Poetic Forms: Rondeau

Since I love French forms, it came as a surprise to me that I haven’t covered the rondeau on this blog, yet. As with other French forms, there is an element of rhyming and repetition in the rondeau. In fact, the rondeau is related to the triolet–one of my favorites.

The rondeau is comprised of 15 lines across 3 stanzas with the first word or phrase from the first line represented as a refrain (R) and a rhyme scheme of 2 rhymes throughout (A and B). The rhyme and refrain scheme looks like this:

A (R)
A
B
B
A

A
A
B
R

A
A
B
B
A
R

The A and B lines are usually 8 or 10 syllables in length. The refrain is usually 1 to 3 words (or so).

To help illustrate a little more, here’s my attempt at a rondeau:

The mother thinks

The mother thinks she is killing her son
with his shampoo–his hair coming undone
in her hands over time. He feels no pain
says the son. But she knows he’ll feel again
the loss of his dad always on the run.

The mother remembers the morning sun
slanting on a messy bed of just one.
No note or cash–she remembers the pain.
            The mother thinks

there is something she could have done. Her son
was not wanted by his dad. “No more fun,”
he said after learning. Heartbreaking pain
when instead of joy, he often complained
of her weight gain. Then, of course, he was gone,
            the mother thinks.

*****

A fellow native of Dayton, Ohio, Paul Laurence Dunbar, wrote one of the most popular rondeaus in the English language: “We Wear the Mask.”

Here’s the Wikipedia entry for rondeau.

Here’s the Poets.org entry for rondeau.

Here’s another explanation from Ariadne Unst for rondeau.

*****

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29 thoughts on “Poetic Forms: Rondeau

  1. Kathryn Hessler

    So, I wrote a rondeau….I think I also thought it was the day’s post at one point. Anyway, thought I’d share it :).

    This is a complex task,
    This poetry form you ask,
    This may end up silly,
    As I write a bit willy-nilly,
    Working on something that could end up a mask.

    For me more important than a flask,
    In the words I sometimes can bask,
    Yet, writing what’s true can sometimes also be a doozy-dilly,
    Harder than this format, some tough-truth, a more complex task.

    But a tisket, a task-et, a little yellow basket,
    It’s fun to play with words, and share them without ask.
    And if you can share some of you with reader, Billy or Jilly,
    Whether writing of a person, idea, unknown, or a filly,
    Then, when sharing, sometimes, a lift of a little of that mask,
    To me that is a beautiful, complex, fun, scary, and glorious task.

  2. annie mcwilliams

    SO HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

    When i’m out walking late at night
    infinity slips into sight
    starless, stretching, silent, cold
    without significance, gilded in gold
    adrift in an endless nowhere.

    I’m strip mined, sold, raped and blighted
    –reach to the past to ease my plight
    run to the mountains, exchange my soul
    when i’m out walking.

    For in the gray of dawning light
    the way becomes clear, nearly white
    dreams i’d believed were put on hold
    the grief that’s heard is life grown old
    forever advances, holding tight
    when i’m out walking.

  3. John Leofsky

    These Bulls Among Us

    These bulls among us, each one we know
    Empty offices stand row by row.
    Once glad spaces, hear only sighs
    From traders sadly wiping eyes.
    And clients crying, citing woe.

    Though still alive, just barely so
    Returns in a bear’s toothy glow
    Charmed and deceived lie by lies,
    These bulls among us.

    Those scorned will fight the status quo
    Take up arms and a vengeance sow.
    Once ignored the counsel of the wise
    Induced by clever sells and buys.
    Drugs do quiet, as economics will show
    These bulls among us.

  4. Liz

    My very first attempt at a rondeau (also submitted under NaPoWriMo Day 23 -"regrets")

    A Career Path Not Taken

    Herpetologist. My childish dream.
    Turn over big rocks, grab what slithers. Scream
    delight to catch a red racer, garter,
    ringneck or rubber boa to show mother,
    who provided terrarium and screen.

    I didn’t consider tubes to restrain
    or probes inserted to seek and gather
    tissue. Or the tongs and hooks to glean
    the ones that bite, poison or strangle their
    herpetologist.

    And those hours under florescent beams
    entering raw data for academe
    or lecturing somnolent sophomores
    about the nesting habits of cobras:
    I’d rather pen serpentine odes than be deemed
    herpetologist.

  5. Cheryl Lynn Moyer

    We Own the Night

    We own the night, that holds us so,
    The dark embrace where dreams must grow,–
    No light to reveal emotions deep;
    Or the human depths where secrets keep,
    And binds us to our human side.

    Where else can hopes and fears extend,
    To fill the voids that must pretend?
    Some blink and wink, for light to see, while
    We own the night.

    We sleep without a moment’s care,
    Nestled inside ourselves, the shiest dare.
    To soar unfettered, without a doubt,
    Worlds within turned inside out.
    Let others bathe in pristine light,
    We own the night.

    Note – This is the second version, I made a couple changes since version one. Hope this is alright.

