Morphing Snavely: a tutorial

Elizabethan Sonnet





Double Dactyl

Poetry is distinguished from ordinary language by having either a defined rhythm, rhyme, or shape -- sometimes all three. (Except for free verse which has none of the above. I don't know why it is considered poetry).

Within the general class of "Poetry" are many special forms which obey their own particular rules. The noblest form of poetry, of course, is the limerick (you can find the rules for the limerick at the noblest limerick of them all is Snavely. Because of these truths, all of the poetry on this page will be adaptations of that noble verse

Elizabethan Sonnet

William Shakespeare found this verse form nearly as lovely as that of the limerick. All sonnets have fourteen lines of five-foot iambic verse. And what, you may ask, is a five-foot iambic verse? Well, a foot consists of a group of syllables, one of which is accented. (Keep this in mind, you'll need it when we get to the double dactyls). An iambic foot contains five feet. The Elizabethan sonnet groups those lines in three quatrains (four lines apiece) with six alternating rhymes and a couplet (two lines). Here is how Snavely fares, Elizabethan-sonnet-wise. There bounds the isles' blue waters to keep free

There bounds the isles' blue waters to keep free

Those golden lands that hold the verdant vales

Crouched impervious to the roiling sea

England, Ireland, Scotland, glorious Wales.

Bound, yet not, from time's first manifest year

With unruly spirit no man may squelch

Thus spew the ribald in snorkeling gear

Sent from the earth where births intrepid Welsh.

From whence comes the rash, impetuous Celt

To join rude Bacchus in his watery sport

The lure of license ever to be felt

Beneath the sea, far from those islands' port

Where restraint and where decent feeling fails

Graffiti are writ large upon the snails.

There are other kinds of sonnets (Italian and Spenserian) but they all have fourteen lines of five-foot iambic verse.


A haiku is a triplet (three lines) that does not rhyme. It does, however, have a syllable pattern, to wit: the first line has five syllables, the second line seven syllables, and the third line has five syllables. Here's Snavely done up in Haiku.

Welsh snork'lers cavort

Snails hide beneath and within

Graffiti and jail.

That makes no sense, you say? Haiku seldom does.


Some time around the turn of the century, an American poet named Adelaid Crapsey [sic] got exasperated with Haiku -- probably because Haiku is a Japanese verse form that seldom makes sense in other languages. Note: we have only the word of the Japanese that it makes sense in their language. At any rate, Ms. Crapsey developed her own non-rhyming verse form, which she called Cinquain -- from the French word for "five" (cinq), because they had five lines. The cinquain is an extremely stylized verse form which follows the pattern:

Line 1 -- 1 two-syllable word giving the title
Line 2 -- 2 words with a total of four syllables describing the title
Line 3 -- 3 words (six syllables) expressing an action
Line 4 -- 2 words (eight syllables) expressing a feeling
Line 5 -- another two-syllable word for the title

Here's Snavely in cinquain form.


Write graffiti

Bringing sadness snailward

Ineffable desolation



If you think the Cinquain is nutsy, wait until you hear about the diamante. This is a non-rhyming seven line poem set up in a diamond shape thus:

1. One noun
2. Two adjectives
3. Three verbs ending in "ing"
4. Four nouns or adjectives
5. Three verbs ending in "ing"
6. Two adjectives
7. Two-syllable noun or two nouns


Slimy crawly

Accepting erasing, sobbing

Spoiled marred, Welsh scofflaws

Graffiting penning trashing

Silly stupid



After all of that, the Clerihew seems almost sane. It is a very simple rhyme, two couplets in length, rhyming aabb, usually dealing with a person designated in the initial line. It was named for its originator, Edmund Clerihew Bentley, an English writer. It goes thusly:

Snavely the Snail

Wound up in a pail

Completely defeated

Defaced and graffitted.

Double Dactyl

(also known as the Higgledy Piggledy)

A dactyl is a foot (see under sonnet, above) which consists of a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables -- DUM dee dee. A Double Dactyl is a rhyming poem with two 4-line stanzas, most of which consist of two dactylic feet. In other words, DUM dee dee DUM dee dee.

The first line is a nonsense phrase -- very often, higgledy piggledy. The second line is the subject of the poem. The third line discusses or describes the subject. The fourth line is shortened -- instead of going DUM dee dee DUM dee dee, it goes DUM dee dee DUM.

The fifth and the seventh lines have the same meter as the first and third lines. So does the sixth line, except that the sixth line consists of one double-dactylic word, such as "elephantiasis". And the last line rhymes with and is shortened like the fourth line.

Got all that?

Glubbledy wubbledy

Snork'lers from Wales went and

Scribbled unlawfully

On Snavely's shell.

Sentenced to croon ever


Ghastly old canons made

By Pachelbel.

We will now retire, exhausted.