Chant Royal

A Longer Form of the Ballade

This is similar to the Ballade, but is even more demanding to use. The rhyme scheme used is ababccddede followed by an envoi rhyming ddede. There are five stanzas of eleven ten-syllable lines, with the final line of the first stanza being used as a refrain in the other four stanzas and in the envoi. Chants Royaux are originally from the French, and are not much used in English.

This is the earliest chant royal in the language, by Edmund Gosse in 1587:

           THE PRAISE OF DIONYSUS

Behold, above the mountains there is light,
A streak of gold, a line of gathering fire,
And the dim East hath suddenly grown bright
With pale aerial flame, that drives up higher
The lurid mists which all the night long were
Breasting the dark ravines and coverts bare;
Behold, behold! the granite gates unclose,
And down the vales a lyric people flows,
Who dance to music, and in dancing fling
Their frantic robes to every wind that blows,
And deathless praises to the Vine-God sing.

Nearer they press, and nearer still in sight,
Still dancing blithely in a seemly choir;
Tossing on high the symbol of their rite,
The cone-tipp'd thyrsus of a god's desire;
Nearer they come, tall damsels flushed and fair,
With ivy circling their abundant hair,
Onward, with even pace, in stately rows,
With eye that flashes, and with cheek that glows,
And all the while their tribute-songs they bring,
And newer glories of the past disclose
And deathless praises to the Vine-God sing.

The pure luxuriance of their limbs is white,
And flashes clearer as they draw the nigher,
Bathed in an air of infinite delight,
Smooth without wound of thorn, or fleck of mire,
Borne up by song as by a trumpet's blare,
Leading the van to conquest, on they fare,
Fearless and bold, whoever comes or goes,
These shining cohorts of Bacchantes close,
Shouting and shouting till the mountains ring,
And forests grim forget their ancient woes,
And deathless praises to the Vine-God sing.

And youths there are for whom full many a night
Brought dreams of bliss, vague dreams that haunt and tire
Who rose in their own ecstasy bedight,
And wandered forth through many a scourging briar,
And waited shivering in the icy air,
And wrapped the leopard-skin about them there,
Knowing for all the bitter air that froze,
The time must come, that every poet knows,
When he shall rise and feel himself a king,
And follow, follow where the ivy grows,
And deathless praises to the Vine-God sing.

But oh! within the heart of this great flight,
Whose ivory arms hold up the golden lyre?
What form is this of more than mortal height?
What matchless beauty, what inspired ire?
The brindled panthers know the prize they bear,
And harmonize their steps with tender care;
Bent to the morning, like a living rose,
The immortal splendour of his face he shows;
And, where he glances, leaf and flower and wing
Tremble with rapture, stirred in their repose,
And deathless praises to the Vine-God sing.

      Prince of the flute and ivy, all thy foes
      Record the bounty that thy grace bestows,
      But we, thy servants, to thy glory cling,
      And with no frigid lips our songs compose,
      And deathless praises to the Vine-God sing.


A Note on Formal and Free Verse
Ballade
Literary Terms
Metre
Triolet

Back to main page