  6. Kathryn Hessler

    This is a complex task,
    This poetry form you ask,
    This may end up silly,
    As I write a bit willy-nilly,
    Working on something that could end up a mask.

    For me more important than a flask,
    In the words I sometimes can bask,
    Yet, writing what’s true can sometimes also be a doozy-dilly,
    Harder than this format, some tough-truth, a more complex task.

    But a tisket, a task-et, a little yellow basket,
    It’s fun to play with words, and share them without ask.
    And if you can share some of you with reader, Billy or Jilly,
    Whether writing of a person, idea, unknown, or a filly,
    Then, when sharing, a lift of a little of that mask,
    To me that is a beautiful, complex, fun, scary, and glorious task.

  7. Fei Wu

    I saw the roses grow by the roadside,
    how they came to be, I know not why.
    April rains, gems of dew,
    strangely, I thought of you.
    Lying lissome in bed, hair in your eyes.

    I want to know, how far the sky
    the more I see, the less I try
    to return to the place where they grew
    I saw the roses grow

    When it comes time to say goodbye,
    tears I will not abide
    you or me, I know not who
    one of us will leave the other soon
    though you swear and deeply sigh.
    I saw the roses grow.

  8. Othello Gooden Jr,

    Personality Disorder
    Othello Gooden Jr.

    Because of the girl inside
    She sits alone and continues to cry
    She cannot live out her dream
    Deep within she thinks she’s the queen
    But that’s just not right

    A misguided youth with a tore up mind
    Everyone seems to mind her Jekyll ‘n’ Hide
    She might as well not sleep
    Because of the girl inside

    My, oh my! All she does is hide!
    Within the university’s dorm high-rise
    She gets help but it’s temporary
    She says it’s beneath her, she’s very haughty
    She hates her life
    Because of the girl inside

  9. Chelsea Roeser

    “As the Sun Shines”

    As the sun shines,
    My eyes keep time.
    Feel like I’m going insane,
    But I’m not really in pain.
    And somehow, I feel fine.

    Watching the signs,
    Keeps me alive.
    It’s a crying shame,
    As the sun shines.

    There are few pines.
    How blue is the sky.
    I almost feel lame,
    Writing with the least fame.
    Fine tuning my lines,
    As the sun shines…

  10. Carrie Ann Eggert

    Well I usually free-form everything into a rhyming scheme anyway…this just made me more precise. I’ve never done a rondeau before so I hope it satisfies.

    The Kids Cry

    The kids cry "we’re bored out of our minds"
    as they run all around playing seek and find
    the game is too easy; there’s no place to hide
    the door is left open as they run outside
    it’s not long before they are once more confined

    They cry once more and perhaps it isn’t kind
    to tell them that the TV will make them blind
    so they’ll choose to go and play outside
    the kids cry

    and it’s obvious now’s the time to unwind
    how strange to see bad tempers come to a grind
    right after I told them all to stay inside
    and turn on the TV if they are so inclined
    the kids cry

  11. Cheryl Lynn Moyer

    We Wear the Night

    We wear the night,that warms us so,
    The dark embrace where dreams must grow,–
    No light to reveal emotions deep;
    Or human depths where secrets keep,
    And bind us to our human side.

    Where else can hopes and fears extend,
    To fill the voids that must pretend?
    Some blink and wink, for light to see, while
    We wear the night.

    We sleep without a moment’s care,
    Nestled inside ourselves, the shiest dare.
    To soar unfettered, without a doubt,
    Worlds within turned inside out.
    Let others bathe in pristine light,
    We wear the night.

  12. ina Roy-Faderman

    Robert –
    Thanks for posting this – Dunbar’s poem is probably my favorite American poem (I thought about using it as the backbone for the modified-poem prompt, but just couldn’t bring myself to even contemplate how far off from his poem it would be) and it’s nice to get a chance to think about how the form interacts with its subject matter.

    ina

  13. Sara

    I love the Rondeau–one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written used this form. Thanks for the highlight–it’s wonderful to get some older forms press and back into common use!

  14. Taylor Graham

    AS FAR AS YOU COULD GO ON FOOT

    [for Elihu Burritt, peace activist, on his walk from London to John O’Groats on the tip of Scotland, 1864]

    At journey’s end you find a barren shore.
    By staff, seven hundred miles and more –
    and here’s no living trace, no monument.
    No legendary table, eight chairs meant
    to quell a family squabble. Those who swore

    peace are long gone – to graves, if not to war.
    And all those hard-won promises of yore
    the sea racks up on rock, its tidings spent.
    At journey’s end

    you fill your pockets – what? with shells? a store
    of spiraled hope some living creature wore.
    It’s dead – the sea-snail, not the hope. Content
    you are, still, at this northernmost extent
    of possibility: a rope, an oar
    at journey’s end.

