The Villanelle

  

Basic features & history of the verse form:
  
Number of lines 19
Structure / divisions Five tercets followed by a quatrain
Rhyme scheme A1bA2 / abA1 / abA2 / abA1 / abA2 / abA1A2
Meter In English, often iambic tetrameter or iambic pentameter
Refrain line or lines Yes — refrain lines rhyme with each other and are designated by A1 and A2
Time / place of origin 16th-century France
Medieval / Renaissance poets
  associated with this form
Jean Passerat
Examples written in English
  by or before —
19th century (Edmund Gosse)

  

An example of a villanelle:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

      1  (A1)  Do not go gentle into that good night,
      2  (b)    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
      3  (A2)  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
      
      4  (a)    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
      5  (b)    Because their words had forked no lightning they
      6  (A1)  Do not go gentle into that good night,
      
      7  (a)    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
      8  (b)    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
      9  (A2)  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
      
    10  (a)    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    11  (b)    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    12  (A1)  Do not go gentle into that good night,
      
    13  (a)    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    14  (b)    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    15  (A2)  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
      
    16  (a)    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    17  (b)    Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    18  (A1)  Do not go gentle into that good night,
    19  (A2)  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  


A Brief Guide to Some Medieval and Renaissance Verse Forms

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Table and its contents copyright 2002 by Jennifer M. Tom    ( Jennifer Monroe Franson )