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Rondeau-art - 5/26/10


"Rondeau: 'round we go" by Lady Ingeborg bildsbriótr Ulfsdottir.


NOTE: See also the files: medvl-poetry-lnks, poetry-msg, p-songs-msg, P-Polit-Songs-art, song-sources-msg, Bardic-Guide-art, Iambic-Pent-art, On-Mad-Songs-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Rondeau: 'round we go

by Lady Ingeborg bildsbriótr Ulfsdottir


("rondeau" is pronounced "ron-dough")

(Underlined terms are glossed.)


If I were to write a rondeau,

I wonder if any would know

The reason I grumble and puff,

Frustration let out in a whuff,

My spirits approaching a low.


What then could I do but just show

The poem whose form gives me woe,

And through whose creation I'd scuff

If I were to write.


I'll ne'er call a word-puzzle foe

No matter how painful it go

But certainly phrasing is tough

When rhymes that I scrunch aren't enough.

It's trouble I'd have with the flow

If I were to write.


Writing poetry about writing poetry may be a bit silly, but either it's not uncommon or else it amuses many people, for I've seen four or five such poems.  For instance, following my article is a french rondeau about rondeaux, written by Clément Marot at the turn of the sixteenth century.


               But on to what a rondeau is.  It's a cute little poetic form that was very popular in the fourteen and fifteen hundreds.  (It's still around modernly, by the way; "In Flanders Field" may be the most well-known example.)


               A rondeau has three verses (of five, then four, then six lines), made of two groups of rhymes and a repeating bit.  No specific rhythm is required, because the form is French, and those worthies were usually more concerned with the number of syllables than the beat.  (The opposite of Germans.)  So, whether you choose to have a definite rhythm in the rondeau or not, you should make the lines each be of equal syllabic length.


               The repeating bit (hemistich) is the first part of the first line; in my example poem above, the first line is "If I were to write a rondeau," and the hemistich is, "If I were to write."  It's up to the author to decide how much of the line to call the first part and how much the second; "If I were to write a" would've also been fine for a hemistich, if it'd actually made sense.  So anyway, the repeating part goes after lines eight and fourteen.  


line 1:     hemistich                                                                  line 1:                  If I were to write

lines 2 to 5:                                                                lines 2 to 5:


lines 6 to 8:                                                                lines 6 to 8:

line 9:     hemistich                                                                  line 9:                  If I were to write


lines 10 to 14:                                                                          lines 10 to 14:

line 15:     hemistich                                                                line 15: If I were to write


               The other part of a rondeau is the way the rhymes go.  It has two groups of rhyming words; in my example the two types are 'o' sounds (rondeau, know, low, show, foe, go, flow) and 'uff' sounds (puff, whuff, scuff, tough, enough).  Lines one, two, five, six, seven, ten, eleven, and fourteen are the first rhyme-group, while lines three, four, eight, twelve, and thirteen are the second rhyme-group.  


                             'O' sound                                                                                    'Uff' sound

               1            2            5            6                                                                       3            4            8

               7            10          11          14                                                                     12          14


The hemistich isn't included in either grouping, because it doesn't need to rhyme with anything.  *sniffle* it must feel very lonely...


               So with 'O' standing for lines that end with an 'o' rhyme and 'U' representing lines ending with an 'uff' rhyme, we have this:


line 1:     hemistich O                              line 1:                  If I were to write a rondeau

line 2:     O                                                                  line 2:                  I wonder if any would know

line 3:     U                                                                  line 3:                  The reason I grumble and puff

line 4:     U                                                                  line 4:                  Frustration let out in a whuff,

line 5:     O                                                                  line 5:                  My spirits approaching a low.


line 6:     O                                                                  line 6:                  What then could I do but just show

line 7:     O                                                                  line 7:                  The poem whose form gives me woe,

line 8:     U                                                                  line 8:                  And through whose creation I'd scuff

line 9:     hemistich                                                   line 9                   If I were to write.


line 10:    O                                                                 line 10: I'll ne'er call a word-puzzle foe

line 11:    O                                                                 line 11: No matter how painful it go

line 12:    U                                                                 line 12: But certainly phrasing is tough

line 13:    U                                                                 line 13: When rhymes that I scrunch aren't enough.

line 14:    O                                                                 line 14: It's trouble I'd have with the flow

line 15:    hemistich                                                  line 15: If I were to write.


