Romantic stanza

Maksim Bahdanovič (1891-1917) was the greatest lyric poet in the Belarusian language, and one of his best-loved poems is entitled simply Romance. It begins, "Venus, new-risen above us appearing..." The verse form it uses is unusual and quite tricky. There is no standard name for it, so I have chosen to call it the romantic stanza. As an example, here is an alternative version of a well-known poem by Wordsworth:

Lonely as high-floating clouds I was hiking
Up hill and down dale, near no madding crowds.
It’s an environment much to my liking –
Lonely as high-floating clouds.

But all at once what a sight lay before me!
Daffodils, stacks of them – what a delight!
Flowers in ones and twos usually bore me,
But all at once – what a sight!

Tossing their heads as they swayed in the breezes,
What an impression those daffodils made!
Still I think of them when angst my heart seizes –
Tossing their heads as they swayed.

Try to imagine those daffs on the hillside
When you are suffering a shortage of laffs.
Rather than hitting the whisky and pills, I’d
Try to imagine those daffs!

The distinctive aspect of this verse form is that the fourth line of each stanza is the same as the first part of the first line. With the stanzas rhyming abab, this means that the first line has to contain two rhyming words. (So begin by writing the fourth line, then the first.)

The metre should be as in the example above. (It's mainly dactylic.)

Where to find more

If you speak Belarusian, the book you need is Vianok ("The Garland") by Bahdanovič, published in 1913.

Otherwise, there is a chapbook Echoes of "Venus" available from Manifold magazine (see links page). This contains versions of the Bahdanovič Romance in both Belarusian and English, together with a selection of the best entries from a competition for poems in this form (in English!)

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© Bob Newman 2004. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 03/08/2005