Saturday, January 3, 2015

How to Write a Rondeau Poem

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     Let me guess what you're thinking. "What the heck is a rondeau? Is that French?" Now let me answer. A rondeau is a kind of poem, nowadays with fifteen lines, containing only two rhymes, three of which are refrains. And yes, it's French.
     So, once again, what the heck is a rondeau? They're actually fairly complicated poems, but luckily, the meters are completely variable, so you can ignore that. They have three stanzas, the first being five, the second being four, and the last being six.
     Now, it only has two rhymes, meaning you're going to be using the same ending over and over again. Plus, each stanza has a refrain, which starts with the first line, and continuing with the last line of the other two. (I know, this is complicated.) By the way, a refrain is when the entire line is repeated. These poems also have a tendency to use the same words at the end of the lines, unlike most poems, which try to avoid that. Here's a visual aid:

1 A (Refrain)
2 A
3 B
4 B
5 A

6 A
7 A
8 B
9 A (Refrain)

10 A
11 A
12 B
13 B
14 A
15 A (Refrain)

     Make a bit more sense? Originally, the subjects were usually love, or nature, or some other light and happy thing, but now, as with most poetry types, it can be about anything. Here's one I found, for illustration.

Listen, Everyone!
By Jehan Valliant (14th century, I'm sure the copyright's gone)

Listen, everyone! I have lost my girl
For he who finds her, on my soul
Even though she is fair and kindly
I give her up heartily
Without raising a stink at all.

This girl knows her graces well
God knows, she loves and is loyal
For heaven’s sake, let him keep her secretly
Listen, everyone! I have lost my girl

Look after her well, this pearl
Let no one hurt or wound her
For by heaven, this pretty
Is sweetness itself to everybody
Woe is me! I cry to the world
Listen, everyone! I have lost my girl

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