From JMCCARTHY@cs.umass.EDU Mon Nov 19 10:30:35 1990

[contributed by Jay Corbett]

This week: Critic's review of the classic "How the Grinch stole Who-Mass"

This allegorical masterpiece of the late twentieth century has long
delighted readers with its depiction of a Massachusetts governor's 
race just before the great economic collapse of the 1990's. Consider the
depth of expression in just the two lines

     ``. . . and as your new governor, I want you to know,''
     ``My line-item ax will lay the waste low.''

The tension builds in foreboding expectation through the first line only to
come crashing down upon the reader with the final word ``know'', leaving him
stunned, yet pleased.

Several critics have considered this couplet flawed on account of a missing
beat in the second line and suggested that
     ``My line-item budgetary ax will lay the waste low.''
would preserve the alternating iambic triameter structure of the work.
On the contrary, I believe this addition would ruin the imagery of a
maniacal ax-wielding monster approaching at full gait. Corbett, 
a master of suspense, clearly intended the absence of the beat to force
the reader to pause and reflect for one terrifying moment on
what the Grinch will destroy. The thought ``Will my programs be cut?'' 
is said to flash across every reader's mind at that precise instant.

The second line has been called, ``The most ironic sentence in the English
language.'' The play on the words ``lay'' and ``waste'' is the consummate
pun. Far from laying the waste low, as the Grinch promises, his policies
would lay waste to the state already teetering on the verge of financial

Note also the brilliant use of the word ``know'' at the end of the first line. 
It ironic that the word ``know'' is a homonym for ``no'', which is exactly
what the Grinch intends to say to the poor, the elderly, and the handicapped.
With this line, Corbett is not only showing he can rhyme, but that he can do
so with symbolic and syntactic excellence.

Professor Orif Barrubgtib
Amherst State Trade School
Amherst, MA 01003