Jul 30, 2009


Today’s Passion For Poetry is exploring the Kyrielle.

The kyrielle is an old French form used originally by the Troubadors during the Renaissance era. The name derives from the Kýrie, which is part of many Christian liturgies. Kyrie is a derivative of kyrios, a Greek word meaning “Oh, Lord.” The Kyrie Eleison was instituted by the Catholic church as a liturgical form of worship and involves a congregational chanting of the words, “Lord, have mercy.” Consequently, many early kyrielles used the phrase throughout the poetic form as an homage to the Christian liturgy.

The distinctive feature of the kyrielle is that it has a refrain - the final line of every stanza is the same. In the original French kyrielle, lines were generally octosyllabic (8 syllables long). In English, the lines are generally iambic tetrameters. There is no limit to the number of stanzas a Kyrielle may have, but three is considered the accepted minimum.

Some popular rhyming schemes for a Kyrielle are: aabB, ccbB, ddbB, with B being the repeated line, or abaB, cbcB, dbdB.

Another variant includes a non-rhyming line appearing in the No. 2 position: axaB, cycB, dzdB.

If written as couplets, the kyrielle’s rhyme scheme will appear like this: aA, aA, aA, aA.

The following example of a kyrielle is by Thomas Campion (1567-1620)

A Lenten Hymn

With broken heart and contrite sigh,
A trembling sinner, Lord, I cry:
Thy pard’ning grace is rich and free:
O God, be merciful to me.

I smite upon my troubled breast,
With deep and conscious guilt oppress,
Christ and His cross my only plea:
O God, be merciful to me.

Far off I stand with tearful eyes,
Nor dare uplift them to the skies;
But Thou dost all my anguish see:
O God, be merciful to me.

Nor alms, nor deeds that I have done,
Can for a single sin atone;
To Calvary alone I flee:
O God, be merciful to me.

And when, redeemed from sin and hell,
With all the ransomed throng I dwell,
My raptured song shall ever be,
God has been merciful to me.

And here's a slightly less religious one by John Payne (1842-1916)

A lark in the mesh of the tangled vine,
A bee that drowns in the flower-cup's wine,
A fly in sunshine,--such is the man.
All things must end, as all began.

A little pain, a little pleasure,
A little heaping up of treasure;
Then no more gazing upon the sun.
All things must end that have begun.

Where is the time for hope or doubt?
A puff of the wind, and life is out;
A turn of the wheel, and rest is won.
All things must end that have begun.

Golden morning and purple night,
Life that fails with the failing light;
Death is the only deathless one.
All things must end that have begun.

Ending waits on the brief beginning;
Is the prize worth the stress of winning?
E'en in the dawning day is done.
All things must end that have begun.

Weary waiting and weary striving,
Glad outsetting and sad arriving;
What is it worth when the goal is won?
All things must end that have begun.

Speedily fades the morning glitter;
Love grows irksome and wine grows bitter.
Two are parted from what was one.
All things must end that have begun.

Toil and pain and the evening rest;
Joy is weary and sleep is best;
Fair and softly the day is done.
All things must end that have begun.

1 comment:

Jamie D. said...

I love John Payne. *sigh*

Fascinating post - I had no idea as to the history of "Kyrie", or the poetry type. Thank you!

There's something waiting for you on my blog, should you choose to accept.... :-)