Patty-cake, patty-cake, Marcus Antonius, What do you think of the African Queen? Gubernatorial Duties require my Presence in Egypt. Ya Know what I mean? -Paul Pascal Today we take a look at another comic form, the double-dactyl (or Higgledy-Piggledy) poem. Developed in 1961 by poets Paul Pascal, Anthony Hecht, and John Hollander, the double-dactyl is one of the most specific verse forms, in terms of its rules: it is composed of two quatrains, each built of three lines of dactylic dimeter ( / - - / - - ) followed by a choriamb ( / - - / ); the final syllables in each quatrain rhyme; the first line is repetitive nonsense (commonly “Higgledy-Piggledy), the second line is the poem’s subject (typically a proper name), and at least one line in the second quatrain has to be composed of a single word (and one that the poet has never seen before in another double-dactyl poem, for that would be cheating). Higgledy-piggledy Emily Dickenson Liked to use dashes Instead of full stops. Nowadays, faced with such Idiosyncrasy, Critics and editors Send for the cops. -Wendy Cope To a novice, this may seem needlessly difficult—but the rigidity and challenge of the verse structure is actually a kind of literary game: can the poet contrive a sensible description of the subject within such constraints? Meanwhile the 3-beat meter creates a lively rhythm, and the single-word line a surprise that can serve as a second punch-line all by itself: Higgledy-piggledy Heyerdahl Heyerdahl Gained notoriety Sailing his raft. Some now believe that this Septagenarian's Anthropological Theories are daft. -Robin Pemantle Higgeldy Piggeldy Sergei Rachmaninov Wrote his concertos for Handspans like wings. Few realistically Can pianistically Digitalistically Play the damned things. -Robert Mink Polysyllabic rhymes are not required in this verse form, but if the poet can throw them in, all the better, as they naturally add to the humor. W.S. Gilbert knew this all too well, and frequently featured them in the comic operas he wrote. Speaking of which— Higgeldy-Piggeldy Gilbert & Sullivan, Musical satirists, Hardly sublime, Unhesitatingly Would have approved of their Names being used in this Ludicrous rhyme. -Robin Pemantle You can read more of Robin Pemantle’s Higgledy-Piggledy at http://www.math.wisc.edu/~robbin/Higgeldy.txt. As with any comic form, some audiences will laugh and others won’t; and comic verse is no different. And the audience for it may be small: the jokes rather depend upon people recognizing the historical personages named in the poems. Here are a few by Roger Robinson, who’s written a host of verses featuring classical subjects (read more of his work at http://lonestar.texas.net/~robison/dactyls.html): Higgledy-Piggledy Philip of Macedon Formed up the phalanx and Harried the Greeks; Murdered, he missed out on Mesopotamia, So it’s his son of whom All the world speaks. Higgledy-Piggledy Pitiful Tantalus Stole food and drink from the Table of Zeus; So, he was punished with Juxtapositional Torture of sustenance Just beyond use. Higgledy-Piggledy Tyrian purple, a Highly-prized dyestuff in Ancient world times, Came from a mollusk, the Mediterranean Murex (M. trunculus) Made crimson lines. And finally, one more classical subject, completed with a pun (this one is by Joan Muncaksi): Higgledy-piggledy Oedipus Tyrannos Murdered his father, used Mama for sex. This mad debauch, not so Incomprehensibly, Left poor Jocasta and Oedipus Wrecks.