I've been wanting to thank you for this great comment since I first saw it, but have not managed to find the time until now. (I did
follow your sig link to the Comment Revolution
page, a concept I heartily agree with but rarely feel confident -- or have time for -- making such comments myself...)
"you use "once was" instead of "was once", as the latter would break the flow of three stressed syllables
I think you give me too much credit: as far as I'm concerned "There once was a [man from Nantucket]" is the traditional way to begin a limerick, and while my knowledge of "traditional limericks" may not be all that extensive, I have always been rather a traditionalist at heart. Having said that, I can
clearly see that "was once" is rythmically bad...
"only the word 'old' seems a little out of place here
I think it was originally a space-filler -- but one which I felt worked once it was in there. Serendipity, I guess.
"The second line is actually a little problematic ... though '"its wings the colour of sky" works grammatically without the word 'were', it doesn't work well here as you would be leaving two words out instead of just one.
Indeed. It needs something more, but then I feel I really would be trying to shoe-horn in a word which didn't belong just for the sake of the rhythm. Obviously "... colour of the
sky" would destroy the rhythm. At first glance it would seem that "its wings were
the colour of sky" is the optimal solution -- and I almost agreed to the point of changing the poem to exactly that -- but after careful consideration I feel that the "were" would weaken the line. It makes it more passive (which may not be a bad thing here) but it would also split the first wo-line sentence into two separate sentences (or at the very least require a semi-colon at the end of the first line rather than a comma. I guess that's a good argument for leaving the punctuation out of poetry, but it would still turn it from one complete (but modified) idea into two distinct ideas. I think.
A bit of a quandary, huh?
Thankyou. I really appreciate the thought you put into your comment, too, so thanks again...