Double Dactyl

The double dactyl is a rigid form, and very much based on its meter. It is also more fun than you can possibly imagine until you start writing them.

First of all – don’t panic.

A dactyl is a stressed syllable, followed by two unstressed syllables. | – –
And a double dactyl is two dactyls in a row.

If that doesn’t help you get in touch with the rhythm, think of it this way – this poem is often called a “higgledy piggeldy”. Got it now? Good!

The double dactyl is about someone – someone whose name (or some version of their name including their title, etc.) is a perfect double dactyl, and that is where you start. (think Eleanor Roosevelt – or - Gilbert and Sullivan)

Then you make up a little story or morality play. Or just work your way to a smart aleck-ey remark.

Finding a name can be the hardest part in the real world, but in middle earth, there are lots of lovely elves and big strong boys from Gondor with dactylic names just waiting to be made the butt of your jokes. (Gildor Inglorion – or - Turin and Anglachel)

The first line is two dactyls that are nonsense words and rhyme with each other – like higgledy piggeldy or hickory dickory or whatever works for your person

Here is the strict layout:

1 two dactyls that rhyme with each other
2 A name that is a double dactyl
3 that's right – 2 more dactyls. They still don’t have to rhyme with anything
4 one more dactyl – and then an extra stressed syllable

5 two more dactyls
6 (strictly) a single word that is a double dactyl (or 2 more dactyls)
7 two more, keep going
8 one last dactyl, and one extra syllable – and this line rhymes with line 4

I know that sounds pretty confusing, but the only way to get a handle on this form is to see it in action, so here are a few – read them and then go back and see if the directions make any more sense.


Florin McCain:

Higgeldy Piggeldy
Marion Morrison’s
sissified monicker
gave him a pain
Transformed by Hollywood
Now he is famous as
Tough guy John Wayne


(This was written by my friend Len R.)

Higgeldy Piggeldy
Good Queen Victoria
Stifled her urges and
Was not amused
God save the Queen! Cried
Disraeli from Parliament.
Regina’s vagina has
Hardly been used.


here’s a quick new one from me to get you started:Higgeldy Piggeldy

Brave son of Denethor
searched for a valley by
the Bruinen
Smiling, he told all the
fair maids of Rivendell
“You’ll like me better when
I am Sean Bean.”


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