Nov 26, 2009


This week's Passion For Poetry is the Villanelle.

Strange as it may seem for a poem with such a rigid rhyme scheme, the villanelle did not start off as a fixed form. During the Renaissance, the villanella and villancico (from the Italian villano, or peasant) were Italian and Spanish dance-songs. French poets who called their poems "villanelle" did not follow any specific schemes, rhymes, or refrains. Rather, the title implied that, like the Italian and Spanish dance-songs, their poems spoke of simple, often pastoral or rustic themes.

While some scholars believe that the form as we know it today has been in existence since the sixteenth century, others argue that it wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that the villanelle was defined as a fixed form by French poet Théodore de Banville.

The lines are grouped into five tercets and a concluding quatrain. Thus a Villanelle has 19 lines.
Lines may be of any length.
The Villanelle has two rhymes. The rhyme scheme is aba, with the same end-rhyme for every first and last line of each tercet and the final two lines of the quatrain.
Two of the lines are repeated:
The first line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the second and the fourth stanzas, and as the second-to-last line in the concluding quatrain.
The third line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the third and the fifth stanzas, and as the last line in the concluding quatrain.

Got that now? :-)

The highly structured villanelle is a nineteen-line poem with two repeating rhymes and two refrains. The form is made up of five tercets followed by a quatrain. The first and third lines of the opening tercet are repeated alternately in the last lines of the succeeding stanzas; then in the final stanza, the refrain serves as the poem's two concluding lines.

I should caution you, before you read my example, that I'm not entirely happy with it. It was a rush job 'cause I'm behind in my NaNo. Which, when you think about it, it's kind of ironic. :-)


This is not for the faint of heart
A novel, written in thirty days
November first is when we start.

Just thirty days to do your part
The writing comes in such a haze
This is not for the faint of heart.

Writing itself is quite an art
E’en when done in such a blaze
November first is when we start.

Winning this sets us apart
Writing without hope of praise
This is not for the faint of heart .

Some will not finish what they start
Others have their secret ways
November first is when we start.

What wisdom is there to impart
A secret, key, a magic phrase
This is not for the faint of heart
November first is when we start.


The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

Stanzas, surely you jest if it don't rhyme I can't write it. You are very talented and you poem is very good.
All the very best.

C R Ward said...

Probably a good half of my poetry rhymes. Some of these forms just about drove me batty with their strict syllable counts - that's much harder than finding a rhyme!