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Rondeau

December 19, 2016

Jenny Kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in:
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.

–Leigh Hunt, 1838

COMMENTARY: I can’t decide whether this much-beloved poem is beautiful or sappy. I think I come down on the side of the former because of “Time, you thief, who love to get/ Sweets into your list, put that in”–particularly the hopscotch rhyme of “sat in” and “that in.” My anthology says the “Jenny” in this poem was Jane Welsh, the wife of Thomas Carlyle, but who knows. If memory serves “Jenny” was often the stereotypical name in 19th century England for a lower-class, Cockney street-girl as in Rosetti’s “Lazy, laughing, languid Jenny/ Fond of a kiss and fond of a guinea,” but I could be wrong about that. “Rondeau,” by the way, is typically a 13-line poem. I believe Hunt calls this a rondeau in the more general meaning of a “circle song”–i.e., a poem that begins and ends with the same line.

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