I can’t remember exactly what made me think of it but a couple of years ago, while plugging away at some poems for a children’s anthology, I suddenly thought wouldn’t it be fun to try to write a poem which used two languages at the same time? I couldn’t see it being a serious poem and I thought it would have to be in French and English because I’m hopeless at foreign languages but slightly less hopeless in French than any other. So, a humorous poem written in both French and English and, because I would like it to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, using French that was fairly simple and easily understood or guessed at.
Of course, as it more or less says in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun, and with a little research I discovered that my fun idea had been around for centuries and even had its own name; macaronic verse. More broadly, Wikipedia defines macaronic language as “text using a mixture of languages, particularly bilingual puns or situations in which the languages are otherwise used in the same context”. It goes on to say that macaronic verse probably originated in Padua in the late 15th century and, interestingly, also says that it is “especially common in cultures with widespread bilingualism or language contact, such as Ireland before the middle of the 19th century.” Anyway, it’s interesting to follow up, if you’ve got time.
Back to my own attempt. I decided to write one line in English, one line French and so on. As I wanted it to be humorous I thought I would use a simple, obvious rhyme scheme and, as a challenge, make English words rhyme with French words. I enjoyed writing this, my only piece of macaronic verse, and I hope my French is correct.