Cento

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Cento

 

a poem consisting entirely of lines from other poems; its aim is to emphasize the similarity or contrast between the new and the previous context of each fragment. The most famous centos are those from the late classical period that use lines and hemistichs by Vergil; examples are Ausonius’ Cento Nuptialis (fourth century A.D.) and Proba Falconia’s Cento Vergilianus (fifth century A.D.). The cento later went out of use, and now remains only as a poetic diversion.

The following poem by I. Sel’vinskii, an epigram on A. Zharov, is an example of a modern cento: the four successive lines are from poems by S. Esenin, A. Blok, N. Nekrasov, and S. Kirsanov, respectively.

        Budu pet’, budu pet’, budu pet’
         Mnogoiarusnyi korpus zavoda
       I kobylok v prostorakh svobody,
      Chtob na bloke do Bloka vskripet’.
     (“I shall sing, I shall sing, I shall sing
       The multitiered factory building
And the young mares in the expanses of freedom,
So that the pulley’s squeaking will reach Blok.”)