Friday, August 24, 2012

By Liz Mastin

Hello everyone! I hope you are having a fun and productive summer. I thought I would continue my column with another form poem from the past called the villanelle. Along with the triolet, rondeau, ballade, sestina and pantoum, the villanelle is a “fixed form” poem.
According to Timothy Steele in his book All the fun’s in how you say a thing, “fixed forms have a specified number of lines, a particular pattern of rhymes, and (often) refrains or repeated lines. Most fixed forms derive from the Romance-language poems and require two or three rhymes to be sustained over many lines. Importantly, these reoccurrences should take on, with each reappearance, additional meaning.”
In my favorite book of forms The Making of a Poem; A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms, Mark Strand and Eavan Boland say (about the villanelle) that it is “a sparkling and complicated form that came from an Italian rustic song; the term itself villanelle thought to derive from villano, an Italian word for “peasant,” or even villa the Latin word for “country house” or “farm.”  The villanelle was adopted by the French who infused it with their own pastoral themes.”
Consulting yet another of my sources Writing metrical poetry by William Baeur “The villanelle is the most popular, adaptable, and successful of the various French forms.” I must guess then, that although the villanelle originated in Italy, the French made greater use of it and developed it further.

Rhyme scheme of the Villanelle
The villanelle consists of: five, three line stanzas,
And – one concluding four line stanza.
Note: Tercet is the name given to a three line stanza. Quatrain is the name given a four line stanza.
Here is the rhyme scheme for writing the villanelle: note how the first and last lines of each tercet rhyme with each other and how the middle lines of each tercet likewise rhyme with each other, and an extra rhyming line is added in the last line: the quatrain.

aba - line 1
aba - line 2
aba - line 3
aba - line 4
aba - line 5
abaa - line 6

Repeated lines in a villanelle

Certain lines are repeated in the villanelle:
Line 1 of the first stanza   --  repeats as line 3 of the 2nd stanza
                                            --   as line 3 of the 4th stanza
                                            --  as line 3 of the final quatrain stanza

Line 3 of the first stanza – repeats as line 3 of the 3rd stanza
                                          --  as line 3 of the 5th stanza
                                          -- as line 4 of the final quatrain stanza

 Example of a famous villanelle poem:

*(This poem is written in iambic pentameter.)

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
By Dylan Thomas 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightening they
Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight,
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

You will find much pleasure in writing a villanelle and I hope you will try it.

Liz Mastin is a poet who lives in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho during the summer and Bullhead CityArizona in winter. She thrives on the study of the great poets, their biographies, the schools of poetry to which they adhered, and the poetic conventions of the times in which they lived.

While she enjoys free verse as well as metrical poetry, her main interest lies in prosody. She notices that most of the enduring poems are those we can remember and recite. Liz enjoys poetry forms such as the sonnet, the sestina, the couplet, blank verse, simple quatrains, etc. and she hopes to see modern poets regain interest in studied metrical poetry.

Liz is currently putting together her first collection of poems which should be completed this winter. The poems are a mixture of metrical and free verse poems.

1 comment:

Jennifer Rova said...

Thanks, Liz. Your posts on different forms of poetry help explain so much to this novice. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge and your lovely poems.