Balassi stanza

The Balassi stanza is named after the Hungarian Balint Balassi (1554-1594), who is regarded as the first great lyricist of the Hungarian language. He was born into an aristocratic Protestant family but converted to Catholicism late in life. He wrote poems about religion, and fighting the Turks, and his love for a lady named Anna Losonczy, who he called Julia. 

The stanza that bears his name rhymes bbaccadda, with syllable counts 667667667. Mainly for the benefit of those who wish to enter the current competition in Manifold magazine (see links page), here is an example of a poem in this form. I really did see in Southwark recently a delivery bike for "Darwin's Deli". I haven't yet sampled their wares, but I have no reason to suppose they are anything other than first class. Which is more than can be said for the poem they inspired:

Darwin's Deli
Your sandwich problems solved!
Our menu has evolved
Till all can be satisfied.
Now we’ve reached perfection.
Natural selection
Has been working on our side.
Both sides of the river
We’ll gladly deliver
Our bikes can rove city-wide.

Do you prefer cheese bap
Or Cajun chicken wrap?
We have just the thing for you.
Tomatoes with rocket
In a pitta pocket?
No problem! We do that too.
And you shouldn’t forget
Our minted lamb baguette -
Though a touch pricey, it’s true.

Each branch adds its own spin –
Puts herbs or pickles in
To satisfy local taste.
What sells in the West End
In, say, Clapham may tend
To go entirely to waste.
“Allopatric menus”
Is the phrase that we use.
Thus our strategy is based.

Natural selection
Has led to perfection
After a diverting ride.
A few things selected,
But far more rejected;
Almost everything’s been tried
As our menu has evolved.
So your lunch problem’s solved
We can proclaim now with pride.

"Allopatric speciation" is the evolutionary phenomenon whereby new species evolve in isolated populations. I invented the Deli's "allopatric menus" policy, though I commend it to them.

Incidentally, the general rule in the Hungarian language is that the stress falls on the first syllable. Presumably that applies to the name "Balassi" too.

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© Bob Newman 2004. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 24/10/2004