From a beautiful, mournful French poem by Paul Verlaine, who lived from 1844 to 1896:
Il pleure dans mon cœur / Comme il pleut sur la ville…
eel PLUHRuh dah maw KUHR kuh meel PLUH sewr lah VEEL.
There is weeping in my heart, like the rain over the city…
Though this opening really consists of two lines of poetry, those two lines represent a perfect line of “vers alexandrin“. Notice how the rhythm rolls smoothly in groups of three syllables: il pleure – dans mon cœur (pause) comme il pleut – sur la ville.
Normally, in French, we don’t pronounce the silent e at the end of a word; but in poetry, the rules change. It is required that it be pronounced if a consonant comes next. That’s why “il pleure” is three syllables here, but in normal conversation, only two. There’s a silent e at the end of “comme”, also, but it collides with a vowel next, rather than a consonant, so the two vowel sounds glide into each other.
This rain doesn’t sound like a hard, drenching downpour; instead, the long, drawn-out vowel sounds make one think of a dreary, constant rain that chills you inside and out.
In the next post: The next two lines of this poem! And you’ll find the complete poem here.