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Hello Dear Poets and Welcome to dVerse-

Today, I am challenging you to write a poem with the word ‘SLIP’, as in slip, slippery, slipcover, cowslip, slipper, a slip of a thing, a slip of the pen, and the iconic Freudian slip. Use this word to help express your anger, sadness, joy, love, or outrage. The form we will be using is a Quadrille.

NOTE: For those of you new to dVerse, the Quadrille is a poetic form created here at dVerse, a poem of exactly 44 words (not counting the title) and including one specific word we provide.

When I started researching the word and variations thereof, I came across the phrase that I decided to use as the title of today’s post: Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’?

The Black Book of the Admiralty, 1385 is a collection of laws in French and Latin that relate to the organisation of the English Navy. In the ‘Ordinances of War of Richard II‘ in that book we find: 

“Item, qe nul soit si hardy de crier havok.”
[Item: No one should be so foolish as to cry havoc.

An English text which comes nearer to defining the term is found in Grose’s Military Antiquities Respecting a History of the English Army, 1801. Grose was quoting a translation of an Old French text by Thomas De Brotherton, the first Earl of Norfolk (Brotherton died in 1338):

“Likewise be all manner of beasts, when they be brought into the field and cried havoke, then every man to take his part.”

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.Shakespeare was well aware of the use of the meaning of havoc and he used ‘cry havoc’ in several of his plays. The ‘cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war’ form of the phrase is from Julius Caesar, 1601. After Caesar’s murder Anthony regrets the course he has taken and predicts that war is sure to follow. 

Blood and destruction shall be so in use 
And dreadful objects so familiar 
That mothers shall but smile when they behold 
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war; 
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds: 
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge, 
With Ate by his side come hot from hell, 
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice 
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth 
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

The term is the predecessor of ‘play havoc’ (with). This is now more common than ‘cry havoc’ and has lost the force of the earlier phrase – just meaning ’cause disorder and confusion’.

Source: phrases.org.uk

And from Poets.org:


Marianne Moore – 1887-1972

He often expressed
A curious wish,
To be interchangeably
Man and fish;
To nibble the bait
Off the hook,
Said he,
And then slip away
Like a ghost
In the sea.

And lastly, I will leave you with one of my all time favorite songs:

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