The traditional Russian folk poem called a chastushka (частушка) is a quatrain of trochaic tetrameter that can rhyme several ways: abab, abcb, or even aabb. The last foot of a chastushka line is often a single stressed syllable rather than a full trochee. (Think "Lizzie Borden took an ax...") Usually humorous, satirical, or ironic in nature, the chastushka is often put to music, usually with the accompaniment of a balalaika or an accordion.

Sometimes several chastushki occur in sequence to form a song. Chastushki cover a very wide spectrum of topics, from lewd jokes to political satire, including such diverse themes as love songs and Communist propaganda. After each chastuska, there is a full musical refrain without lyrics to give the listeners a chance to laugh without missing the next one.


Russians write a kind of ditty,
Often rude and always witty.
Trenchant wit that shows no pity
Makes us laugh at nitty-gritty.

Strung together in a series,
Sung by folks who like to hear these,
Verse to song occurs with clear ease.
Like the form? Feel free to cheer, please!


Disagree? Feel free to sneer, please!

Classical Chastushka

A Saturnalian Chastushka

Saturn's feast days hit the spot;
Celebrate with all you've got.
Revels do not last for long,
Shout "hurrah!" and join the throng.

Saturn's ship approaches shore...
Wager walnuts, coins, or more.
Slaves and masters switch around;
Pranks and merriment abound.

Chill December's days are dark...
Lighted tapers add a spark,
Gladden hearts, and gloom dispel.
Bid the "best of days" farewell.

Bloated Toady

Stephen Bannon, soulless slob,
Panders to the Breitbart mob;
Nitwits lacking common sense
Trust in lies, not evidence.

What a Piece of Work

Kellyanne is strident, shrill,
Promulgating lies as fact;
She's a noxious party shill
Always seeking to detract.

GOP Go-Fund-Me Tool

Ignoramus named DeVos
Peddles vouchers for her boss;
Charter schools are merely ploys
Right-wing bigotry employs.

[ back to poetry page ]