“A form of literary amusement in which rhymes being given the participants, they fill up the verses. According to Ménage, the notion of this frivolity was derived from a saying of the French poet Dulot, whereby he accidentally let the cat out of the bag, or, to change the metaphor, let the public in behind the scenes. Complaining one day of the loss of three hundred sonnets, his hearers marvelled at his having about him so large a collection of literary wares, whereupon he explained that they were not completed sonnets, but the unarticulated skeletons, – in other words, their prearranged rhyming ends, drawn out in groups of fourteen. All Paris was in a roar next day over Dulot’s lost sonnets. Bouts-rimés became the fashion in all the salons…”
From William S. Walsh’s fascinating time killer, Handy Book of Literary Curiosities, 1906, kept dangerously in reach of my chair.
What can you do with pen, scuffle, men, ruffle?
“One would suppose a silly pen
A shabby weapon in a scuffle;
But yet the pen of critic men
A very hero’s soul would ruffle.”
“I grant that some by tongue or pen
Are daily, hourly, in a scuffle;
But then we philosophic men
Have placid tempers naught can ruffle.”
“Last night I left my desk and pen,
For in the street I heard a scuffle,
And there, torn off by drunken men,
I left my coat-tails and shirt-ruffle.”
But the best is a “rhyming end unto itself,” if you will: