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Fescennine Verse / Saturnine meter

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry

Latin Poetry


Fescennine Verse is a genre of poetry that is satirical, ribald and often obscene. It dates back to 5th century AD, Rome and was performed at harvest rituals and private celebrations such as weddings. The performers wore bark masks and the verse often took the form of dialogue in good humored banter. Although the verse was always a bit coarse and ribald it progressed to downright dirty, having little moral or sexual constraints and was eventually restricted by law.


It was often written in Saturnine meter which has become obscure and was eventually replaced by the hexameter line. As far as I can find, saturnine meter is quantitative verse, written in 2 hemistiches, the line broken by caesura, the last phrase shorter than the first.


Fescennine verse is thought to be named from one of two sources, the village of Fescennia in Etruria (now in central Italy) or from the Latin word fascinum - a phallus-shaped amulet used to ward off the evil eye because the phallus represents fertility. (Thus leading the way into more bawdy genre.)


I could find no identified examples but let the description of the ancient genre inspire you to take off the fetters and write a bawdy verse without any restrictions, just don't post it here.

Here is my mild mannered PG version, inspired by my own censored image of the Fescennine using a imagined variation of the Saturnine meter:

Moonlight by Judi Van Gorder


Is it whipped cream or whips , that get you off?

The ladies of Moonlight, will make you doff

inhibitions so crude and lude, you’ll cry

for more until that day, you finally die.

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