The Impact of Poetry on Acts of Laundry

For thousands of years, literature has entertained people while making contributions to the moral and technological betterment of civilization. The transformational art of prose, a style once considered only suitable for utility bills, has managed to influence not only politics and modes of scientific thought but several other writing disciplines as well, including ingredient labels and clothing tags.

The following two examples best illustrate how style can invigorate content, specifically the instructional care of linens. Consider the washing instructions below written without the structure of dactylic hexameter:

Acrylic RAYON:
Wash with like colors COLD
Tumble dry low

In this simple stanza, macho utilitarianism wins out over feminine subtlety and little is left to the imagination. As we can see, panache is unnecessarily sacrificed to relay practical information. The reader, although now better informed on how to clean the garment, struggles to relate to the textile and will probably not invest much emotion in the cyclical story of its laundering. The last line, a twist ending that involves the quite comical drying on low heat, certainly pulls the story together, but without character development and an understanding of the interiority of Rayon, the reader grapples with motivation to finish the load.

Look at the same set of directions written by Homer to gauge the effectiveness of epic verse on the cleaning of ready-to-wear apparel:

The Idiocy Book:

XI Sing, O Goddess, of th’ terrible plight
When Acrylius, borne unto the immortal Athena,
Withdrew his spear
From the body of Ajax, son of Telamon,
A proud warrior who loose’d and lifted
Th’ stains off many a fibre.

“Wash and rinse in Cold,”
Warned the Muse, as she foresaw
The death of Acrylius lest he be
Bathed in hot waters of the Icarian Sea.

Up on the hill, the gods of Olympus,
Who had the ultimate stain-fighting power
And the most wrinkle-free acetate in the Heavens,
Turned their Blind eyes to the world below.

When Muse gave them the grievous news,
The Deities shrilly cried,
“You can’t be Sirius!
Avenged be thy Telamon,

Whoso ravaged the linen of the mother of Acrylius,
Wife of the wise sage, Jute,
Whence the tag clearly instructed
That he use permanent press.”

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