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The Metre Columbian -- Anonymous

Another Longfellow parody, but in a different metre, namely,
(Poem #561) The Metre Columbian
 This is the metre Columbian. The soft-flowing trochees and dactyls,
 Blended with fragments spondaic, and here and there an iambus,
 Syllables often sixteen, or more or less, as it happens,
 Difficult always to scan, and depending greatly on accent,
 Being a close imitation, in English, of Latin hexameters --
 Fluent in sound and avoiding the stiffness of blank verse,
 Having the grandeur and flow of America's mountains and rivers,
 Such as no bard could achieve in a mean little island like England;
 Oft, at the end of a line, the sentence dividing abruptly
 Breaks, and in accents mellifluous, follows the thoughts of the author.
-- Anonymous
As Martin wrote a couple of days ago, metre is explicitly foregrounded
in "self-referential humorous poems, whose content often refers directly
to their form". Today's poem is one of the more skilfully executed
examples of the genre [1]...

Two little touches I especially like: the enjambement in the last line
(which the poet makes sure to point out), and the not very subtle dig at
the (many) critics who praised 'Evangeline' (the original of this poem)
for being a quintessentially American work of art - the lines
 "Having the grandeur and flow of America's mountains and rivers,
  Such as no bard could achieve in a mean little island like England;"
embody reductio ad absurdum at its most cutting.


[1] Another old favourite of mine is John Clarke's brilliant take on the
limerick: poem #378


The original is Longfellow's 'Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie'; the
introduction thereto is reproduced below for your edification:

 This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
 Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
 Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
 Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
 Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
 Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
 This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it
 Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the
 Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers --
 Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,
 Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
 Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers forever departed!
 Scattered like dust and leaves, when the mighty blasts of October
 Seize them, and whirl them aloft, and sprinkle them far o'er the ocean.
 Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pré.
 Ye who believe in affection that hopes, and endures, and is patient,
 Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman's devotion,
 List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest;
 List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.

        -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The entire text of Evangeline (two parts of five cantos of several
hundred lines each - noone ever accused Longfellow of laconicity) can be
found at


trochee: a metrical foot consisting of one long syllable followed by one
short syllable or of one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed
syllable (as in apple).

dactyl: a metrical foot consisting of one long and two short syllables
or of one stressed and two unstressed syllables (as in tenderly).

spondee: a metrical foot consisting of two long or stressed syllables.

iambus: a metrical foot consisting of one short syllable followed by one
long syllable or of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed
syllable (as in above).

As you can see (or rather, hear), 'spondee' is the only self-referential
one of the above. 'Trochee' comes close, but not quite; the preferred
pronunciation is spondaic.

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