Phylis, je ne suis plus des rimeurs de ce siècle

Here is a funny sonnet from Saint-Amant, written with his tongue firmly in his cheek. He is subverting the formal rules of the sonnet, which has a consistent rhyme scheme, and presents with a sonnet which doesn;’t rhyme, making fun of himself while he does so.

Marc-Antoine Girard de SAINT-AMANT   (1594-1661)

Sonnet sur des mots qui n’ont point de rime

Phylis, je ne suis plus des rimeurs de ce siècle
Qui font pour un sonnet dix jours de cul de plomb
Et qui sont obligés d’en venir aux noms propres
Quand il leur faut rimer ou sur coiffe ou sur poil.

Je n’affecte jamais rime riche ni pauvre
De peur d’être contraint de suer comme un porc,
Et hais plus que la mort ceux dont l’âme est si faible
Que d’exercer un art qui fait qu’on meurt de froid.

Si je fais jamais vers, qu’on m’arrache les ongles,
Qu’on me traîne au gibet, que j’épouse une vieille,
Qu’au plus fort de l’été je languisse de soif,

Que tous les mardi-gras me soient autant de jeûnes,
Que je ne goûte vin non plus que fait le Turc,
Et qu’au fond de la mer on fasse mon sépulcre.


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The sonnet is addressed to Phylis, which is more the convention of time rather than a dedication to a particular person. The first four lines set out the poet’s intent – to show he is not one of those poets who spend ten days trying to think of a rhyme, and falling back on people’s names when they can’t think of anything else. And at the same time Saint-Amant links form and content, by having no rhymes in these first four lines.

In the second stanza he ridicules even more those poets who will work night and day to produce a formally correct rhyming sonnet, saying that he does not want to sweat like a pig or suffer the cold of night just to come up with a sonnet with the right form.

And then in the next stanza, Saint-Amant again pushes the bounds of absurdity, saying he would rather have his nails pulled out, or be dragged to the scaffold, or be forced to marry an old woman or die of thirst in the summer rather than write rhyming verse. And so on in the final three lines – he would rather be forced to fast at Mardi Gras, to drink no more wine, just like a Turk, and be buried at sea rather than be made to work at producing good rhymes.

The whole sonnet therefore has no rhymes – so is it a sonnet? Well it has fourteen lines, and the poet says it is, so why not take him at his word? This is all for fun, and of course, Saint-Amant shows in many other poems, that he can write a perfectly good orthodox sonnet when he wants to.

The Poetry Dude


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