Sunday, February 13, 2011

"...a regular modern-day Shakespeare."

Check it:

from Henry V, Act IV Prologue
written by William Shakespeare

Now entertain conjecture of a time (10 syllables)
When creeping murmur and the pouring dark (10 syllables)
Fills the wide vessel of the universe. (10 syllables)
From camp to camp through the foul womb of night (10 syllables)
The hum of either army stilly sounds, (10 syllables)
That the fixed sentinels almost receive (10 syllables)
The secret whispers of each others' watch: (10 syllables)
Fire answers Fire, and through their paly flames (10 syllables)
Each battle sees the other's umber'd face; (10 syllables)
Steed threatens steed, in high and boastful neighs (10 syllables)
Piercing the night's dull ear, and from the tents (10 syllables)
The armorers, accomplishing the knights, (10 syllables)
With busy hammers closing rivets up, (10 syllables)
Give dreadful note of preparation: (10 syllables: preparation has four)
The country cocks do crow, the clocks do toll, (10 syllables)
And the third hour of drowsy morning name. (10 syllables: hour has one)
Proud of their numbers and secure in soul, (10 syllables)
The confident and over-lusty French (10 syllables)
Do the low-rated English play at dice; (10 syllables)

Follow me?
Good. Now check this:

from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Track 2: "Lost Ones"
written by Lauryn Hill

It's funny how money change a situation, (12 syllables)
Miscommunication leads to complication. (12 syllables)
My emancipation don't fit your equation. (12 syllables)
I was on the humble, you on every station. (12 syllables)
Some wan' play young Lauryn like she dumb, (9 syllables)
But remember not a game new under the sun; (12 syllables)
Everything you did has already been done (11 syllables)
I know all the tricks from Bricks to Kingston. (10 syllables)
My ting done made your kingdom wan' run. (9 syllables)
Now understand L Boogie not violent, (10 syllables)
But if a thing test me, run for me gun; (10 syllables)
Can't take a threat to me new born son. (9 syllables)
L's been this way since creation. (8 syllables)
A groupie call, you fall from temptation, (10 syllables)
Now you wanna ball over separation; (11 syllables)
Tarnish my image in your conversation, (11 syllables)
Who you gonna scrimmage like you the champion? (11 syllables)
You might win some but you just lost one. (9 syllables)

One reason Lauryn shifts the syllable count is because she moves in and out of two different dialects in this verse. (There are instances of Shakespeare doing something similar. This simply isn't one of them. Have a look at Leontes' rants from The Winter's Tale.) But more than that, she probably moved it around to entertain herself. Nevertheless, the structural foundations are exactly the same. I've always been fascinated with this particular verse for this very reason. And even though I've observed this in other hip hop tracks, Lauryn's writing on this particular cut highlights these structural similarities exceptionally well.


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