  15. Deb Stone

    Man Is Not So Much Brighter Than His Fowl Friends

    A life beset with conflict lies
    just beyond the sash. Eyes give rise
    to a pair of Canada Goose
    launching attacks to fast induce
    sitting ducks from land geese surmise

    is prime real estate. They devise
    tactics to wreck homes; emphasize
    their truth as might, thus reproduce
    a life beset

    with weaker species compromise.
    Slight gives no real consensus, size
    mandates nature’s context of use,
    might brokered as a flag of truce,
    feathered to decriminalize
    a life beset.

  16. trisha taylor

    Soul mates, destined since time begun
    He is the earth and She is the sun
    He breathes life into history
    She craves and drinks mystery
    Together they compare to none

    Two hearts looking for just one
    Love to cherish for the long run
    Ready to write their story
    Soul mates, destined since time begun

    Search for knowledge never done
    The key to her heart he has won
    She pushes life through his arteries
    He touches a part know one can see
    She dreamed existed since she was young
    Soul mates, destined since time begun

  17. Nancy

    The song kept playing all day through my brain
    Willie’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”
    I love it once or twice, but not all day.
    I kept forgetting what I meant to say
    and wondered if I might have gone insane

    just like that Preacher, suffering in pain.
    I feared that I might buckle from the strain
    and then what could I say?
    The song kept playing.
    I’d think the tune was gone, but then again
    just thinking brought it back, that same refrain.
    Then I recalled what I heard someone say:
    If you can’t lose it, give the song away
    If not your loss, then someone else’s gain
    as the song kept playing

  18. Wayne Mizerak

    “Keep the Faith”

    “Keep the Faith”, he proclaimed to me
    as we talked beside the oak tree.
    I looked up with tears in my eyes
    towards a God hidden in the skies —
    “Would He ever answer my plea?”

    From this time, I would gladly flee.
    From this pain, can He make me free?
    Where is God? I cannot surmise.
    “Keep the Faith.”

    Many places I’d rather be.
    Is there one to where I might flee?
    I wish for someone who was wise,
    who never, ever, spoke in lies.
    “Keep the Faith”.

  19. Shirley Alexander

    Robert, I am about to leave for a long weekend, and I checked in to get the prompt. I will work on it. I had a really good morning laugh and almost spewed my computer screen with coffee.

    Every day, when I come here, the page is filled with comments already. I see you posted this prompt quite early–yet not many comments, and only 2 poems (at least when I started writing this). Apparently, forms are more of a challenge. I love to laugh at myself, and it gives me an even bigger smile to know there are a few hundred poets out there getting a dose of the same humor this morning. lol I love it.

    This one looks like fun. Rhyme is actually (for some ridiculous reason known only to my muse) easier for me. I’m looking forward to reading these when I get back next week. Oh shoot!!! I’ll have to catch up again!!!

  20. Robert Lee Brewer

    Ack! You’re right, Padgett. I guess this challenge must be wearing me down mentally. It’s the villanelle that I had not covered (and still have not covered). Guess the rondeau just gets twice the coverage, huh? Oh well.

  21. Padgett Posey

    Hope I don’t sound like Persnickety Penny here, but you do have an excellent entry on the rondeau in the "Poetic Forms" link–under the kick-ass title "Help me, Rondeau! Help help me, Rondeau!"

    Love this blog–makes poetry FUN again.

  22. Maribeth

    Oh my gosh, I thought that was the challenge.
    Well, I attempted one anyway. Here it is. How did I do?

    My Angel

    His wings expand but he can’t be heard
    My angel, lovely like a bird
    I study the dove and wait to see
    If there is a message it has for me
    My angel whispers, he holds a sword

    My angel protects and guides me through
    He calmly nudges, his love is true
    He stands behind me, I sense his presence
    His wings expand

    My body is warmed by his embrace
    My deepest wish is to see his face
    A face full of light, dripping with love
    Twinkling, smiling, radiating above
    Floating through time, gathering space
    His wings expand

  23. Virginia Snowden

    (Be gentle it’s my first)

    The Greatest Gift

    The greatest gift of my life where two
    little girls with my eyes. So small
    so precious, mere words cannot
    describe what I feel inside. Thank
    you Fate for bringing them to me.

    The greatest gift to every have
    is the love of a child and I was blessed
    with double. How to express to joy in
    my life, I’m in awe at their smiles, the
    only words, still not the best
    the greatest gift

    so happy am I to have them here
    tears flow when they are near. Love and
    devotion is all I can give and I’ll
    give it for a life time never in fear.
    My girls, my live, my everything, my fight
    the greatest gift

  24. Pearl Ketover Prilik

    Dear Robert

    How do I contact anyone who has commented on a poem submitted to the poetry challenge? I would like to thank folks for taking the time – of course it means a great deal to me.

    Thanks
    PKP

  25. Robert Chazz Chute

    Hope not. A poem a day is challenge enough without raising the technical difficulty with, yeah, I’ll say it, an archaic form. I hope you don’t use that as a prompt (seriously!) because the rondeau lends itself to code over content. The rondeau is restrictive, made up by sadists before there were distractions in life, like drugs and rock n roll and religious freedom.

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