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Welcome to another Quadrille Monday at the dVerse Poets Pub with me, Kim from Writing in North Norfolk, when we take any meaning of one word and transform it into 44 poetic words.

Today we have an unusual word, which doesn’t seem to be used much these days. It has fascinated me since I first came across it as a child: ‘eavesdropping’, meaning to secretly listen to a conversation.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the origin of the word is an early 17th century back-formation from eavesdropper (late Middle English)‘a person who listens from under the eaves’, from the obsolete noun eavesdrop ‘the ground on to which water drips from the eaves’, probably from Old Norse upsardropi, from ups ‘eaves’ + dropi ‘a drop’.  

‘Cardinals Eavesdropping in the Vatican’ by Henri Adolphe Laissement, 1895, found on Wikipedia

An eavesdropper was someone who would hang from the eaves of a building so as to hear what was being said inside. Apparently, Henry VIII had ‘eavedrops’, which were carved wooden figures built into the eaves of Hampton Court Palace to discourage unwanted gossip and demonstrate that the walls literally had ears.

Nowadays, eavesdropping involves hi-tech gadgets, telephone and computer surveillance, and software such as trojans. Network eavesdropping focuses on capturing small packets from the network transmitted by other computers and reading the data content in search of any type of information.

John Davies explored eavesdropping in the movies in an article in The Guardian on 21st July 2011, including Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s excellent film ‘The Lives of Others’, Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Conversation’, and Annie listening in to the Baileys’ dinner conversation in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

Black and White Minstrels | Remembrance of Things Past

Davies says: “Often it’s the person on the edge of the action that’s most in the know. Outside but absolutely in the loop. They can be malicious (we’ve seen recently that spying, hacking, thwacking, bugging, wiring, wining, dining and pocket-lining can all be used to snoop a scoop), but often they’re just an innocent who happened to overhear something they shouldn’t. And may wish they hadn’t. It doesn’t matter – whether they like it or not, they’re powerful now. You can’t forget a secret.”

There aren’t many well-known poems which include the word ‘eavesdropping’, but I found an interesting one entitled ‘Eavesdropping’ in the Poetry International Archives, which is by the Zimbabwean poet Amanda Harmer:

Another, ‘Unintentional Eavesdropping’, was on a website called Power of Mind, by an unknown writer:

There also seem to be several on Hello Poetry:

This week, I’d like you to take any meaning, form or compound of the word eavesdropping, and write a poem of exactly 44 words (not counting your title), including the prompt word.

Here’s how to Quadrille:
– Write a poem of exactly 44 words, including the word eavesdropping.
– Put your poem on your blog and link back to this post.
– Link it up to our Mr. Linky.
– Don’t forget to check the little box to accept use/privacy policy
 – Visit other blogs, enjoy some amazing poets, and don’t forget to comment.  The Quadrille lasts all week, so keep coming back for more!