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I'm reading L'Albatros by Charles Baudelaire.

Wiki page says:

It is built with four alexandrins quatrains with crossed Rhymes (ABAB type), alternating feminine and masculine noun genders.

I don't quite get it.

For example, the first quantrain ends with d'équipage (male), des mers (female), de voyage (male) and les gouffres amers -- but les gouffres is male, no?

Also, look at the second quantrain, it ends with les planches (male), honteux(male), ailes blanches(female), d'eux (male) -- it seems is male/female/male/female?

The full text of the poem is:

Souvent, pour s’amuser, les hommes d’équipage
Prennent des albatros, vastes oiseaux des mers,
Qui suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage,
Le navire glissant sur les gouffres amers.

À peine les ont-ils déposés sur les planches,
Que ces rois de l'azur, maladroits et honteux,
Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches
Comme des avirons traîner à côté d'eux.

Ce voyageur ailé, comme il est gauche et veule !
Lui, naguère si beau, qu'il est comique et laid !
L'un agace son bec avec un brûle-gueule,
L'autre mime, en boitant, l'infirme qui volait !

Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l'archer ;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l'empêchent de marcher.

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The alternation has nothing to do with word gender, but with the type of the rhyme:

  • feminine rhymes end with a mute e.

  • masculine rhymes do not.

On the current version of the Wiki page your are linking to, the formulation is correct, as we can read "word endings" instead of "noun genders".

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  • But the wiki link in my comment (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masculine_and_feminine_endings) says — "Masculine ending" refers to a line ending in a stressed syllable. "Feminine ending" is its opposite, describing a line ending in a stressless syllable. — not about silent e.
    – athos
    Jan 7, 2023 at 19:38
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    @athos: Somebody fixed the wikipedia page to say "word endings". It said "noun genders" when I looked at it when this question first appeared. Jan 7, 2023 at 21:08
  • Then I guess it's poorly redacted, since in French poetry, the definition is clear. Jan 7, 2023 at 21:09
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    A "feminine rhyme" in English means a non-stressed syllable. A "feminine rhyme" in French means a silent e. The English term is actually borrowed from French ... they were called "double rhymes" in English back in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Jan 7, 2023 at 21:12
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    @vincent So for example, in L'albatros the rhymes are d’équipage - mers - voyage - amers, planches - honteux - blanches - d'eux, veule - laid - brûle-gueule - volait, nuées - l'archer - huées - marcher, those italic words are the rime féminines -- am I right? hopefully I finally got it.
    – athos
    Jan 7, 2023 at 22:43

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