Tuesday, 26 April 2011


The formal requirements of a heroic crown of sonnets (or sonnet redoublé) is a sequence of sonnets, each of which explores one aspect of the theme, and is linked to the preceding and succeeding sonnets by repeating the final line of the preceding sonnet as its first line, and by having its final line be the first line of the succeeding sonnet, and with the final binding sonnet made up of all the first lines of the preceding fourteen, in order.

In other words, each sonnet obeys the conventions normally imposed on the sonnet; each first line of a succeeding sonnet is a repetition of the last line of the former; and the final sonnet is made up of all fourteen of the first lines.

This is the starting point of Inger Christensen’s Sommerfugledalen (The Valley of the Butterflies). This verse form has a precedent in Danish literature: Klaus Høeck’s ‘Ulrike Marie Meinhof. Winterreise’.

What conventions does each Christensen sonnet observe? She writes a 11-10-11-10-11-10-11-10 octet. the sestet varies between 10 and 11 syllables. The rhyme scheme is always: ABAB CDCD EFE GFG.

These are the formal conventions Inger Christensen observes. They follow closely those invented by the Siena Academy of 1460.

Such are the restraints within which any translation of Inger Christensen’s poem should operate, since the form and content fuse in the original. And, as far as I know, only one attempt has been made to translate her poem cycle on these terms. It appeared in Leviathan Quarterly, number 8, June 2003
To see the Latin names of the butterflies mentioned, go to
And to see images of all the butterflies, go to here.

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