Roundel

An Adapted French Form

The Roundel is a simplified English form of the Rondeau, which is itself related to the Rondel and the Triolet. Both of the French forms are from medieval times, but the Roundel wasn't introduced to the UK until the 19c.

The Rondeau is probably the most demanding of these forms. It consists of thirteen octasyllabic (eight-syllabled) lines in stanzas of five, three, and five lines using only two rhymes. Additionally, the first word, or more often, the first phrase of the first line is used twice more as a refrain after the second and third stanzas. This does not have to be rhymed with the main body of the poem. The whole uses the rhyme scheme aabba aaabR aabbaR, showing the unrhymed refrain as 'R'.

The Rondel is similar, but does not use a fixed metre, and has a refrain of two lines which are repeats of the first two lines and are placed at lines 7 and 8 and 13 and 14. Showing the repeated lines in capitals, the rhyme scheme is ABba abAB abbaAB. There is a thirteen-line variation which omits the second line of the refrain at the end.

This is a well known example of a Rondel (the 13-line version) in English by Austin Dobson:

                                       Love comes back to his vacant dwelling

                    Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,
                    The old, old Love that we knew of yore!
                    We see him stand by the open door,
                    With his great eyes sad, and his bosom swelling.

                    He makes as though in our arms repelling,
                    He fain would lie as he lay before;-
                    Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,
                    The old, old Love that we knew of yore!

                    Ah, who shall help us from over-spelling
                    That sweet, forgotten, forbidden lore!
                    E'en as we doubt in our heart once more,
                    With a rush of tears to our eyelids welling,
                    Love comes back to his vacant dwelling.

The Roundel is a slightly simpler and easier-to-use form which does not use a fixed metre in its eleven lines. Lines 4 and 11 are made up of the first word, or more often, the first phrase of the first line, which is normally made to rhyme with the second line. The rhyme scheme used is abaB bab abaB. This a tongue-in-cheek (is it?) example of a roundel:

Eleven-liner

                    Every line must rhyme, you tell me from your eminence.
                              That's the way to be sublime;
                    if you want to strive for excellence,
                                        every line must rhyme.

                              But I think that it's a crime
                    when a roundel cries for assonance
                              to make a poem, not a chime.

                    So I hope you understand, when I ask you in my innocence
                              why is it, each and every time,
                              when aim should be best cadence,
                                        every line must rhyme?

Previously in Iota


A Note on Formal and Free Verse
Literary Terms
Metre
Triolet

Back to main page