Lyric Forms from France: Their History and Their Use

Lyric Forms from France: Their History and Their Use

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Lyric Forms from France: Their History and Their Use

Lyric Forms from France: Their History and Their Use

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Excerpt

Those who make a practice of reading poetry, even in a desultory way, are likely to be able to identify at least one fixed verse form. That a sonnet has fourteen lines is a matter of common knowledge to many people, even though they may ignore its elaborate rhyme system. The sonnet, coming originally from Italy, is the most frequent of all fixed verse forms in English, but the ballade and the rondeau have in the last fifty years become increasingly familiar. The poems that belong to what might be called the ballade and the rondeau families, and the lyric that is known as a villanelle, originated in France, the sestina in Provence. To the ballade family belong the ballade itself, the chant royal, the ballade à double refrain, and the double ballade. Of the rondeau family, the triolet is the earliest ancestor known, and from it have developed in more or less chronological order the rondel, the rondeau, and the rondeau redoublé. All of these forms are characterized by a refrain, a group of lines, a single line, or a phrase, recurring at regular intervals. The villanelle, likewise, which belongs to a much later literary generation, is a refrain poem. The sestina is built up, also, on the principle of repetition in the verse pattern, but in the case of the Provençal form it is a matter of the repetition of single words in an intricate scheme, rather than of the recurrence of an easily recognized refrain.

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