Dearest Creature in Creation v.8 (Oct 2012)
This is a compilation of many variants of a delicious spelling poem, titled variously “The Chaos” and “Dearest creature in creation”, by Gerard Nolst Trenité. It was revised steadily over the many years, though never complete. Trenité had a number of interesting, tricky words that he never managed to fit into the poem; he would first fit them into a line or couplet, then try to fit that into a verse, then try to place that in a suitable part of the whole.
I drew heavily on the composite version published by the English Spelling Society in 1994, with bits taken from previous versions, some lines modified for scansion, and a few out-of-place words replaced. (e.g., “Asp, grasp, wasp…” originally had “demesne” as the fourth word rather than “torque”.)
I split the poem into four sections. Line numbers of most versions agree up to verse 18; for which I include line numbers, and agree on verses B1-B8. A1-A3 and C1-C3 vary in order and composition, and in C the poet starts moving beyond two-stanza phrases.
Prepare your tongue, and read it out loud!
- C. Scott notes that he has encoded a version of this poem in a khipu conlang. I am studding-sailed.
- Oct 2012: I am now happy with the composite, and have incorporated all suggestions. A few underlined sections remain, but still preserve the flow. Thank to all who wrote in with pointers to other versions.
Italics – words whose pronunciation and spelling are contrasted.
Bold – a word whose pronunciation is archaic or varies by dialect
Underline – filler text that can be changed, or varies in some versions
Dearest creature in creation
Learning English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;
Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it! 10
Just compare heart, hear and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word.
Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it’s written).
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say—said, pay—paid, laid but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak, 20
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir; <!– stunsull –>
Woven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.
Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Branch, ranch, measles, topsails aisles, <!– tossulls –>
Missiles, similes, reviles.
Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
And examining, but mining, 30
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far.
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
Admirable, desirable; admire, desire.
Topsham, brougham, renown, but known, <!– brome –>
Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone.
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
Gertrude, German, wind and wind
Beau, queue, kindred, but mankind. 40
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois leather,
reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
Peter, petrol and patrol?
Billet does not end like ballet;
Wallet, mallet; bouquet, chalet. 50
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
Discount, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward,
Ricocheted, crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live. 60
Is your r correct in higher?
Keats says it rhymes with Thalia.
Hugh but hug, and hood but hoot,
Buoyant, minute, but minute.
Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition.
Corral, rally, rhythm, rhyme,
Diaphragm, stigma, paradigm.
Twopence, threepence. Tease is easy,
But lease, please, cease, grease and greasy? 70
Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
Bier, rabies, lullabies.
Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
You’ll envelop lists, I hope,
In a linen envelope.
Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.
To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
Sounds not like Czech or chic but ache. 80
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed but vowed.
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover.
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice.
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label. 90
Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,
Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme with “shirk it” and “beyond it“.
And it can be hard to spell
When we say pall, mall, but Pall Mall. <!– pell mell –>
Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor. 100
Ivy, privy, famous. Clamour
Has the a of drachm and hammer.
Pussy, hussy and possess,
Desert, but desert, dross, address.
Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.
Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
Cow, but Cowper, some and home.
“Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker“,
Quoth he, “than liqueur or liquor“, 110
Making, it is sad but true,
In bravado, much ado.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.
Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close, <!– guzberry –>
Paradise, rise, rose, and dose. 120
Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
Mind: meandering but mean,
Valentine and magazine.
And I’ll bet a pretty penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,
Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
Tier (one who ties), but tier.
Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring? 130
Prison, bison, treasure trove,
Treason, hover, cover, cove.
Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (unlike piebald) with nibbled.
Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
Psychic, lien, shone, bone, pshaw.
Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;
Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn. 140 <!– bulin –>
Say in sounds correct and sterling:
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
Evil, devil, mezzotint, <!– metzo –>
Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)
Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don’t mention,
Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
Rhyming well with doors and yours.
Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,
Funny rhymes to unicorn,
Such as Maughan, Vaughan and Strachan.
While the name may look quite comely,
I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.
No. And Froude compared with proud
Is no better than McLeod.
But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
Schedule, mischief, schism, scheme.
Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured: flighty.
Episodes but antipodes,
Acquiesce, and obsequies.
Gill, gill, argil, argyle. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh.
But you’re not supposed to say
Piquet rhymes with sobriquet. <!– peeket –>
Now recite in accent pure:
Nature, stature and mature.
Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
Wan, sedan and artisan.
The TH will surely trouble you
More than R, CH or W.
Say then these phonetic gems:
Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.
Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget ‘em.
The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight – you see it;
With and forthwith: one has voice,
One has not. You make your choice.
Shoes, goes, does. Singer but finger,
ginger, lingerie and linger.
Real and zeal; mauve, gauze and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.
Hero, heron, query, very
Parry, tarry fury, bury,
Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth.
job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.
Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners, <!– fokh –>
bowing, Bowing, Bowdoin, tuners
Holm you know — but noes, canoes,
Puisne, truism, use, to use? <!– puny –>
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual.
Seat, sweat; chaste, caste; Leigh, eight, height,
Put, nut; granite, and unite.
Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late.
Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.
Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it.
Bona fide, alibi,
Gyrate, dowry and awry.
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
Rally with ally; yea, ye.
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!
Say aver, but ever, fever.
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
Never guess—it is not safe,
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.
Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
Face, but preface, then grimace,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, glass, bass, bass.
Large but target; gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging.
Ear, hear, earn; but ere and bear
Do not rhyme with here but heir.
Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
Respite, spite, consent, resent.
Liable, but Parliament.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, torque, cork, and work.
Mind the O of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
With the sound of saw and sauce;
Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.
A of valour, vapid, vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
I of antichrist and grist,
Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
Polish, Polish, poll and poll.
Pronunciation —think of psyche—!
Is a paling, stout and spikey.
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel <!– rolluck, gunnel –>
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight;
Housewife; verdict and indict. <!– husif –>
Don’t you think so, reader, rather—
Saying lather, bather, father—
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying ‘grits’?
Finally, which rhymes with enough:
Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough‽
Hiccough has the sound of ‘sup’…
My advice is: give it up!