Douglas Hofstadter challenged his colleagues and friends to translate “A une Damoyselle malade,” a poem originally written in French, into any other language, maintaining seven properties of the original:
The poem is 28 lines long.
Each line consists of three syllables.
Each line’s main stress falls on its final syllable.
The poem is a string of rhyming couplets: AA, BB, CC, etc.
Midway, the tone changes from formal (“vous”) to informal (“tu”).
The poem’s opening line is echoed precisely at the very bottom.
The poet puts his own name directly into his poem.
From Le Ton beau de Marot by Diuglass Hofstader. Copyright © 1997 by Basic Books, a member of Perseus Books, L.L.C. Reprinted with permission of Basic Books, a member of Perseus ...