Saturday, October 23, 2004


A Literary Curiosity

Here is a short poem by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) entitled A Love Song:
Apud in is almi de si re,
Mimis tres i ne ver re qui re,
Alo veri findit a gestis,
His miseri ne ver at restis.
These are all perfectly good Latin words. For example, "ver" means "spring," "alo" means "I nourish," "restis" means "rope," etc. But put them all together, and they make no grammatical sense whatsoever in Latin. However, if you say the poem out loud, you realize that it makes perfect sense phonetically in English:
A pudding is all my desire,
My mistress I never require;
A lover I find it a jest is,
His misery never at rest is.
There is an entire book like this, in a sort of French derived from English -- Mots d'Heures: Gousses, Rames (i.e. Mother Goose Rhymes), by Luis d'Antin Van Rooten (1906-1973), which in turn inspired N'Heures Souris Rames (i.e. Nursery Rhymes) by Ormonde de Kay (1923-1998), although these authors made a humorous attempt to extract some far-fetched sense from the French.

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