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February 13th, 2010 - Old Veteran Hoofer — LiveJournal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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February 13th, 2010

Holiday Two-Fer [Feb. 13th, 2010|03:05 pm]
Old Veteran Hoofer
1953 was another year in which Chinese New Year's Day fell on February 14th. To commemorate the coincidence, one of my favorite French poet/playwrights, Eugene Valene, composed a pair of short poems as double dactyls.

For those unfamiliar with the form, the double dactyl was invented two years earlier by Anthony Hecht and Paul Pascal and incorporates a number of formal constraints:

A) The poem is composed of two quatrains.
B) The first three lines of each quatrain are composed in dactylic (Stressed unstressed unstressed) dimeter.
C) The last lines of each quatrain must rhyme with one another and are composed as a choriamb (Stressed unstressed unstressed Stressed).
D) The first line of the poem is typically nonesense (hence the alternate title for these "Higgeldy Piggeldies")
E) The second line typically describes the subject of the poem.
F) One of the lines in the second quatrain (typically 6th or 7th line of the poem) must be a single word in dactylic dimeter.

Valene's poems adopted an additional, atypical constraint known as poetic sympathy wherein the first line of the first poem rhymes with the first line of the second poem, and so on, and so forth, all the way to the eighth. Valene is unfortunately under appreciated here in America: no published English translations exist, afaik, and his untranslated stuff is scarce even on the WWW (his celebrity was mainly limited to the 50's/60's). I transcribed these two from an anthology found in the library of Le Société Francaise de San Francisco. The translation is not mine, but was already penciled into the margin beside the original french. The poetic sympathy constraint isn't conserved, but the rest are followed pretty nicely. Without further ado:

"Saint Valentin"

Lovedy Dovedy
Pope Gelasius One
cannonized feasting for
Saint Valentine.

Martyred by Cladius
marriage without license:
oh what a fine!

"L'année du serprent"

Hissitty Sissitty
seprents slith out with me,
now is the dawn of your
sin fin d'année.

George will have naught to slay,
maidens can play, for tri-
moons wane today.
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