Madrigal: Poetic Form

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The madrigal originated as an Italian form, actually as a pastoral song. The Italian madrigal is written in lines of either seven or 11 syllables and is comprised of two or three tercets, followed by one or two rhyming couplets. Just as variable as the lines and line lengths is the rhyme scheme. In fact, there's so much variability that I'm going to focus more on the "English" madrigal.

For the English-version of the madrigal (developed by Geoffrey Chaucer), the rules are much more defined. Here they are:

  • Usually written in iambic pentameter.
  • Comprised of three stanzas: a tercet, quatrain, and sestet.
  • All three of the lines in the opening tercet are refrains.

The poem follows this rhyme pattern:

Line 1: A
Line 2: B1
Line 3: B2

Line 4: a
Line 5: b
Line 6: A
Line 7: B1

Line 8: a
Line 9: b
Line 10: b
Line 11: A
Line 12: B1
Line 13: B2

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I'm no master of meter--by a long shot--but...

Here's my attempt at an English madrigal:

"dead heat feet"

another gun fired & children are dead
the official claims he'll turn up the heat
he says the earth will burn beneath their feet

but the gunman shot himself in the head
& those kids still alive avoid the street
another gun fired & children are dead
the official claims he'll turn up the heat

blame all the guns & the games & the meds
blame the police who are working the beat
try to place blame so they'll make it all neat
another gun fired & children are dead
the official claims he'll turn up the heat
he says the earth will burn beneath their feet

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He loves reading poetry, writing poetry, and studying poetry–but he especially loves sharing poetry and is happy that Poetic Asides is a place that accommodates just that.

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For those new to the blog, Robert tends to share a new poetic form just before he announces a new WD Poetic Form Challenge, which is a free challenge in which the winning poem and poet are featured in a future issue of Writer's Digest magazine. The next challenge will probably be announced within the next week.

Robert is married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and one princess). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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