Today marked my third year to enter the annual creative writing contest here at my college, and I am pleased to announce that my poem, “Le Cheval de Troie”, won 2nd out of 18 poems entered in that category.
The funny thing about this poem is I don’t speak a bit of French. Well…not really. “Le Cheval de Troie” was an experiment of sorts, one that I still think turned out rather well. (And apparently the judge thought so, too).
The beauty of language is that it is always changing. As an English major/History minor in college, I’ve had the unique opportunity to spend hours upon hours studying the progression of language (namely English) as it has evolved over the centuries.
Though all languages have similarities and share similar words (particularly modern ones), English, especially American English, has one of the highest rates of language exchange of any language in use today. We say we speak English, but that’s because it’s easier than saying, “I speak a little bit of Anglo-Saxon, French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Gaelic, Arabic, Latin, Greek, etc. etc.” The words we use, even in everyday speech, are rarely what we would call “English” in the truest sense, meaning that a large portion of those words did not originate in England.
For instance, in 1066, William the Conqueror left Normandy (a region in France) and sailed to England, effectively usurping the English throne and bringing with him a tradition of French high culture and, more importantly, over 10,000 French words, of which 75% are still in common use today.
It was this fact that inspired me to begin researching familiar words of French origin and, in turn, inspired me to write “Le Cheval de Troie”. Of the 16 lines in the poem, there are 18 words or phrases that are of French or Anglo-Norman origin. I have added the poem to the end of this blog post with all the French and Anglo-Norman words bolded for your convenience.
Language. It’s a beautiful thing!
Le Cheval de Troie
A souvenir they thought it was
The vestige of the Greek barrage
There poised beyond the rampart
Like a grandiose, hooved mirage
The vermilion sun cast a hateful hue
Consuming as a hero’s pyre
The shadow of the effigy
And kindled like a fire
And against all good persuasion
The trammel they drew inside
Naïve they were of the menace
That here they stood beside
And left to wait in the sun’s decline
The pivot of fated law
The occupants of the city
Never knew le Cheval de Troie.