Conventionally, metrists call the first rhyme group appearing in a poem 'A,' and the second 'B,' and so on.  An 'h' represents the hemistich.  So the standard way of notating a rondeau's form is:

               AABBA AABh AABBAh


Go forth, and play with words!




               Hemistich: one part of a line of poetry that's been divided in two.


               Meter: a deliberately arranged rhythm (beat).


               Metered poetry: poetry with a definite meter.


               Metrists: people who make verses or study meter, including bored students in their English classes.


               Poetic form: the way a poem is arranged, including rhythm, shape, and sound.


               Stanza: What would in a song be called a verse, or a chorus: several lines in a poem arranged on top of each other with a space (or indent) before the next set of lines; a clump of lines in a poem, having another clump (often of equal length) following. Stanza may also mean a poetic form that is written in stanzas, as a 'mad song stanza' is.


               Syllable: a small unit of sound that is one beat of a word.  It has one vowel sound (ah, eigh, eh, ee, ih, eye, o, oo, u), and may or may not have have consonant sounds (the noise made by non-vowels) around it.  As my elementary school teacher put it, "When you clap a word, a syllable is one clap.  Hot: hot(*clap*), angry: an(*clap*)gry(*clap*), syllable: syll(*clap*)a(*clap*)ble(*clap*).


               Syllabic length (of a line): number of syllables in the line


               Verse: this may mean "poetry in general," it may mean specifically metered poetry, or it may mean stanza; you just have to decide from context.


Here follows Clement Marot's french poem.  On the next page is a line by line translation, generously provided by Alienor, of Three Rivers Barony.



I - Rondeau responsif à ung aultre,
qui se commenceoit,
Maistre Clement mon bon Amy.

En ung Rondeau sur le commencement
Ung vocatif, comme maistre Clement,
Ne peult faillir rentrer par Huys, ou Porte:
Aux plus sçavans Poëtes m'en rapporte,
Qui d'en user se gardent sagement.

Bien inventer vous fault premierement.
L'invention deschiffrer proprement,
Si que Raison, et Ryme ne soit morte
En ung Rondeau.

Usez de motz receuz communement,
Rien superflu n'y soit aulcunement,
Et de la fin quelque bon propos sorte,
Clouez tout court, rentrez de bonne sorte,
Maistre passé serez certainement
En ung Rondeau.



Rondeau written for another,

which begins,

Master Clement my good friend.


At the beginning of a Rondeau

A direct address, like "Master Clement,"

Must not [I don't understand the rest of this line]: (return by something or door)

All the wisest poets, I must report,

Carefully keep from (doing that.)


You must first have a good idea.

Arrange your idea in verse properly,

Do no harm to Reason or Rhyme,

In a Rondeau.


Use words which are commonly known,

Don't add anything unnecessary,

And finish it off with a flourish,

Nail it down neatly, finish in good order,

And you'll be an expert

On the Rondeau.


Now here's something I put some effort into, rather than just cranking out like my example poem.


               Before attending the ceremony, I had no idea what to give my friends Simmone and Estabon for a wedding present.   But when I arrived, it was immediately obvious what my gift should be: I would attempt to capture in words that glorious event.


Rondeau for Simmone and Estabon



The swan and stag will wed today.

I smooth my dress, musicians play,

Colors flash from banners high,

As friends loudly greet friends come nigh

The couple's happiness to pray.


The crowd subsides, for like a ray

The bride appears in her array

Love has called, and they'll comply,

The swan and stag.


The groom likewise, in his display

His face is joy, his manner fey.

Now here's a tear, and there a sigh

For now the couple answers, "Aye."

They'll cleave together, come what may,

The swan and stag.



Copyright 2007 by Caitlin Johnoff, 2801 Middlebush Dr., Columbia, MO 65203. <alianoraree at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org