bastoun

bastoun (noun)

(1) a line of poetry

(2) a stanza

This word, from the French, literally means a stick or staff.  In fifteenth-century French, it refers to an individual line of a poem (which of course resembles a stick or baton).  It is used in English circa 1300 by the author of the Cursor mundi to signal his shift from writing in ‘rime’ (i.e. short rhyming couplets) to writing in ‘langer bastune’ (i.e. ‘longer lines’, septenary lines) for his account of Christ’s Passion.  A satirical poem in MS Harley 931 written in Kildare in Ireland at the start of the fourteenth century, which has an ironic reference to the poet’s technical skill in each stanza, uses baston/bastun seemingly to mean ‘stanza’ (just as it uses vers, rime and ditee very loosely to refer to individual stanzas or to the poet’s versification as a whole).  The poet of Somer Soneday uses ‘bastons’ to mean either ‘lines’, ‘stanzas’ or ‘poems’ in line 47.

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