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The Pokemon Theme Song Owes Its Catchiness To Famous Romantic Poetry

If you’re reading this article, there’s a pretty good chance you know the words to the original Pokemon theme song – “I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was.” There’s a reason why it’s still so catchy to this day – it’s written in common meter. Also known as ballad meter, this is a literary device that appears in some of the most famous and prestigious poems ever written. What this means is that you can take iconic Romantic poems that were published in 1798 and sing them to the tune of the Pokemon theme song. Seriously.

My favourite example of this can be found in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which is widely renowned as being Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s magnum opus. If you’re not sure who that is, he was one of the big six Romantic poets, the other five being William Blake, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats (if you ever want to read any of them go for Blake or Shelley. If you ever want to read about any of them, buy a Lord Byron autobiography and thank me later).

Anyway, written between 1797 and 1798, Rime of the Ancient Mariner was composed entirely in ballad meter, with some slight syllabic variations that were probably included for strict rhetorical reasons. As a result, there are a couple of lines with one syllable too many and others with one too few, but the vast majority of the poem shares its meter with the lyrics of the Pokemon theme song. Check this out.

“The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,And I am next of kin;The guests are met, the feast is set:May’st hear the merry din.”

I’m not sure about you, but singing, “And I am next of kin” to the tune of “Like no one ever was” cracks me up every time. Again, the vast majority of the poem adheres to this meter. Here are a couple of verses from further down, which you can sing in perfect harmony with the Pokemon theme.

“The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,Merrily did we dropBelow the kirk, below the hill,Below the lighthouse top.

The Sun came up upon the left,Out of the sea came he!And he shone bright, and on the rightWent down into the sea.”

For what it’s worth, I studied Romanticism at university and devoted most of my energy to Lyrical Ballads, a composition of poems by Coleridge and his contemporary, William Wordsworth. I’ll never forget sitting in a lecture hall giggling to myself once I realized it was all written in ballad meter. I’m pretty sure everybody thought I was a weirdo, but I couldn’t help it. Every time the professor tried to make a serious point, I’d just hear, “I will travel across the land, searching far and wide *two guitar power chords* These Pokemon to understand the power that’s inside.”

Obviously, there’s a bit of a caveat that prevents us from going further here. Pokemon’s theme song changes its structure for the chorus – “Po-ke-mon!” isn’t in common meter anymore. That being said, you can go straight into it from any of the verses mentioned above because we recognize the tune’s progression from already having been exposed to it for so long. What I mean is, you can read pretty much any poem that was composed in ballad meter the whole way through in tandem with the verse melodies for Pokemon, before launching off the back of the poem and into the chorus we all know and love so well.

I mentioned Wordsworth earlier, so it’s probably worth noting that some of his poems make the cut as well, particularly from the collection known as The Lucy Poems. I’m going to include A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal here because it’s only two stanzas long and I can post the entire poem – which, again, can be read the whole way through in conjunction with the Pokemon theme. Please enjoy:

“A slumber did my spirit seal;I had no human fears:She seemed a thing that could not feelThe touch of earthly years.

No motion has she now, no force;She neither hears nor sees;Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course,With rocks, and stones, and trees.”

Honestly, I feel a bit like Marge Simpson here – I just think it’s neat. Loads of other famous poems and songs are written in ballad meter, too – a lot of Emily Dickinson’s work adheres to this formula, while illustrious music tracks like House of the Rising Sun use it, too. Yes, you can sing, “There is a house in New Orleans, they call the Rising Sun” to the beat of the Pokemon theme. The next line has one syllable too many, but you can squeeze it in by slightly adjusting your tone, and the majority of the rest of the lyrics fit the mold perfectly.

It’s obvious that the Pokemon theme song was consciously composed with ballad meter in mind – it makes tunes catchy. Just think of Amazing Grace – like everything else mentioned so far, you can substitute the original Pokemon lyrics for, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” I think it’s brilliant.

So yeah, that’s how Pokemon is related to some of the most famous titans of Romantic poetry who ever lived. Now I’m trying to think of who they’d have on their teams – I mean, given that rime is a kind of frost formed on cold surfaces, and that mariner is another word for sailor, I’m pretty sure Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ace in the hole would be Crabominable, who’s actually a bit shit. Wordsworth wrote The Daffodils, so maybe he’s packing a Sunflora, which isn’t exactly great either. What we can draw from this is that Romantic poets would probably make absolutely terrible Pokemon trainers – but hey, at least they gave us a decent tune.

Next: Pokemon: Here’s What Every Kanto Gym Leader’s Tinder Profile Would Look Like

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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.

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