it I think it would have turned out different, but probably not noticeably better than what I submitted. My poem is pretty obvious, especially in comparison to Brian’s, but here is an approximate “translation” anyway:

    Upon request, the plastic box had
    its rig pulled fast, quickly back and forth.
    The magnet worked a set of many small metal pegs
    sliding bolts against a blackened cloth
    to mark paper with a myriad of spots
    formed into the shapes of letters, yep, it sure did.
    A loud noise would then ensue;
    if not, then shift F7 might just do.

    For our younger readers: a few decades ago there was more than one word processing program available, and if you were on a network printer (depending upon your setup) you could send your document to the printer by hitting shift F7. Shift F7 just brings up the thesaurus now, but back in the day you could hit shift F7 and those dot matrix printers were so loud you could hear your document printing out from four blocks away.

    by RyanF — 3 June 2013 @ 11:12