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Curtal Quatrain


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American Verse

Curtal Quatrain (French- cut short) is a 19th century American verse form made popular by Archibald Mac Leish. This is not the quatrain used in the Curtal Sonnet of a few of decades before. The sonnet may have influenced the creation of this verse form but the sonnet's quatrain is 4 lines of iambic pentameter with a trimeter tail added as a 5th line. In the Curtal Quatrain the 4th line is the shorter line.

The elements of the Curtal Quatrain are:

  1. stanzaic, written in any number of quatrains.
  2. metered, primarily iambic. L1, L2, L3 are pentameter and L4 is dimeter.
  3. rhymed. Rhyme scheme xaxa

    "Not Marble Nor the Gilded Monuments" by Archibald Mac Leish 1930

    The praisers of women in their proud and beautiful poems,
    Naming the grave mouth and the hair and the eyes,
    Boasted those they loved should be forever remembered:
    These were lies.

    The words sound but the face in the Istrian sun is forgotten.
    The poet speaks but to her dead ears no more.
    The sleek throat is gone -- and the breast that was troubled to listen:
    Shadow from door.

    Therefore I will not praise your knees nor your fine walking
    Telling you men shall remember your name as long
    As lips move or breath is spent or the iron of English
    Rings from a tongue.

    I shall say you were young, and your arms straight, and your mouth scarlett:
    I shall say you will die and none will remember you:
    Your arms change, and none remember the swish of your garments,
    Nor the click of your shoe.

    Not with my hand's strength, not with difficult labor
    Springing the obstinate words to the bones of your breast
    And the stubborn line to your young stride and the breath to your breathing
    And the beat to your haste

    Shall I prevail on the hearts of unborn men to remember.
    (What is a dead girl but a shadowy ghost
    Or a dead man's voice but a distant and vain affirmation
    Like dream words most)

    Therefore I will not speak of the undying glory of women.
    I will say you were young and straight and your skin fair
    And you stood in the door and the sun was a shadow of leaves on your shoulders
    And a leaf on your hair --

    I will not speak of the famous beauty of dead women:
    I will say the shape of a leaf lay once on your hair.
    Till the world ends and the eyes are out and the mouths broken
    Look! It is there!

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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