Friday, November 11, 2016

Pots and Poetry

While reviewing some basic Italian vocabulary this week, I encountered "pentola", "pot". This called to mind a passage from Iris Origo's memoir Images and Shadows, concerning her instruction in the classics by the tutor Professor Solone Monti:
 The path of learning was sometimes made easy, too, and enlivened by an element of surprise.
"Do you know what Pascoli said to the kettle which wouldn't boil for his dinner?" Monti suddenly asked me one morning, 'Pentola, pentola, pentola, bolli. Pentola, bolli!' Then he added, turning to an equally hungry friend in the doorway, 'Che bell'esametro!'"
Taking a pencil, Monti wrote it down, marking the long syllables and the short--and so, in three minutes, the rhythm of the hexameter was fixed in my mind forever.


  1. I've passed that on to Lucy, for use in her teaching of metre. Everything helps.

    1. Hexameters don't seem to carry over to English verse that well, though I guess Longfellow tried:

      "This is the metre Columbian. The soft-flowing trochees and dactyls,"


      Lucy is teaching eleven-year-olds? They are fortunate to be learning about metre; I don't remember hearing that discussed in class until I was about fourteen.

  2. My, you have a good memory. Nifty little anecdote. And how lovely to know Italian... I want to collect a polite smattering of Japanese before I travel to Kyoto and am hoping Duolingo decides to give it a go soon.

  3. I know a very little bit of Italian; would I knew more.

    When are you going to Kyoto, and why there?