Everything Looks Good in Black & White
The Versed Kind of Editorializing


Time for this weblog to court a little controversy.

A week ago, I crafted a new bit of topical light verse, a double dactyl on the issuance of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in San Francisco. Those eight lines quickly took to demanding revisions and additions until two days ago -- coincidentally on the same day as the President announced his support for a Constitutional amendment on this subject -- I wound up with a six-part double dactyl sequence. (Sonnet sequences are hardly uncommon, but the inherently lightweight double dactyl form doesn't generally invite extended acquaintance.) What is more, the poem evolved from its original posture of "oh look, here's a current event I can rhyme about" to a rather more serious, if somewhat simplistic, statement of a position: a libertarian-leaning, "people are people"/"government shouldn't mess with private lives"/"can't we all get along"-based endorsement of gay marriage rights.

After more than a little debate with myself, I persuaded myself to publish the current version of the poem here, for the consideration of anyone who may be interested:



Hymen, Hymenaeus!
Gay men and lesbians
Flock to the City Hall,
Follow their bliss,

Purchase their licenses,
Swear to their permanence,
Pose for the camera crews
Sharing a kiss.


Damned, sir? They’re damned, you say?
Possibly, possibly:
Love has led millions to
Suffer a Fall.

That’s for the next world, sir;
Here with the living -- well,
What was it Chaucer said?
“Love conquers all.”


Poets, sir. Love poets.
Some of the best have been
Gay, sir. Consider this
List I’ve compiled:

Wystan Hugh Auden and
C.P. Cavafy and
Sappho. James Merrill, Thom
Gunn, Oscar Wilde.


Legally, legally,
Should an impediment
Rise to the marriage of
Minds that are true?

Sure as there’s only one
Race, sir -- the human race --
How would you feel if it
Happened to you?


Citizens, citizens,
Leave to your churches these
Questions of sanctity,
Tough and profound.

Secular governments
Ought to facilitate
Binding of lovers who
Yearn to be bound.


Hymen, Hymenaeus!
Cleave to the one who’s your
Heart’s true companion, the
Thou to your I.

Now, when the times are so
Fearsome we all must, as
Auden says, “love one a-
nother or die.”

NOTE: The opening acclamation of sections I and VI is drawn from that naughty Roman Catullus, who in turn was operating under the influence of Sappho. Other references I have presumed to be too obvious to require annotation.


David Giacalone

Well done, George! Entertaining and enlightening, as a d-d should be.

One of these days, please do some d-d doodling on the oxymoronic status of a libertarian lawyer. No rush.


Whenever I read the traditional phrase invoking Hymen, "Io, Hymen!," I always hear it in Rocky Balboa's voice.

I salute your sentiments, of course, and relish your clever and nimble versifying. There's something about clever and nimble versifying in double dactyls in English, however, that seems to put anything you say into question, sort of like testifying in court wearing a tutu and dancing a jig.

Do you know the seventeenth-century lyric with this refrain?

Never Marc Antony
Tarried more wantonly
With the rare Egyptian queen.

Me neither. At least that's all I remember. But it's an interesting use of double dactyls. And I remember tying myself in knots trying to decide what rhythm the poet intended for the third line (3 trochees & an extra syllable? anapest & 2 iambs? 2 dactyls & an extra syllable [by far the most forced scansion]?). Wish I could remember the poet and the rest of the poem, but I don't see it out there on the web anywhere. . . . Oh well. Keep the nimble rhymes a-coming.


Cowtown Pattie

You're a sly one, Mr. Wallace. Looks simple, tis much harder. Okay, here's my attempt. Grade away, teacher:

London Bridge, London Bridge,
Sherlock and Holmes
With Baker Street Regulars,
Seeking a mystery.

The game's afoot, man!
Strike up the violin,
Curling smoke -- moroccan slippers,
Stalking their history.

Evan Schaeffer

You're no fool, George Wallace. There's heft to your six-part double dactyl sequence, despite the feather-lightness of the form.

The comments to this entry are closed.