1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Macaronics

MACARONICS, a species of burlesque poetry, in which words from a modern vernacular, with Latin endings, are introduced into Latin verse, so as to produce a ridiculous effect. Sometimes Greek is used instead of Latin. Tisi degli Odassi issued a Carmen macaronicum de Patavinis in 1490. The real founder of the practice, however, was Teofilo Folengo (1491–1544), whose mock-heroic Liber Macaronices appeared in 1517. Folengo (q.v.) was a Benedictine monk, who escaped from his monastery and wandered through Italy, living a dissolute life, and supporting himself by his absurd verses, which he described as an attempt to produce in literature something like macaroni, a gross, rude and rustic mixture of flour, cheese and butter. He wrote under the pseudonym of Merlinus Coccaius, and his poem is an elaborate burlesque epic, in twenty-five books, or macaronea; it is an extraordinary medley of chivalrous feats, ridiculous and squalid adventures, and satirical allegory. Its effect upon the mind of Rabelais was so extraordinary that no examination of Pantagruel can be complete without a reference to it (cf. Gargantua, i. 19). It was immediately imitated in Italy by a number of minor poets; and in France a writer whose real name was Antoine de la Sablé, but who called himself Antonius de Arena (d. 1544), published at Avignon in 1573 a Meygra entrepriza, which was a burlesque account of Charles V.’s disastrous campaign in Provence. Folengo in Italy and Arena in France are considered as the macaronic classics. In the 17th century, Joannes Caecilius Frey (1580–1631) published a Recitus veritabilis, on a skirmish between the vine-growers of Rueil and the bowmen of Paris. Great popularity was achieved later still by an anonymous macaronic, entitled Funestissimus trepassus Micheli Morini, who died by falling off the branch of an elm-tree:—

De branche in brancham degringolat, et faciens pouf
Ex ormo cadit, et clunes obvertit Olympo.

Molière employed macaronic verse in the ceremonial scene with the doctors in Le Malade imaginaire. Works in macaronic prose are rarer. An Anti-Clopinus by Antony Hotman may be mentioned and the amusing Epistolae obscurorum virorum (1515). Macaronic prose was not unknown as an artifice of serious oratory, and abounds (e.g.) in the sermons of Michel Menot (1440–1518), who says of the prodigal son, Emit sibi pulcheras caligas d’écarlate, bien tirées.

The use of true macaronics has never been frequent in Great Britain, where the only prominent example of it is the Polemo-Middinia ascribed to William Drummond of Hawthornden. This short epic was probably composed early in the 17th century, but was not published until 1684. The Polemo-Middinia follows the example set by Arena, and describes with burlesque solemnity a quarrel between two villages on the Firth of Forth. Drummond shows great ingenuity in the tacking on of Latin terminations to his Lowland Scots vernacular:—

Lifeguardamque sibi saevas vocat improba lassas,
Maggaeam, magis doctam milkare cowaeas,
Et doctam sweepare flooras, et sternere beddas,
Quaeque novit spinnare, et longas ducere threedas.

There is a certain macaronic character about many poems of Skelton and Dunbar, as well as the famous Barnabae itinerarium (1638) of Richard Brathwait (1588–1673), but these cannot be considered legitimate specimens of the type as laid down by Folengo.

See Ch. Nodier, Du Langage factice appelé macaronique (1834); Genthe, Histoire de la poésie macaronique (1831).  (E. G.)