The Balassi stanza is named after the Hungarian (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:
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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This page last updated 24/10/2004