I have recently been reading poetry by John Keats and Rabindranath Tagore. Both these poets, being active in the 19th century, by which time I think English was quite as it is today, wrote still in what I guess was Early Modern English, Keats especially, being an admirer of Shakespeare. However, there appear to me, in their poems, mixtures of the two- Early Modern and Modern, in particular as with the endings for third person singular present forms of verbs- for instance, sits or sitteth. Were these choices purely made to accord with the ongoing rhymes? Or is there another reason? In Shakespeare himself, I found on the internet the following: "With her, that hateth thee and hates us all". How come hateth and hates is being used simultaneously?

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    It's not rhyme here, it's rhythm. Shakespeare needs a two-syllable word where "hateth" goes and a one-syllable word where "hates" goes. Apr 15, 2016 at 11:11
  • Yes, you're right; rhyme I meant for verse. But then, were hateth and hates, both, admissible at the time? Do you know of that? In ordinary conversation, could they have been used as alternates?
    – Arjun Jain
    Apr 15, 2016 at 12:12
  • In the specific case of Shakespeare, he often used words in that manner in order to fit the format of Iambic Pentameter. It's possible that Keats is trying to follow a similar format.
    – SGR
    Apr 15, 2016 at 12:58
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    David Crystal says In the sixteenth century, there were two endings in the present tense of verbs where today we have only one: -th and -s, as in readeth and reads. The -th form was dying out, though it was still routine in doth and hath; but with most verbs there was still a choice. Apr 15, 2016 at 13:40
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    ... (citing the same passage as OP), Crystal goes on to say that [hates is] a more colloquial tone (it is the normal form in prose), whereas hateth was more formal (it is often used in the 'official' language of stage directions). Then points out that in this specific case, it's much more a simple matter of prosody/metre/rhythm. So I think this question is essentially "Lit Crit". Apr 15, 2016 at 13:43

2 Answers 2


I sometimes use an earlier work for inspiration and will pay tribute to the original author by skewing the word choice towards their usages--sometimes this is done for comic effect and sometimes to add a few lyrical tones. An example would be Wifred Owen's use of "thee" "thou" and "thy" in his earlier works--most likely as an homage to his influences. See Owen's "To Posey," for a vivid example of him playing homage to Keats, Coleridge, and Tennyson--Keat's influences the structure and tone more than anyone, but some lines refer directly to lines written by Coleridge and Tennyson.

This may not be the case for the poems you are looking at, but I would suggest seeing if there are any correlations between the poem in question and an earlier work(s). Also, reading a few scholarly critiques of the poem should give you insight into what the poet intended, and if there is special significance in the word choice, it should be made more apparent.


  • Please review edits and see if that is satisfactory. This is somewhat new to me, so it may take some time to flesh out the details.
    – Genxthis
    May 29, 2016 at 11:30

My guess is poetic license (use of -eth) and consonance. hateth thee (/th/ in common; although not the same sound, produced in the same position) and hates us (/s/ in common). And he gets an extra syllable for free :)

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